Benched Rajon Rondo says time with Bulls 'a lot different than what I anticipated'

Benched Rajon Rondo says time with Bulls 'a lot different than what I anticipated'

WASHINGTON, D.C.—If the Rajon Rondo benching was clear to some, it wasn’t to everybody even as Rondo prepares for a one-game exodus from the pine.

Namely Rondo himself, and one wonders where the saga is headed next as the Bulls near the midseason mark with no resolution to a situation involving their first free-agent signing.

“I don’t know,” said Rondo as the Bulls’ litany of absences have prompted them to turn back to his direction as they’ll play the Wizards Tuesday night at the Verizon Center.

“I know a little bit of what’s going on, but it’s out of my control really, as far as what they have going on. So I’m going to have to play better.”

The Chicago experience hasn’t gone the way Rondo or the Bulls have expected. Rondo came off leading the league in assists in Sacramento last season and although his warts are well-known, he came to Chicago believing he would have autonomy and collaboration with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg.

Instead, he’s shooting a career-low from the field (37 percent) while averaging 7.2 points, 7.1 assists and 6.5 rebounds in 30.2 minutes per game.

It almost feels like Rondo believes he was sold a dream—one that evaporated when Dwyane Wade came to town a week after the Bulls and Rondo came to terms. He wouldn’t outright say he was deceived but he definitely believed he would be able to have more control over games in terms of playcalling and asserting his basketball genius to the floor.

“Depends on how you guys write it. But yeah, it’s different,” Rondo said. “When I signed here, why I wanted to come here, it’s a lot different than what I anticipated.”

His apparent meeting with Bulls GM Gar Forman on Dec. 31 didn’t provide much clarity either, following a game in which he stated he felt he accomplished enough in the NBA to warrant a trade or release if the Bulls had no plans for him this season. 

And because Rondo is essentially a player on his third strike--with a rap sheet that went from his days in Boston to altercations with Rick Carlisle in Dallas when he was traded there a few years ago--he can't afford any real slip-ups with the Bulls in terms of his behavior or he'll find himself out of the league.

The Bulls know it, which is why they feel no rush to move him or buy him out.

And Rondo knows it, which is why he's keeping his calm about things as opposed to causing a scene.

"I’ve been in it for 11 years. And my perspective is completely different than it was four or five years ago," Rondo said. "I’m able to handle it completely different now."

What was clear was Rondo’s feeling that Hoiberg lost confidence in him in some way—be it his defense, lack of shooting or some other attribute for which no explanation has been given.

And Rondo feels like he hasn’t been given subsequent rope to play through his weaknesses.

“It’s not a great feeling as a player to play like that,” Rondo said. “You’re only as good as your coach thinks you are. That’s a big part of each individual’s success in the NBA.

“You look at James Harden and the year he’s having. D’Antoni turned over the keys to him and he’s having his best year ever with the right personnel around him. Certain guys got an opportunity to shine and play without restraint and certain guys will rise to the occasion. And some won’t.”

Whether Rondo believes he’s in the class of a player who’s averaging nearly 30 and 11 assists or not is hard to interpret. But the feeling of a lack of support is apparent and only in the case of a medical emergency are the Bulls calling on him.

Playing at Irving Middle School in Maywood since his banishment has been the only way to stay sharp during this 6.5-game absence from the lineup, but it changes for a night.

With Jimmy Butler out with illness, Nikola Mirotic catching it overnight and Wade out with a scheduled rest, the Bulls were forced to turn back to Rondo. The conversation between Rondo and Hoiberg was short, but not necessarily sweet.

“Just today. I was walking into the meeting, seeing him swinging his legs, and figured with a lot of people down today…” said Rondo before turning into some trademark sarcasm.

“Just waiting to see. I had a gut feeling today. I had butterflies this morning. I thought, ‘You know what? Jimmy’s out, Wade’s out … ‘’ No, I did have a gut feeling that maybe, maybe.”

Midway through his session with the media, Bulls media relations personnel tried to end it but Rondo made it clear he didn't mind the questioning and was affable and essentially pleasant during the near-10 minute meeting.

"I’m going to go ahead and dance with them (management) then," he replied when a media member said the Bulls have danced around giving an explanation for his benching.

His conversations with Hoiberg since his benching have been limited, and the Bulls haven’t been completely clear with why Rondo was benched, although his fit on this team has come into question with the lack of shooting and his up-and-down perimeter defense.

“Umm, how can I say this…? No,” said Rondo when asked about an explanation from Hoiberg.

Rondo did say a member of the coaching staff—a member he wouldn’t name—came to him to explain that he was being saved from himself in a basketball sense.

“Do I need saving from myself? In this game, you grind through it.,” Rondo said. “It’s a game of mistakes. You play through it. If not, . . .”

Subsequently, apparently, was his benching.
It started in the second half of the Dec. 30 game against the Indiana Pacers and he hasn’t seen the floor since.

