Mavs + Rondo: The Disconnect + The Goodbye
Richard Jefferson - along with JJ Barea and Charlie V and Raymond Felton among the benchwarmers called upon to give max effort in Tuesday’s Game 2 loss at Houston in part because Rajon Rondo declined to do the same - insisted that … the 111-99 loss and the 0-2 series deficit doesn’t represent basketball “Armageddon.’’
But he’s wrong. This level of toxicity within a basketball team is indeed catastrophic.
This franchise committed to Rondo in its two-years-in-the-making December trade for him, in its March decision to “give him the keys to the car’’ and in its gameplan for Houston, with a focus on him controlling James Harden.
How has Rondo responded? By mishandling those car keys like a drunken teenager with a learner’s permit, by inviting suggestions that he played horrifically in Game 2 on purpose, by allowing his camp to float the idea that his position with the Dallas Mavericks is “It’s Gotta Be Me or Rick’’ and that the impending free agent is already Lakers-bound.
How should the Mavs brass respond to all this? While it would signal a complete re-start on their best-laid, keep-Rondo plans …
Buy him a bus ticket to LA. Not this summer.
The Mavericks come limping home today with weapons Chandler Parsons and Devin Harris not healthy enough to contribute, with …. all-timer Dirk Nowitzki as a defensive liability, with rim-protector Tyson Chandler watching as Houston went all Phi Slama Jama, with hero-baller Monta Ellis floating in and out of basketball consciousness …
But at least those people appeared to be attempting to try. How can Rondo, billed as a fiercely competitive guidepost who by the sheer nature of his position must be a leader, even look those people in the eye? How can he let the “Me-or-Rick’’ balloon be floated and look his coaching staff in the eye? How can he cash these checks and look Mark Cuban in the eye?
Answer: He doesn’t. He doesn’t look anybody in the eye. He sat motionless and emotionless on the bench during the humiliating fourth quarter, his only movement being to later retreat to the floor, away from his teammates. Indeed, he spent more time “on the floor’’ than he did “on the floor,’’ registering 9:55 of playing time before his mindless 8-second violation, his foolish fouls on Harden and his clever passes to nowhere finally exasperated his coach.
“All I know right now is that we need everybody at their competitive best,'' said Rick Carlisle. "This isn't about one guy who did or didn't play. This is about everybody pulling in the same direction for the organization. That's what it's about."
It’s about more than that. It's time for Rick and Rajon to have yet another man-to-man conversation, and this is not another Rondo-soothing “Connect Four’’ meeting, either. No, this one needs to be about the player’s enthusiasm for Friday’s Game 3 at the AAC, when Dallas will attempt to begin the overcoming of an historic mountain: teams ahead 2-0 win NBA series 95 percent of the time.
“Do you want to help us win?’’ Simple question.
Words and body language from Rondo (so proud and cocksure of his intellect) will tell Carlisle (who possesses a background in psychology) everything the coach needs to know.
Too bad the talk can’t happen today, but the Mavs aren’t practicing today because … well, hell, I have no idea why these lost lambs aren’t being herded into the AAC basement. (There’s a leading-lambs-to-slaughter analogy here that I’ll skip over.)
Yes, the Mavs are probably destined to lose. But they can guarantee themselves a failure if they gift a starting job and minutes to a player who exhibited Game 2 behavior that truly made it appear as though he preferred the other team succeeded.
While there is lots of blame to go around for the Mavs’ valley, even the basketball layman should see there are “Try-Hard’’ Mavs and “Not-Trying’' Mavs and the existence of the latter category is infinitely more cancerous than the former.
What is Shaq thinking in offering TNT-platform excuses for Rondo’s work? I do not know. What would the Lakers be thinking in reviewing this gametape and responding by wanting to pay him his max? I do not know. What are Rondo apologists thinking when they talk of “adjustments’’ and “injuries’’?
I do not know. I do not care.
Somewhere in a mansion on one of the coasts, Lamar Odom is OD’ing on candy and watching all this and failing to quite see what Rondo's doing that's so wrong. Yes, this “Rondoddity'' really stinks that badly, and you'll remember it was Dirk who finally took the step to urge management to cut those sickening ties. Nowitzki shouldn't be asked to make the decision this time around.
It is rather incredible that Dallas found itself up 84-81 in the fourth before an embarrassing-but-predictable collapse — predictable in the sense that no matter how valiantly a sick patient fights, an incurable disease always, eventually, wins.
Rondo is the symptom of that disease … or worse, maybe, he IS that disease. Forget the fact that he stiffed the media after Game 2; that’s unprofessional, but not nearly as problematic as having stiffed his own team.