Grantland’s Zach Lowe had Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on his podcast yesterday, and among the many interesting topics those two discussed, Cuban had some particularly interesting comments in regards to current King and former Maverick point guard, Rajon Rondo.
By all accounts, Rajon Rondo’s tenure in Dallas was an absolute disaster. He may or may not have quit on the team in the middle of their playoff series against the Houston Rockets last April. He certainly didn’t get along with his head coach, Rick Carlisle, and his time in Dallas was so toxic that the team voted Rondo out of its playoff share bonus money.
Cuban’s comments from Zach Lowe's podcast on the Rajon Rondo era in Dallas did alleviate some of my concerns, to an extent.
Cuban on Rondo’s personality, Via The Lowe Post -
"Rajon just wasn’t a fit. It wasn’t like, bad personality, he was a bad guy, I like Rajon. I think he’s a good guy, I mean, we keep in touch, I wish him the best in Sacramento except when he plays us. I like the guy, I got along well with him, it just wasn’t a basketball fit."
Cuban on Rondo's improvements as a player, and as a hard worker, Via The Lowe Post -
"What’s done is done. And, you know, no hard feelings. He has his approach to basketball, and look, where I give him credit, he came as a 29% free throw shooter, and left as a 77% free throw shooter, because he put the work in."
"By the end, working with our guys, he ended up shooting 35% I think from threes, and actually was somewhat consistent. There were other reasons why it didn’t work, but one of the reasons why it almost, why it could have worked, was because he was a hard worker. He really did put in the time to try to make it work. "
A part of me instinctively wants to say something along the lines of, "of course he’s going to say that! What do you expect him to say?", but that really isn’t Mark Cuban’s style. For better or worse, he’s probably not going to talk positively about someone or something unless he actually believes it. That mindset has been the source of his record-breaking fines from the league office. He had every chance to bash Rondo, or at the very least not talk so openly objective about him, but that is exactly what he did.
We had already assumed Rondo’s issues in Dallas last season were ‘basketball fit’ related more than anything else, but hearing it from Cuban himself gives us a reason to believe the narrative in this instance.
With that being said, I don’t want to assume George Karl and Rajon Rondo are going to get along. I certainly hope they do, and Karl’s system complements Rondo’s skill set better than Carlisle’s on paper, but we know all too well how stubborn Karl can be. We know how stubborn Rajon Rondo can be. I think it’s fair to assume they’ll butt heads at some point this season, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing so long as they don’t let it reach a point of no return like it did with Carlisle.
My biggest takeaway from Cuban’s comments is that it doesn’t sound like Rondo’s talent disappeared. If anything, Cuban makes it sound like the opposite is taking place. He is still working hard. He is still trying to improve. That had been my biggest fear. Maybe he had just 'lost it'? Maybe he isn't a good basketball player anymore? Maybe he stopped caring?
Was his poor numbers over the last couple of season’s talent, fit, or injury related? If it was some combination of fit and injuries, well, I can live with that. That is theoretically fixable. To hear Cuban talk so highly of his work ethic is encouraging.