Friday, March 6, 2015

Rajon Rondo Has No Clothes

Tick, Tick, Tick
Tonight in Portland, Dallas got trucked by the Blazers, despite Portland being the only team on the floor who played last night. Portland had its own issues after the game, as under the radar SG Wesley Matthews is hurt and done for the year with an Achilles problem, but that's not what I wanted to talk about here. Rather, I wanted to get into Dallas, who appear to be failing the Rajon Rondo experiment on every level. (His numbers tonight: 10/9/7. Which is why you actually have to watch the games.)

The problem is that, well, Rondo is the most polarizing and unique point guard in the NBA. In a league where point guards are the guys that get your bailout buckets at the end of the shot clock, a guy who you don't have to defend while wide open at the free throw line is not an offensive asset, and in the Dallas scheme of things, where the best players (Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki) do their damage in iso sets, Rondo's brand of up-tempo assists to athletic finishers isn't helping anyone.

But no one really thought that Rondo was going to make the Mavs better on offense. Rather, it was his athletic ball-hawking that was going to make the suspect soft Dallas team win that deal, as they would stop leaking points to the murderer's Western Conference row of ridiculously strong points. Seriously, there may not ever be a better era for talent in a conference than right here and now, with the partial list of Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Mike Conley and Tony Parker means that every other team in the West, with the possible exception of Houston with Actually Better Rondo-esque guy Patrick Beverly, has an absolute stud at the one. (By the way, even the dregs of the West have solid points. I'll take Ty Lawson, Eric Bledsoe, Ricky Rubio, Jrue Holliday, Eric Gordon and Darren Collison on my team. Just an insane conference.)

And, well, that's not showing up, either.

The plain and simple of Dallas is that Ellis hasn't ever been very good at defense, and as Dirk has gotten older, he's lost his ability to be a positive force for rebounding. Tyson Chandler gets it done, but Chandler Parsons hasn't been able to stay healthy and effective, and there might not be a tougher position to come in at mid-season than point guard. Dallas took advantage of a soft schedule before the Rondo deal, which is also making the team look worse for the move, but that doesn't pass the eye test. They are worse for having him.

Finally, there's this. Why should a defense-first NBA asset wear worse over time? Defense is harder, requires more focus and explosion, and after the short gains of learning the league and the tendencies of opponents, *should* fade faster than your jump shot, your free throw shooting, your eye from distance and your understanding of the game. My plucky Sixers, perhaps the youngest team that the Association should ever field, aren't a bad defensive team, even in the wake of the Michael Carter-Williams deal. (MCW can't shoot, but he is tall and disruptive on defense. Isiah Cannon, who has been getting the minutes, is small and can't guard anyone, but has a true talent for hitting from distance.)

Young guys can play outstanding defense. They can recover, give maximum effort longer, get off the floor and again even after buying the initial fake, catch up in the open court for the chasedown block, and so on, and so on. What they can't do is take care of the ball, execute in the half court, make free throws at the same rate, and so on -- but all of that's on offense.

Oh, and have you noticed yet that I haven't even gotten into the fact that Rondo is a malcontent who is feuding with his coach, the same way that he feuded with his other coaches? This isn't going to end well, but that's OK, because the start and middle weren't anything to write home about either.

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