Rajon Rondo is becoming a nightly highlight reel across the league and is also having his best statistical season since 2012-13. His bounce-back season has been a surprise to many, except maybe Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac, who took a chance on signing him this offseason, and Rondo himself.
Following the Kings 114-106 win over the Utah Jazz Tuesday night, Rondo was asked if he has been surprised by the surprise around the league about his play this season.
"I'm surprised. Before I got traded to Dallas I think I was having a pretty good season in Boston," said Rondo, who averaged 8.3 points, 10.8 assists and 7.5 rebounds in Boston last season. "People wrote me off. Dallas personnel just didn't work. We tried to make things work it's just the personnel didn't work ... I worked really hard this summer, worked my butt off. George Karl is an up-tempo style of coach, which fits my style of play."
Rondo is now averaging 12.5 points, 11 assists and 6.8 rebounds per game and praised his teammates in Sacramento, reiterating his approval of the situation despite the Kings sitting at 8-15 on the year so far.
"You go through everything for a reason in life and it makes me appreciate where I am now today, playing with these type of players," Rondo said. "I'm playing with some really good players now, maybe one Hall-of-Famer, but these guys play extremely hard, they work on their game."
That potential Hall-of-Famer is DeMarcus Cousins, who has bonded well with Rondo. Their lockers are right next to each other and after games they engage in quiet discussions long after the rest of the players on the team have left. Recently, Cousins said that he would "kidnap" Rondo to keep him in Sacramento after this season. Rondo signed a one-year deal worth a reported $10 million this offseason. He was asked what he thought of that comment by Cousins; he smiled and said, "It touched my heart."
"We have a little brother, big brother relationship and I just want to be as positive as I can for Cuz and show him the ropes and continue to help him become a better man and a better player," Rondo said.
Cousins' role on the team has been altered slightly this season as he prowls the perimeter more, hoisting up outside jumpers from inside and outside the arc. Some have questioned whether this is the best role for a player as dominant as Cousins is under the basket. Health could be a factor as Boogie takes a beating under the basket. By the end of last season he was ready to shut it down after a string of injuries. He's currently dealing with tendonitis in his feet and admits longevity is always a concern when thinking about injuries. That being said, he appreciates his perimeter role because he says it is helping the team.
"I'm doing what's best for the team, it's helping space the floor. I think our offense has been a bright spot this season," Cousins said. "If it's benefitting the team I'll sacrifice."
The Kings scored 114 points Tuesday on a Jazz team that allows the third least points per game in the league (96.8). Cousins said after the game that he still thinks the Kings can turn things around, adding that it feels different this season than previous campaigns mainly due to the level of talent of the guys in the locker room. One of those guys is his locker neighbor Rondo, who has been busy trying to get through to his teammate that closing out each quarter strong is what the team needs to focus on.
If the Kings are going to turn things around it will be at the hands of Rondo and Cousins, and if it does happen then there will really be a lot of surprise to go around about the former Boston star.