Even though both parties can demand a divorce a year from now, there are several reasons why the Chicago Bulls’ signing of Rajon Rondo is the worst marriage thus far in this entire free-agent frenzy.
First of all, the fact that Rondo led the league with 11.9 assists is misleading. That’s because, instead of making a pass to initiate a play, Rondo dribbles and dribbles, and often drives, but won’t make a pass until the recipient is wide open.
This is reminiscent of the 1967-68 season when Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged 50.4 points per game a few years previous, decided he wanted to lead the league in assists. So, instead of easily dunking offensive rebounds, he often chose to pass the ball to a wide-open teammate in order to pad his assist total.
In his own way, Rondo does the same thing.
In Rondo’s case, this numbers-oriented game plan means that the Bulls will be hard-pressed to run any kind of formatted offense. And if Jimmy Butler was unhappy about his not being universally acknowledged as Chicago’s main man, he’ll be even more distressed next season.
Indeed, second-year coach Fred Hoiberg was unable to control his players, and also to relieve the palpable tension that existed in the locker room. Rondo’s arrival will make the prospect of Hoiberg’s being able to solve both of these issues highly problematic.
That’s because over the course of Rondo’s ten-year career he has played for four coaches—Doc Rivers and Brad Stevens in Boston, Rick Carlisle in Dallas, and George Karl in Sacramento. Not only have none of these coaches been able to control Rondo’s me-first game plan, but his departure from all of these teams have been acrimonious.
Give Rondo credit, though, for working to become an adequate three-point shooter, making 36.5 percent of his treys last season. However, he remains an inept free-throw shooter—58.0 percent with the Kings. Since he dominates the ball as much as he does, this is a troublesome factor.
Rondo’s average of nearly two steals per game is just as deceiving as his assist numbers. In truth, Rondo is an awful defender who’s more interested in making risky gambles for steals than in playing solid, contain defense.
Moreover, Rondo’s presence will severely impair the development of Jerian Grant—a second-year point guard who the Bulls insisted that the Knicks include in the Derrick Rose trade.
So, then, what were the Bulls thinking of when they came to terms with Rondo?
General Manager Gar Forman says that the Bulls are not in a rebuilding mode, but are “retooling” instead. Exactly what does “retooling” mean?
Apparently, it means a commitment to winning now.
However, since the Bulls’ current core players are Rondo, Butler, Robin Lopez, Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson, and hopefully Bobby Portis, just making the playoffs in an increasingly competitive Eastern Conference would be quite a task.
Would this be winning enough for the Bulls?
In sum, what amounts to a single-season $14 million rental for the mercurial Rajon Rondo promises to make the Bulls upcoming season chaotic, but intriguing.
GRADE = F