The Dallas Mavericks have been dealing with their darkest week of the season.
To recap, Dallas was down nine to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night. Rick Carlisle appeared to call a play from the sideline, but point guard Rajon Rondo appeared to ignore it. Carlisle angrily called a timeout, and he and Rondo proceeded to bark at each other. Rondo was pulled from the game, and the Mavs ended up winning thanks to great play from Devin Harris and J.J. Barea at point guard.
Carlisle didn’t talk much about what happened after the game, and Rondo refused to talk to the media. Rondo was then suspended for Wednesday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks for conduct detrimental to the team, and it was reported by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that he and Carlisle had another exchange in the locker room after the Raptors game.
So the question is now: where do the Mavs and Rondo go from here? It’s a question with a lot of layers, and no clear answer.
Right now, I think it’s too early to give up on this Rondo experiment and say he won’t be a Maverick next season. It’s clear he’s disappointed so far, and it’s clear there’s tension between him and Carlisle about who should be running the offense and calling plays.
Starting with the play calling thing, Carlisle had a similar problem with Jason Kidd during Carlisle’s early days in Dallas. Kidd wanted more freedom in running the offense, while Carlisle wanted to have more control (side note: what is it with Dallas teams and play calling issues?). Eventually, they worked it out and it helped lead to a championship.
This situation is a bit different, as Kidd and Carlisle never had a heated argument in public. But it’s still the same concept. Rondo has had the reputation as someone that is hard to coach, and we all know that Carlisle is someone that really gets on point guards. The fact that this happened really shouldn’t be a surprise. It also took Carlisle and Kidd a couple of years to figure it out with each other, so this being rocky just two months in shouldn’t be a surprise either.
Not only has Rondo’s relationship with Carlisle been rocky, but so has his fit in the Mavs offense. We all sort of expected this, considering Rondo’s jump shot (or lack thereof) throws a wrench in Dallas’ flow offense. It’s not like Kidd had a jump shot when he got here either, but he eventually developed a lethal three-point shot.
The reason I won’t give up on this yet is that we’ve seen flashes of it could be. Remember how Rondo played in his return to Boston? What about how he shut down Russell Westbrook in the fourth quarter in December? The talent and potential is there, and the Mavs have enough weapons to make it work.
Plus, with leaders like Tyson Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki in the Mavs locker room it’s hard to see how things can fall apart on that front. Carlisle is a smart enough coach to figure out how to make this work, and Rondo is a smart enough point guard.
I personally am going to hold off final judgement on the Rondo trade until after the playoffs. That was the whole reason Dallas brought him here. It was not only for the longterm, but they also hoped that playing in the playoffs for a contender would bring back the Rondo of 2011-2012. That’s still very possible, and the Mavs still have about a month and a half to work out whatever problems they have.
Rondo was brought here not only as the point guard of the present, but the future as well. I still think even if it doesn’t work out, the Mavs won’t regret that trade. But it’s too early to call this a bust. We’ll save that for the summer.