For a second straight offseason, Rajon Rondo has been connected to the New Orleans Pelicans so it may behoove us to not narrowly dismiss the news.
According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, the Pelicans and Pacers are expected to have interest in Rondo if the Bulls were to waive the disillusioned point guard in coming days. Chicago has the option of paying Rondo $13.4 million for the final year of his contract or waiving him by June 30 and being held only responsible for a guaranteed $3 million portion.
Considering the Bulls just traded away Jimmy Butler, it makes little sense to bring back a veteran point guard on a rebuilding team that’s expected to hand the keys to Kris Dunn — even less if you recall Rondo’s various frustrations during his time in Chicago that should all but assure his fate this summer.
The Bulls are simply a mess. The Big Three experiment has failed, and major changes will be expected this summer. Rondo knows full well the Bulls aren’t going to pick up the option for the second year of his contract, so he’ll be looking for work again.
“It’s different, it’s part of, it’s part of life,” Rondo said of his Chicago experience. “I thought it would be different, a lot different. Now it is what it is.”
Some believe a close relationship with DeMarcus Cousins could explain the renewed interest by the Pelicans in Rondo. Others surmise it’s posturing by New Orleans in their negotiations for a new contract with Jrue Holiday. Or, maybe Rondo represents one of the fallback options if Holiday decides to leave in free agency.
While there may be a hint of truth in each scenario, realize none of the arguments explain New Orleans reported interest one year ago — there were no immediate Holiday re-signing worries and Cousins was firmly entrenched in Sacramento.
No, I think more credence needs to be given to Rajon Rondo’s relationship with Darren Erman. Back when the defensive-minded associate coach was first hired, I went into some detail about the birth of the ‘Baby Thibodeau’ nickname.
Rajon Rondo has been mired in a number of controversies during his playing career so typically it's probably not wise to rely on anything that he says, but the following statements should be considered an exception.
"He’s the best guy in the league to me as far as scouting reports," Rondo said. "I call him Baby Thibodeau. Thibs is the best at it, to me, defensively. He’s the best defensive coach I’ve ever played for. (Erman is) pretty much a miniature Thibodeau."
"(Erman) does the same thing, he works just as hard," Rondo said. "You can’t really beat him to the gym. When Thibs was here, you couldn’t. I’d try to get to the gym at 7 in the morning, the only guy there was Thibs in his office. And (Erman is) pretty much the same way. It’s paid off for Thibs and it’s only a matter of time before (Erman) becomes a head coach."
Darren Erman got through to Rondo. As to where others have failed like Rick Carlisle, Erman did not. How did he do it? I'm not sure, but I do know that he got Rondo to read through and understand an 100-page scouting report on the Atlanta Hawks back in 2008. Years later, he exhibited this preparation ability in a game between the Celtics and Warriors where Erman's team ran a seldom used play and Rondo showed he was more than ready for it.
What is the biggest complaint about Rondo? Keeping him engaged and relatively happy over the course of an entire season! If the bond between Erman and Rondo remains a close one, the coach may feel confident he could keep the temperamental Rondo out of trouble. Furthermore, perhaps the front office thinks Boogie’s presence could also be a beneficial one as he has admitted Rondo is like a brother to him, a great player and a great person.
For those adamant Rondo’s questionable jumpshot will prevent New Orleans from signing him, realize he offers a lot more experience and defense over the recently departed Tim Frazier. A number of previous teammates have gone on record vouching for his competitive fire and how it suits the playoffs.
Rondo’s list of negatives is a long one, but we witnessed this past postseason why teams are always giving him chances. Due to his nifty contributions and fantastic leadership, the Bulls sprinted out to a shocking two-game advantage against the Celtics inside TD Garden. But then Rondo got hurt, was forced to miss rest the of the playoffs, and Chicago proceeded to lose four straight games.
The odds of Rajon Rondo suiting up for the Pelicans are probably on the slim side, but if the Bulls waive him soon, don't be surprised to see the rumors pick up steam... whether Jrue Holiday departs New Orleans later this summer or not.