Rondo Wants to Silence Doubters With Kings
One of the most interesting signings of this NBA offseason was Rajon Rondo’s one-year, $9.5 million contract with the Sacramento Kings.
Rondo’s stock is at an all-time low after his disastrous stint with the Dallas Mavericks, during which he struggled on the court and butted heads with head coach Rick Carlisle. He was acquired by the team at midseason, and then had the worst plus-minus of any Mavs player (-40) and the team seemed much better when he wasn’t on the floor. Things got so bad that Carlisle said, during the playoffs, that Rondo had likely played his last game with the Mavs.
Now, Rondo enters a new situation in Sacramento, where he’s determined to silence his doubters and improve his stock before hitting free agency again next summer.
“I’m excited that everybody’s doubting us,” Rondo said. “Everybody is doubting [me] and there’s a lot of negativity about me coming to play with [DeMarcus] Cousins… There’s a lot of naysayers. There’s a lot of doubters. It’s been that way my entire career, and I just love proving people wrong.
“I’ve been faced with challenges my whole life. It is what it is. A lot of people didn’t expect me to come this far in the NBA. I have no doubts about what my talent can do and what I can bring to this team. I’m looking forward to putting my work in and getting the job done.”
It’s easy to forget that, just two years ago, Rondo was a nightly triple-double threat, averaging 13.7 points, 11.1 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals with the Boston Celtics. His resume includes a championship, four All-Star appearances, four All-Defensive Team selections and two times leading the NBA in assists.
The Kings are hoping that is the Rondo that shows up in Sacramento instead of the Dallas version who posted a career-worst 12.4 efficiency rating and became the first player in NBA history shorter than 6’6 to shoot below 40 percent from the free-throw line for a full season.
“He’s a winner and he’s one of the best point guards in the league,” Kings executive Vlade Divac said of Rondo. “It was an opportunity for us to add somebody who is on that level, and we’re giving him an opportunity to help us and at the same time help himself.”
Rondo can’t wait to play with Cousins, whom he considers a close friend. The two Kentucky products have wanted to team up for quite some time and now they’re excited to be on the same team.
“What made me comfortable is them having the best big man in the game,” Rondo said of Cousins. “It was a pretty easy decision. I think he’s definitely an MVP candidate and I look forward to playing with him and helping him grow as a player.”
While there has been a lot of talk about Cousins and head coach George Karl clashing (and some reports that one or the other will be gone by the start of the season), Rondo said he thinks that has been blown out of proportion. He’s looking forward to playing for Karl and has been trying to get on the same page as his new coach.
“We talked a couple of times; he’s called me and we talked for about 30-40 minutes each time,” Rondo said of Karl. “I’m getting a feel for what’s going on, what he wants out of his point guard, what he’s looking for as far as the system that we’ll run and how we can mesh well together. I’ve never played for George Karl, but I’ve heard he loves to run. I’m enjoying our conversations.
“The point guard is an extension of the coach out there on the floor so George and I always have to be on the same page. If we communicate every day, we will do that.”
Rondo was asked about what went wrong in Dallas and how he dealt with everything that took place there, but he had nothing but positive things to say about the Mavericks.
“Life is about handling adversity, and I went through a little bit of adversity this past year,” Rondo said. “But I’ve been going through that my whole career. I had the ACL surgery and I came back from it. I had the third metacarpal [fracture]. I’ve had a couple different things, on and off the court, that have happened, but I have great people around me. I have a great supporting cast. That’s what has pushed me through – my family and the people who love me.
“It was a learning experience. It was a great experience I had. I met one of my best friends, Monta Ellis, there. I wouldn’t have met Monta if I didn’t get traded there. Dirk [Nowitzki] is one of the funniest guys I’ve met. I’ve gained a lot of new relationships with guys – Charlie Villanueva too – guys I might not have even talked to, with how I am. I love a lot of the guys on that team; they’re great guys. There are a lot of guys from the coaching staff who I continue to hang out with… I can’t say enough about that organization, it’s a great organization. [Mark] Cuban from day one was very honest with me and that staff is amazing.”
When asked what he’ll bring to the Kings, Rondo didn’t hesitate to respond.
“They’re going to get a great leader, on and off the court – someone who is going to push guys on and off the floor every day and teach them how to be men,” Rondo said. “I’m still learning myself, but I think if we surround ourselves with positive people like Vlade Divac, Bobby Jackson, Peja Stojakovic and other former players, with the [core] we have now, the sky is the limit.
“We’re just going to go out there and play for one another. We’re going to play unselfishly. The sky is the limit. We have a lot of potential on paper and, if we buy in to George Karl’s system and buy in to one another, we’re trying to make a run at the playoffs.”
Last season, Sacramento finished with a 29-53 record, which is one of the reasons the organization underwent significant changes. Divac and Karl were brought in to push the franchise in a new direction and, in addition to Rondo, the team also acquired Marco Belinelli, Kosta Koufos, Caron Butler, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Willie Cauley-Stein this offseason.
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