Mavs Rondo: Tears Tonight In Boston
“Hopefully I won’t be too emotional, try not to cry a little bit,” says Rajon Rondo of tonight's Dallas Mavericks homecoming trip to Boston. “If I do, hopefully, the camera isn’t on me too much. I’m going to try to blink a lot.”
The FOX Sports Southwest cameras -- and our commentary, beginning at 6 p.m when I join Dana Larson and Bob Ortegel on "Mavs Live'' before the 6:30 tip -- will most certainly be trained on Rondo, who doesn't usually wear his emotion on his sleeve or even on his face. He leaves that to observers who, for the most part in Boston, certainly, spent eight years enjoying the Rondo ride.
"I can’t thank the fans enough,'' says Rondo, dealt from Boston to Dallas on Dec. 19. “Even when we were losing 18 in a row the first year, the fans still showed a lot of support. They came to every game. When I was out on the streets, they didn’t kill me or heckle me. It was always supportive. They’re true fans. They’re not fair-weather fans. They ride it out — a Celtic for life.”
Dallas now plans to make Rondo part of the long-term MFFL family with a new contract this summer. But first things first: The 23-10 Mavs are looking to win a fourth straight game, to continue to feast on the East (13-3) and to keep integrating Rondo into the role of on-court leader for a team that was in need of a stud point guard who could keep pace with the Western Conference's army of perimeter stars.
“I love what he brings,” Dirk Nowitzki says. “I love his savvy. He’s (already) getting the guys together, cussing people out when he doesn’t like something on the defensive end. I love his leadership, his toughness. I think he’s going to be great for us.”
He was great for Boston, too, taking just a year after leaving Kentucky to help the vaunted Celtics franchise be a champion again, as he supplemented future Hall-of-Fame stars Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a title run. Boston remained a contender for four more seasons and went to another NBA Finals, this time with Rondo as the full-time QB, before the run ended and the roster dismantled. That led to a few years of tanking and a few years of speculation about Boston eventually parting ways with their unorthodox star, a four-time All-Star at just 28 who impacts games in the same unusual (and sometimes unmeasurable) ways that ex-Mavs point guard Jason Kidd once did.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle hates comparing players, bends a bit to allow for the Kidd/Rondo comparisons, but add: "He’s an absolute original. He’s just a one-of-a-kind player. One of the things that really defines his game is his resourcefulness in finding ways to help the team win.”
Carlisle is working with that now, saying the Mavs have scaled down their offensive only slightly as Rondo gobbles up the playbook. The coach is tinkering with ways to keep Rondo and Dirk on the floor at the same time almost all the time. And he's finding ways for both Rondo and Monta Ellis to feel like they are twin go-to-guys and go-through-guys.
For his part, Rondo seems pliable here ... mostly because he wishes to be part of a team as competitive as his Celtics once were.
“I believe everything happens for a reason,” Rondo says. “And me playing in that (Celtics) situation at a young age obviously helped my career and helped my game personally, and it’s just part of it. I’m very grateful of the opportunity I had to play for the Celtics. I’m here as a Maverick now, and I’m playing with a lot of talent around me as I have in the past. So I’m just very excited to be in this situation again.''
"This situation'' is paying off in some obvious ways for Dallas. To wit:
*In the last two games, star opposing point guards John Wall of Washington scored just 11 points while only taking seven shots and Russell Westbrook of OKC scored 18 points on just 6-of-23 shooting
*Rondo matched with Ellis means Dallas is continuing to score fast-break points (currently fifth in the league averaging 15.9 a game) while maintaining ball control (currently fourth in the NBA in turnovers at 12.3 a game).
*Dallas remains as explosive on offense as anyone, but might be tightening up its efficiency. Chandler Parsons is taking 9.6 shots per game since Rondo arrived as opposed to 13.3 shots per game previously. Dirk in the last two games is at the line 11 times per compared to four times per previously. And the three-point mania around here? In the last week the Mavs have twice set new season-lows in three-pointers taken (18 vs. the Lakers and 15 vs. Washington) ... and yet Dallas was as productive as usual out there because Rondo's guys shot over 50 percent in both games.
As the adjustments continue, in the last four games Dallas is averaging 110.8 points with a 48.4 field-goal percentage.
The Rondo-related expectations once Rondo got to Boston were championship-level. "The expectation'' now with the Mavs, Rondo says, "is just as high.''
And so, tonight, will be the emotions.
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