Well, this has been a fun week if you're a Rajon Rondo fan.
Speculation has run wild since Rondo was suspended for the Dallas Mavericks' dismemberment of the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. Will he stay? Will he go? Is it even a choice between Rick Carlisle and Rondo? (Yes, someone has actually speculated that idea).
Rondo has 21 games to show how badly he wants to stay in Dallas (if he does at all) after this season. Just a couple days removed from that tiff with Carlisle, Rondo responded with a decent night, albeit a 10-point loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday (8 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists). But he did give up 24 points to Deron Williams, so the world has decided to be cruel to the Mavericks.
This week's roundtable is an attempt to decipher this Rondo drama going forward and beyond. Kirk Henderson, Bailey Rogers and Kate Crawford have been kind enough to join in. Click on their names to follow them on Twitter.
Who's more at fault when it comes to this whole situation: Rondo or Carlisle?
Kirk: The root cause is probably Carlisle's need for control, but I can't move past how Rondo handled the situation. Ignoring Carlisle in the middle of the game AND blowing up at him after the game in the locker room is really just too much. I think Tjarks is right that there's no other choice but to let Rondo run the offense the way Kidd eventually did, but I certainly don't have a lot of confidence in the situation.
Bailey: I would say that this conflict is 80% Rondo's fault. Rondo is the new guy, and this is Carlisle's team. It is true that Carlisle should cede more play-calling duties to Rondo (as he did with Kidd a few years ago), but I completely understand Rick's hesitancy based on Rondo's play and attitude so far. Rondo has done nothing to earn the trust of his coach or his teammates. Ideally, Rondo would defer to Carlisle until he learns how to adapt his talents to those of his teammates and the larger offensive scheme. But Rondo's stubbornness and me-first attitude make that impossible. I put the bulk of the blame on Rondo because he seems to want something handed to him instead of earning it.
Kate: It’s obviously hard to speculate on this with any real authority, but my default position in this sort of dispute is that the blame lies with the person who has the most power, and in this case that’s Carlisle. Carlisle is the head coach, and it’s his job to figure out how to manage the personnel he has, which now includes a very smart and talented point guard who’s never been hesitant to disagree with coaches.
How much of an impact does this have on Rondo's potential future in Dallas?
Bailey: It certainly like Rondo's on the way out right now, but we don't know how much of that is just rumors. Personally, I am skeptical of Rondo's future in Dallas simply because he doesn't seem to fit with the Monta, Dirk, or the way Rick likes to run offense. I definitely don't want Dallas paying him a max contract, because his play and attitude simply don't justify that sort of investment in him. But whether Rondo stays past this season will probably have a lot to do with how Dallas performs in the playoffs. If the Mavs make a run, it will be because they figured this whole Rondo thing out, at least on the court. And that could go a long way to convincing both sides this is a good match going forward.
Kate: In terms of Dallas being a place Rondo will want to stay long term, it seems like the way things are handled going forward matters a lot more than what happened the night of the Raptors game. Rondo will always be the sort of player who’ll question his coach’s decision making. The question is whether Carlisle and Rondo can learn to deal with these disputes when they arise and not let them fester, and I think their success at that (and Rondo’s future with the Mavericks) depends in part on the nature of those disputes. If they’re about which play to call in a particular situation, I think they’ll be figure it out. But if the disagreements run deeper, if Rondo fundamentally doesn’t trust Carlisle’s judgment or if he deeply disagrees with his coach’s management style, then I doubt he sticks around.
Kirk: It really depends how the rest of the season plays out. Winning and getting past the first round of the playoffs changes a lot of feelings. Right now, I'd bet neither side is all that happy with the situation. Dallas has a player who isn't performing up to the lofty standard of Rondo's reputation and Rondo is probably pissed he's not getting a chance to showcase his skill set and increase his value for free agency.
So, how does this get resolved? And what needs to change between now and the playoffs?
Kate: I think there will 100% be drama going forward. Rondo won’t stop being the sort of player who speaks up when he disagrees. Even in the longest coach-player relationship in the league (Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich), you occasionally see arguments like this on the sideline. Any time you put enough smart people in a room and raise the stakes high enough, the occasional fight is inevitable, but I think a good head coach will usually be able to figure out how to have the sort of relationship with his players where there’s room for disagreement and have the maturity not to let those disagreements grow into something disruptive. Like I mentioned above, it could be that these issues will continue unresolved because Rondo and Carlisle have totally incompatible philosophies about basketball and management, but I’m hopeful that’s not the case.
Kirk: The quickest way to find out who is right is for Rick Carlisle to let Rondo run the show for a few weeks. The proof will be in the pudding. If the offense goes to hell, then the answer is pretty apparent. The best way for no drama is for these guys to actually communicate as much as they say they do. That blow up, for it to happen how it did, is pretty ridiculous. There's just no way, in any professional environment, that a pair of coworkers can get into a fight in front of customers.
Bailey: The best way to resolve this is for Rick Carlisle to be the bigger man. Both Rondo and Carlisle are stubborn dudes by nature. But of the two, Carlisle seems like the only one capable of flexibility. While I think Carlisle is mostly in the right here, he has to be the one to adapt simply because he can. Ultimately, Rondo's personality issues were not a secret when the Mavs traded for him. Carlisle should have known from the beginning that he wasn't going to be able to force Rondo into a role he doesn't want. Rick has a reputation for putting guys in situations to succeed and finding ways to make disparate pieces fit together to form a team. Figuring out how to fit this team around Rondo may be his most challenging task yet.