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NBA PM: Mavericks Needs More from Rondo

Rajon Rondo has struggled since joining the Mavericks, but Dallas needs him to step up in the postseason.

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Mavericks Needs More from Rajon Rondo

Entering the playoffs, there were many people around the NBA who thought Dallas Mavericks point guard Rajon Rondo would take his play to another level. The thought was that Rondo would re-emerge as an elite player after struggling since joining Dallas in December. He has played some of the best basketball of his career in the postseason, so Mavs fans hoped he’d once again be a triple-double threat.

However, that didn’t happen in Game 1 against the Houston Rockets. Aside from an 11-point second quarter, Rondo wasn’t very effective and continued to look like a bad fit with the Mavericks.

Rondo finished the weekend with the worst plus-minus (-25) of any player on any team, and Dallas seemed to play better in the 22 minutes when reserve J.J. Barea (+12) was on the floor. Rondo finished the game with 15 points (shooting 7-16 from the field), five assists, zero rebounds and zero steals in 27 minutes. Barea, on the other hand, had an efficient 12 points (shooting 6-9 from the field) and four assists off of the bench.

Rondo’s play is clearly a disappointment, especially when you consider that Houston’s only point guards are the 37-year-old Jason Terry and 38-year-old Pablo Prigioni due to Patrick Beverley’s recent injury.

Before Game 1, Mark Cuban admitted that Rondo hasn’t fit in as well the team hoped he would when they acquired him from the Boston Celtics, but the Mavericks owner seemed optimistic that he’d do better in the postseason.

“He hasn’t been as good of a fit as we would’ve liked,” Cuban told Grantland. “And Rajon would tell you the same. I think that he is a guy that is built for the playoffs, and we haven’t had a lot of practice time together. He’s been here for maybe five or six practice days.”

Playoff Rondo didn’t show up in Game 1 and, while Cuban does bring up a good point about practice time, it’s concerning that Rondo looks like a completely different player from the one who averaged 13.7 points, 11.1 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals just two seasons ago.

Since arriving in Dallas, he has averaged 9.3 points, 6.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals while shooting 43.6 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from the free throw line – which are some of the lowest numbers of his career across the board. His poor shooting has also led to spacing problems, and he and Monta Ellis aren’t ideal backcourt mates since both need the ball in their hands to be effective.

The Mavericks will need much more production out of Rondo if they hope to advance past the Rockets in the first round, much less make a deep run through the Western Conference. If Rondo is being outperformed by Terry (who had 16 points on 6-10 shooting as well as four rebounds and two steals in Game 1), it’s scary to think what would happen if he had to face someone Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Tony Parker or Mike Conley.

One concern with Rondo is that this isn’t just about fitting in poorly with Dallas or not having enough practice days, but rather that his body just isn’t the same due to injuries. He suffered a torn ACL in January of 2013 and he has had several injuries since September of 2014, including a left metacarpal fracture (which required surgery) and nasal and left orbital bone fractures. Hopefully that is not the case, but it’s possible since Rondo is 29 years old and has experienced a number of health issues.

However, even with the injuries and decreased production, there will almost certainly still be a number of teams interested in signing Rondo this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. When the Mavericks acquired Rondo, they took a risk and knew they could lose him this summer

The opportunity to add a player who was, until this year, a perennial All-Star and nightly triple-double threat could be tempting for executives, especially since what looks like a lucrative deal this summer could soon seem like a bargain contract with the NBA’s salary cap set to increase drastically.

Teams like the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers have been mentioned as possible suitors, since they each have cap space, a desire to turn things around quickly and a star player who is close to Rondo. Knicks star Carmelo Anthony and Rondo both went to Oak Hill Academy and their high school coach made headlines back in 2013 when he said that Anthony was already recruiting Rondo to join the Knicks. Meanwhile, Lakers star Kobe Bryant has become close with Rondo and has said on the record that he won’t stop recruiting Rondo to join the Lakers until he signs a new contract.

When you consider Rondo’s down year and perceived poor fit in Dallas along with the fact that he butted heads with head coach Rick Carlisle earlier in the year (receiving a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team), it’s easy to see why some people believe he’ll leave Dallas. It’s the same reason people wonder if Kevin Love will remain with the Cleveland Cavaliers beyond this year.

Jalen Rose recently made headlines when he said that believes Love and Rondo will both leave their respective teams and head to Los Angeles this offseason.

Kevin Love will be one-and-done with the Cavs,” Rose said recently on The Grantland Basketball Hour. “I think he and Rajon Rondo will be Lakers next year.”

It remains to be seen what the future holds for Rondo, but the Mavericks need him to step up now. Dirk Nowitzki (24 points on 10-14 from the field and eight rebounds), Tyson Chandler (11 points on 5-8 from the field and 18 rebounds) and Barea played well in Game 1. Ellis, Chandler Parsons and others need to do their part as well, but Rondo may be the Mavs’ most important player in the first round since he has a mismatch they should be able to take advantage of and his play can swing the series – one way or the other.

Lou Williams is Sixth Man of the Year

The Toronto Raptors’ Lou Williams, who averaged a career-high 15.5 points this season and helped Toronto win a franchise-record 49 games, is the winner of the 2014-15 Kia NBA Sixth Man Award as the league’s best player in a reserve role, the NBA announced today. The 6’1 guard becomes the first Raptors player to earn the honor.

Williams, in his 10th NBA season and first with the Raptors, amassed 78 first-place votes and 502 total points from a panel of 130 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics finished second with 324 points (33 first-place votes), and two-time winner Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers was third with 131 points (eight first-place votes). To see the complete voting breakdown for the award, click here.

Williams led the NBA in 25-point games off of the bench this season, with 11 such contests, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Before the start of this season, Williams told Basketball Insiders that he felt good about his fit with the Raptors and that he wanted to re-enter the Sixth Man of the Year conversation after an underwhelming two-year stint with the Atlanta Hawks.

“I’m working on it,” Williams told Basketball Insiders with a smile when asked about being Sixth Man of the Year in August. “I’ve always been in the conversation. I want to be back in the conversation.”

Now, he has the trophy.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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