“I don’t want to say any names,” Rondo said. “But that’s what the explanation was. (In) Cleveland, they told me I had a -20 in Indiana at halftime. I think that was part of the reason.”

Rondo’s thoughts on the explanation given were predictable.

“I thought it was bulls**t. You know.”

He repeated the phrase "save me from myself," a phrase that was presented to him one another time—the December 3rd Bulls-Mavericks matchup in Dallas where he got into it with associate coach Jim Boylen

“Save me from myself,” Rondo said. “I never heard that before in my life. But I guess (the assistant coach) was trying to do the best thing for me.”

As for he and his coach, he made clear the communication hasn’t been heavy.

“We speak. Cordial. Nothing much to say,” Rondo said.

LeBron James breaks Michael Jordan's record by becoming NBA's all-time leading playoff scorer

LeBron James breaks Michael Jordan's record by becoming NBA's all-time leading playoff scorer

The LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan debate tends to heat up around playoff time, and The King fueled the fire Thursday with his latest accomplishment.

After sinking a 3-pointer in the third quarter of Game 5 against the Boston Celtics, the four-time NBA MVP surpassed Jordan for most postseason points in league history with 5,989. Jordan scored 5,987 points in 179 games while it took James 212 to surpass that mark.

Before the game, James said that chasing Jordan has been a personal goal of his and left the debate to media members.

The SportsTalk Live panel talked about those comments, and joined in on the debate in the video above.

Swanigan's, Diallo's decisions and how it affects Bulls' NBA Draft

Swanigan's, Diallo's decisions and how it affects Bulls' NBA Draft

The deadline for underclassmen to pull their names out of the NBA Draft passed on Wednesday at midnight.

There were a few surprises, and a handful of decisions had an effect on how the Bulls will go about next month's draft.

Staying in the draft

Caleb Swangian, PF, Purdue: The sophomore All-American surprised many by keeping his name in the draft. Swanigan actually tested the waters after his freshman season but returned to the Boilermakers in 2016. He averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 35 games, earning Big Ten Player of the Year honors and was a National Player of the Year candidate. It's no secret the 6-foot-9 Swangian can score  - he had 15 games of 20 or more points - and showed some ability to shoot from deep, making nearly 45 percent of his 85 3-point attempts. Quickness and conditioning will be the real test for the 245-pound Swanigan, who has already lost significant weight since high school. Questions about his defense (he had just 27 steals and 36 blocks in two seasons) also stand out. With Nikola Mirotic's future in Chicago unknown, the Bulls could be in the market for depth at power forward. He wouldn't be an option for the Bulls at No. 14, but if he slides out of the first round he could be an option at No. 38.

D.J. Wilson, PF, Michigan: After averaging just 6.1 minutes as a sophomore, Wilson burst onto the scene as a junior, averaging 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in 30.4 minutes for the Wolverines. He did his best work during the postseason; during Michigan's Big Ten Championship run and Sweet 16 appearance, Wilson averaged 15.6 points on 54 percent shooting, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. Standing 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Wilson leaves some to be desired on the defensive end but has the ability to play as a combo forward - he had a 3-inch growth spurt after high school. Like Swanigan, Wilson won't be an option for the Bulls at No. 14 but could be a second-round option. He'd give the Bulls a similar look to what Bobby Portis does with a little more versatility on the wing.

Going back to college

Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky: The NBA Draft's biggest mystery could have been a home-run selection for the Bulls in the first round. Alas, Diallo has decided to play a year under John Calipari at Kentucky and likely boost his draft stock. Having not played since December, where he played at a prep academy in Connecticut, so there wasn't much film of the 6-foot-5 leaper. Still, after Thon Maker went No. 10 to the Bucks last year there was thought that a team would take a gamble on a high-upside mystery.

Andrew Jones, PG, Texas: There was little surprise that Jones, a five-star recruit who put together a solid freshman season, returned. He's still a bit raw as a prospect despite having elite size (6-foot-4) and solid athleticism, and another year running the point with incoming five-star recruit Mo Bomba could really improve his draft stock. The Bulls clearly have a need at the point (less if Rajon Rondo returns) and if Jones had made the leap he likely would have been around at No. 38. Even still, Jones is a player to keep an eye on during next year's draft, assuming Cameron Payne and Jerian Grant don't make significant improvements.

Moritz Wagner, PF, Michigan: There's a need on every NBA team for a stretch forward with 3-point potential. But those teams will have to wait at least another year after Wagner decided to return to Michigan for his junior season. Like Wilson, who kept his name in the draft, Wagner had an excellent postseason run for the Wolverines. That stretch included a 17-point effort against Minnesota and a career-high 26-point outing in a win over Louisville. He weighed in at just 231 pounds and only averaged 4.2 rebounds per game, so adding some strength to his game will help his draft prospect for next year. He could have been an option for the Bulls at No. 38.