Dallas Mavericks: The Rajon Rondo Experiment Is Officially A Failure


The Rajon Rondo experiment for the Dallas Mavericks is officially a failure, it’s over

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Remember that weird, several daylong delay between the first reports of the Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks trade, and when it finally became official?

Sure, some of that time was likely spent working on logistics and smoothing out the rough edges of the deal, but still, it felt like it took a little too long. At the time, my brother and I, both Celtics fans, theorized that Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle really didn’t want Rondo; we figured he thought that the trade would improve his team on paper, but disrupt the success they had been experiencing on the court.

The Mavericks did possess the league’s most efficient offense at the time, and it’s best record, so it wasn’t a baseless assumption on our part, nor would it have been unfair for Carlisle to be skeptical of adding such a potentially divisive player. After thinking it through a bit more, and even acting out a few fake Rick Carlisle/Mark Cuban interactions, we were pretty sure that potential Carlisle apprehension was what held up the deal.

So you can imagine just how good we were feeling about our theory about two months later after Rondo and Carlisle clashed mid-game.

The very public conflict led to Rondo being benched for the remainder of the game, another spat in the locker room afterwards, and a one game suspension for Rondo for “conduct detrimental to the team.”

The subject of the argument, which plays were being called and who was calling them-only perpetuated the theory that Carlisle never really wanted Rondo; why would he bring in one of the last few true, floor-general, pass-first point guards in the NBA, if he was just going to continue to call plays himself?

And this very apparent troubled relationship between the two has not yet yielded. For one reason or another, Rick Carlisle is obviously fed up with Rondo, and whether or not he really didn’t want him in Dallas in the first place, you can’t blame him for being apathetic towards Rondo’s crap at this point.

Prior to Rajon Rondo’s arrival, the Dallas Mavericks owned a 20-7 record, had one of the league’s deepest benches, and possessed an offense that prompted “best ever” articles from people that totally weren’t operated exclusively by Mav’s fans.

When they traded for Rondo, Dallas gave up two important role players in Jae Crowder and Brandon Wright, and a solid back-up guard in Jameer Nelson. (Sidenote: Brandon Wright’s brief, and super underwhelming Celtic career needs to be commemorated somehow. Can some Celtic fan with way too much free time please put together a YouTube montage of some of his greatest moments as a Celtic set to something by Sarah McLachlan? Thank you).

So, in the process of acquiring a “star” point guard, the Mavs gutted their bench, leaving them with a major weakness heading into the playoffs. Since Rondo has arrived, the Mavericks are 22-16, and their offense has completely collapsed, dropping from 1st in the league in offensive efficiency to 14th.

Mar 10, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Rajon Rondo (9) during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Rondo himself, has been weak offensively since joining the team. The modern point guard, which to be fair, is a mold Rondo has never fit into either shoots 3’s, or gets to the line, or both.

Rondo doesn’t really do, either. In Dallas this season, he has averaged 0.9 free throw attempts per game, he sports a 36 percent free throw percentage, and has a 3-point percentage of 34 percent.

What kind of guard shoots essentially the same from the line as he does from the 3-point line? And how can a guard shoot 36 percent from the foul line? That sounds more like something a center would shoot from the line, and there is proven physics that the angles do not favor centers and their height when it comes to shooting free throws.

To put into perspective just how atrocious Rondo’s free throw percentage has been, Shaquille O’Neal, maybe the worst free throw shooter of all-time, never shot below 42 percent in a season.

And it’s not even just the statistical effect that Rondo has had on the team that is concerning, the eye-test shows anyone looking for it just how much he has upset their balance.

Before Rondo, Monta Ellis was the engine of a free-flowing, ball-moving offense, that gave other teams fits. Now, the offense just sort of looks stagnant; there isn’t much movement, guys are either open or they aren’t, and the Mavericks go on extended stretches in which they just don’t score.

Rondo has turned Monta Ellis, who used to be almost too much of a free spirit offensively, into just another guard who gets fed by a pass-first point guard. It’s been an awkward fit from the start, and as the Mavs slip further and further down toward the 7th and 8th seed area of the conference standings, Rick Carlisle’s disdain for Rondo, and how negatively he has changed his team since joining them.

So how does this bode for Rondo and the Mavericks this summer when Rajon Rondo becomes an unrestricted free agent? Personally, I don’t expect to see him back in Dallas next season. Although he did list the Mavericks as one of the teams he would re-sign with when the Celtics were shopping him in December, it would make very little sense for the Mavs to bring him back, both from an obvious on-court standpoint, and from a financial one.

With Tyson Chandler, and possibly Monta Ellis (player-option), hitting free agency this summer, the Mavericks are going to have to prioritize in free agency. And even if the Mavs did want to bring Rondo back, which I don’t think is very likely, they wouldn’t be the highest bidders. Despite how poorly Rondo has played, there will still be teams, *cough cough* the Lakers, who will be willing to pay him big money, maybe even a max contract.

Whatever this season, and this failed experiment, still has in store for Rajon Rondo and the Dallas Mavericks, don’t expect there to be any love lost when it ends, and he leaves. It’s been a poor fit from the start, and as the situation with the Mavericks continues to deteriorate, it seems more and more like those fake Carlisle/Cuban conversations my brother and I dreamed up, may not have been that far off.