Apr 18, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo (9) controls the ball during the first quarter in game two of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
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Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo had a few bumps in the road during the 2016-17 campaign. In spite of that fact, he still managed to prove his worth. Here is a look back at his season.
Following the 2015-16 campaign — a season in which the Chicago Bulls failed to make the playoffs for the first time in eight years — the organization shipped Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks.
Although that may have not been a popular move at the time, it was the best decision for both sides, as the team had gone as far as it was going to go under the previous group of players.
The question became: How would the Bulls go about filling the lead guard position? A week after trading Rose, the Bulls signed Rajon Rondo to a two-year deal.
Being that Rondo had a few not-so-great moments with the Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings, this move was questionable. In spite of those missteps, however, the Bulls felt he was worth the gamble.
Did the move pay dividends for the Bulls? I’m glad you asked.
Here is a look back at Rondo’s 2016-17 season, including season stats, highlights/lowlights, memorable moments and final grades.
Apr 18, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo (9) during the first quarter in game two of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Rondo has never been a prolific scorer and his perimeter shooting can be categorized as suspect at best. During the regular season, he didn’t exactly make Bulls fans forget about Rose.
For starters, his 7.8 points per contest were the second-lowest average of his 11-year career. Secondly, Rondo shot just 41 percent from the field, which was the third-lowest conversion rate of his career.
But while Rondo’s numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet, he did bring a few intangibles to the table — one of them being the willingness to stand up for his teammates.
Although all parties involved were wrong for not keeping their differences in-house, you have to admire a guy who is willing to step up and be a voice for his teammates that are still trying to find their niche in the NBA.
Apr 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo (9) drives to the basket past New York Knicks guard Ron Baker (31) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
I mentioned a bit ago that Rondo had his fair share of unfavorable moments with the last two teams he played for. For a short while, it appeared that would not be the case with the Bulls.
Then, it happened.
In an early December game against the Mavericks, this contest would prove to be memorable for two reasons: 1) After notching an impressive win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls fell to the Mavericks 107-82 and 2) Rondo got into a verbal altercation with lead assistant coach Jim Boylen.
The exchange resulted in Rondo being served with a one-game suspension for conduct that was detrimental to the team. While the moment could have been a divisive one, head coach Fred Hoiberg was more than willing to put the situation behind him.
“Rajon will be suspended for tonight’s game for conduct detrimental to the team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said, via ESPN.
“He and I met [Sunday], had a good meeting. He’ll meet us at the plane tonight; he’ll be back in uniform [Tuesday] against Detroit and moving forward. As far as the details, I’m not going to get in the details of it. We’re going to move past it, and again, he’ll be back in uniform tomorrow.”
This wasn’t the only incident that took place in which Rondo had an issue with the coaching staff. However, in each case, Rondo and the Bulls were able to move forward.
Mar 21, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo (9) reacts after a play against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Chicago 122-120 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Although Rondo’s 2016-17 numbers were not overly impressive, there were a couple of instances in which he proved to be a difference-maker for the Bulls.
For example, during the last month of the regular season, he averaged 12.3 points, 8.3 assists and 7.3 rebounds per contest. This includes a 25-point, 11-assist, six-rebound performance against the Hawks back on Apr. 1.
Where Rondo really proved his worth, though, was during the playoffs. In the series opener against the Boston Celtics, Rondo finished with 12 points, eight assists and six rebounds. He followed that up with another solid outing in Game 2, as he scored 11 points, handed out 14 assists and grabbed nine rebounds.
The Bulls won both of those games and took a surprising 2-0 against the top-seeded Celtics. However, thanks to a thumb injury he sustained in Game 2, Rondo was sidelined the rest of the series.
Ironically, the Bulls’ offense wasn’t the same after that, and they proceeded to drop the next four games.
Jan 27, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo (left) and forward Jimmy Butler (center) and head coach Fred Hoiberg (right) talk during the second half against the Miami Heat at the United Center. Miami won 100-88. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
While Rondo did eventually prove he was the right guy to run Hoiberg’s offense, there were a few moments I’m sure he would rather forget.
One such example was a December home game against the Washington Wizards. In that contest, Rondo scored three points and shot just 1-for-10 from the field.
Another not so great outing for Rondo occurred in a late February game against the Celtics. He scored three points and missed on all five of his attempts. To be fair, Rondo did have eight rebounds and seven assists to help round out his poor shooting night.
The ultimate lowlight of Rondo’s season was a five-game benching following Chicago’s 111-101 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 30 — an outing in which he recorded a -20 plus/minus. Rondo later gave his thoughts on being told that he was being saved from himself.
“I thought it was bulls—,” Rondo told ESPN. “‘Save me from myself?’ I never heard that before in my life. But I guess he was trying to do the best thing for me.”
Thankfully, Hoiberg came to his senses and eventually re-inserted Rondo back into the startling lineup.
Apr 18, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo (9) is guarded by Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the first quarter in game two of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Recap And Final Grade
The bad news for Bulls fans is Rondo’s numbers were not spectacular by any means. Similar to the previous two ball clubs he played with, Rondo did have his bad moments, but they were somewhat minor infractions.
On the flip side of the coin, Rondo did shoot a career best 38 percent from beyond the arc, which is significant considering he had a career 30 percent conversion rate from distance coming into the season.
Additionally, as was the case in the first round playoff series against the Celtics, the Bulls’ offense played much better when Rondo was in the starting lineup. This fact more than likely played a major role in why general manager John Paxsonstated there is a good chance that Rondo will be back next year.
Being that the other four point guards failed to make an impact in the final four games of the playoffs series, it is safe to say the front office is wise to consider bringing Rondo back for another season.