Yesterday afternoon was one of those rare moments in covering basketball where everything is happening at the speed of light. When the Mavericks officially traded for Rajon Rondo, it finally became real for me. Hours later, I've barely begun to form an opinion and am mainly hoping for the best.
With so many questions and possibilities, I thought it best to reach out to the people who know him best: the good folks over at CelticsBlog. They have some incredible pieces up, including this "Goodbye Rajon Rondo" piece that's well worth your time. I highly recommend giving them a visit to read more about this whole crazy ordeal.
Jeff Clark (@CelticsBlog) was kind enough to answer some of our most pressing questions.
What sort of player are the Mavs getting in Rajon Rondo? Our fans have some high expectations at the moment.
Where to begin? First, imagine your offense running better than it has ever run before (which is saying something I know). Players you never thought could put the ball in the basket are all of a sudden having the ball appear in their hands with no defenders between them and the basket. Guys with a legit shooting stroke getting the ball in perfect shooting rhythm. Passes that you never imagined in you wildest dreams happening on a nightly basis.
Now prepare yourself for the flip side. The dark side if you will. The occasional night where Rondo doesn't show up for the game in spirit. He's there, passing the ball (sometimes to the other team), grabbing rebounds, filling stat sheets, but not really tilting the game in your favor. How much of that was Rondo being on the lottery-Celtics and how much of that was just Rondo? That's a question you are going to have to work out over the next few months and probably years.
In the 4th quarter, he's not a go-to guy. But he can be a very good setup man for the go-to guys that you have on your team. In fact, I think he'll be an ideal fit. I think you'll enjoy the Rajon Rondo experience.
Where Dallas really needs help is with backcourt defense. Is Rondo still capable of being a solid defender?
In a word: maybe. When properly engaged, Rondo can be a plus defender. He gambles for steals too much and on the Celtics he has coasted for games at a time. But when he's locked in, he can stop the guy in front of him and add to an overall defensive scheme. In the playoffs, I think he'll be a beast. Not sure about the rest of the time.
Is there anything to the thought that Rondo's been loafing a bit these last few years? Does he really get up for big games or is that an internet legend?
Last year he was legitimately not 100%. So I would almost throw the whole year out. That said, he's guilty of coasting when the games don't mean as much -- and that's dating back to the slow demise of the KG-Pierce era. The "National TV Rondo" thing got played up a little more than it deserved. He's had plenty of triple-doubles on weekday nights on local television. But it really does seem like he thrives when the pressure is highest -- and that's a really good thing.
Does he actually want a max contract after this year? Is he worth that kind of investment?
Oh yes, he wants a max deal and his agent will be pushing for that. Is he worth it? Well, given the new TV deal and the influx of cash that will hit the market, I'd say that more than a few GMs would pay him the max to get what he brings to the table. I'm not sure if he's as good as other guys that currently get the max or whatever, but that TV deal changes the dynamics so much that prior contracts are going to be moot going forward. He's worth a lot, especially to a team with designs on contending.
Thanks so much for your fantastic perspective, Jeff, and for taking the time to answer our questions!