Well, that was interesting.
Rajon Rondo was benched for the final 20+ minutes of action in the Dallas Mavericks’ 99-92 home win over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday, this after getting into a shouting match with head coach Rick Carlisle.
Rondo was dribbling the ball up the court with just over eight minutes to go in the third quarter, when Rick Carlisle shouted a play call from the sidelines. Rondo either did not hear Carlisle or ignored him, causing Carlisle to storm onto the court and call timeout.
Coach and player then had a heated exchange, which Carlisle later called “a difference of opinion.”
Okay, deep breaths, everyone.
Now, Doug Gottlieb has had his fair share of arguments with coaches – as have a lot of current and former players – so it’s not uncommon. But this is Rondo, who isn’t exactly known for playing well with others.
How big of a deal was this incident?
“I’m with you, Doug. I’ve been in a few arguments with coaches and players myself from the writing standpoint,” CBS Sports NBA insider Ken Berger said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “And Rondo, his reputation certainly did precede him in Dallas. The Mavs knew they were getting an extraordinary talent at what he does defensively and in terms of distributing the ball.”
They also knew, however, they were getting something else.
“I don’t want to say a head case, but definitely a headstrong type of guy,” Berger said. “Doc Rivers would know that better than anyone. He had to kind of strike that balance. You have to give Rondo kind of enough leeway but not too much – and I think that’s what Rick Carlisle is trying to wrestle with right now. And there’s no question that Rick Carlisle is one of the best coaches in this game. He felt that he needed to show Rondo who was the boss, who’s the coach of this team. It’s me, not you. We talk about point guards being coaches on the floor, but that’s not what they really are. The coach is still the coach.
“I think ultimately, it will be fine,” Berger continued, “but there’s always a risk involved when you go out and get a player in a trade who’s going to be a free agent. It’s very rare that they leave money on the table to go somewhere else – Dwight Howard is the one guy who stands out, leaving the Lakers for Houston – but you never know. I think it certainly bears watching the rest of the way.”
Dallas (39-20) is currently the fifth seed in the Western Conference but could easily finish in the top two or three. That said, the Mavs are 20-12 since acquiring Rondo on Dec. 18. That’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but Berger thought they’d be better.
So, are the Mavs legitimate title contenders, or did the Rondo trade only make them superficially competitive?
“They have not done as much damage as I thought they would when they got Rondo,” Berger said. “I just thought Rondo was the perfect fit for them. It sort of reminded me of when he was in Boston with an elite rim protector in Kevin Garnett and an elite wing scorer and mid-post scorer in Paul Pierce – and that’s what he has there with Tyson Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki.
“You know, they’re right in that mix,” Berger continued. “Wherever this shakes out – if they wind up as the three seed, if they wind up as the eight seed – I think everybody out West is going to be dangerous in their own way. And I think it’s all going to come down to what it always does come down to, which is match-ups.”