The Season Rajon Didn’t Anticipate
When the Chicago Bulls traded Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks, the search for a point guard to fill his role began. When Rajon Rondo was signed, it seemed evident that he would be the man to fill that starting spot.
Since then, the Bulls surprisingly landed another ball dominant guard in Dwyane Wade, and then traded Tony Snell for Michael Carter-Williams. While the new additions didn’t really seem to fit Gar Forman’s vision for the future of the team, it appeared the Bulls would still be in the playoff hunt. Even though the Bulls are currently sitting in the eighth seed in the notoriously weak Eastern Conference, the first half of this season has been anything but smooth.
The slow start to Chicago’s season has largely been attributed to a lack of chemistry, but with so much turnover in the team’s roster during the off season this was to be expected. Rondo, specifically, had struggled to open the year while he continued to find his role in Chicago. In 33 games this season, the reigning league leader in assists has averaged just 7.2 points and 7.0 assists per game, while averaging 2.6 turnovers a game. He is also shooting below 37 percent from the field and barely above 50 percent from the free throw line, which are bad numbers, even from a traditionally bad shooter. As Rondo’s sputtering continued further into the season management felt it was time to make a change.
Rondo was benched for five straight games earlier this month while Carter-Williams received the nod as the starting point guard, perhaps to send a message about the veteran’s new role with the Bulls. Rondo states he was told the move was to, “save me from myself.”
It seems that Chicago’s three ball dominant guards – Wade, Butler, and Rondo – while all great players individually haven’t been able to make their trio work on the court. Coach Fred Hoiberg has opted to start bringing Rondo off the bench to play alongside only one of the other guards at a time, and instead surround him with shooters like Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic. This allows him to push the ball and find open shooters and slashers in transition, fitting well into the style of offense that Hoiberg has continually wanted to employ in Chicago.
With the trade deadline quickly approaching it seems that Rondo’s future in Chicago will ultimately come down to how he handles his evolving role with the team. In the past, he has been criticized as a teammate, even getting into an altercation with Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylan back in December. Since then, however, Rondo has said all the right things.
Veteran forward Taj Gibson told David Aldridge of NBA.com, “I’m super happy how he handled it. That just speaks to how he’s grown, when you talk about it.” Gibson continued to praise Rondo saying, “I missed him the last couple games, I really did. He’s a great player. He facilitates the ball. I’m just happy he didn’t overdo it. He’s a pro. He’s been great in the locker room.”
There have been talks about potentially trading Rajon Rondo, but there aren’t many moves that would make sense for the Bulls. Though his new role with the team isn’t exactly what Rondo or management anticipated, using different lineups could prove beneficial for the stumbling Bulls. Perhaps these adjustments, coupled with a healthy roster, could provide just the spark that Chicago needs to make a solid push into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
Stats and info courtesy of NBA.com and SB Nation.