When the Kings visited American Airlines Center on Jan. 5, Rajon Rondo missed the game because of a back injury.
It would have been Rondo’s first game in Dallas since his stint with the team ended during the first round of last season’s Western Conference playoffs. The Mavericks announced he had a back injury, but it was widely reported that they banished Rondo after he had clashed with coach Rick Carlisle.
Rondo was expected to help the Mavericks contend for the NBA title. That didn’t happen, and many fans in Dallas still blame Rondo.
So how did Rondo expect to be received Thursday night?
“I expect a standing ovation,” Rondo joked before the game. “Hopefully, it doesn’t go the other way, but it won’t affect me either way.”
12.1 Rajon Rondo’s league-leading assists per game entering Thursday
Rondo, of course, was booed every time he touched the ball or his name was announced. He had 18 points, 12 assists, five rebounds and three steals in the Kings’ 104-101 victory.
Rondo said he had no feelings about returning to Dallas, considering he spent just 46 games as a Maverick in which he averaged 9.3 points and 6.5 assists.
What looked like a great move by the Mavs last season to acquire Rondo from Boston in a trade did not work out.
“It looked great on paper, but the style of play was different,” Rondo said. “I need the ball, Monta (Ellis needed) the ball, (Chandler) Parsons needs the ball. I’m not as efficient when I don’t have the ball a lot in my hands.”
Rondo leads the NBA in assists this season, averaging 12.1 entering Thursday. He has looked more comfortable with Sacramento than he did with Dallas.
Rondo, who signed a one-year, $9.5 million deal with the Kings last summer, has shown he can function in George Karl’s offense.
“I love the style of offense we play here,” Rondo said. “We don’t play any defense. As soon as we can figure out defensive principles and take pride in defense, we can take the next step.”
Karl was asked what playing for him had done to rejuvenate Rondo’s career. Karl said Rondo could probably answer that better but still offered his take.
“I think he came to a team that needed a point guard; I guess he saw that in the summertime,” Karl said. “Maybe he was intrigued by how I let my point guard have a lot of freedom. Every point guard I’ve coached I’ve had a little bit of a wrestling match with, but usually it’s because I want them to create the game for me and also be my quarterback. It’s a lot of responsibility but also a lot of fun if you do it well and have success.”
I love the style of offense we play here. We don’t play any defense. As soon as we can figure out defensive principles and take pride in defense, we can take the next step.
Rajon Rondo, Kings point guard
Rondo enjoys the freedom under Karl to run the team. He also has enjoyed the two-point-guard lineup with Darren Collison.
“I run (the offense), for the most part,” Rondo said. “Coach gives me a lot of freedom. It’s styles. Rick’s style is completely different – that’s all it is.”
Getting healthy – Forward Rudy Gay returned to the starting lineup after missing two games because of a strained right shoulder.
Gay was questionable for the game but said he was ready after warming up.
Rondo was questionable because of a sprained right thumb and right ankle and turf toe. He suffered the ankle injury Wednesday night at Memphis.