‘Coach’s decision’ as Carlisle benches Rondo in clutch

"Coach’s decision". … and "coach’s decision."

Rajon Rondo is a four-time All-Star. This is his offense, as much as it is anyone’s, by the nature of both his talent and his position of point guard. His skills as a closer are central to why Dallas acquired him in trade in December, and, previous to Friday, why coach Rick Carlisle was able to praise him as a key to the Mavericks’ recent clutch play. 

Friday night at the AAC called for "clutch." It called for a "closer." 

Yet Carlisle didn’t call on Rondo, who sat out the final 5:11 of a gut-twisting 102-98 loss to the visiting Bulls. 

"Coach’s decision," Rick said, unwilling to explain further. "It’s a coach’s decision." 

Of course it is. But what about the "why’s?" Had Rondo played poorly? Maybe his heel is bothering him? What Devin Harris doing something well that merited him getting that time? There is nothing wrong with a "coach’s decision" but there is also much right about a certain level of transparency … 

"It’s called coach’s decision, and that’s how we’re going to roll," Carlisle said when pushed more on the subject. "Next question." 

Rondo as pivotal to Dallas’ win at Memphis on Monday, and after that game, Rick acknowledged that enduring some quirks in his play is worth it because of what a strong finisher he is. 

"A guy like that, you’ve just got to put him in there in crunch time and let him do what he does," Carlisle said then. 

So what changed from Monday to Friday? 

Replied Carlisle: "Today’s Friday. That was Monday. That’s where it is. … Listen, if you want to make it a blow-up story, be my guest. … Go talk to him. It’s a coach’s decision." 

OK. "Coach made a decision," said Rondo, who contributed six points, four assists and two rebounds in his 27 minutes. " It’s as simple as that. I’ve been in this game a long time. It’s not like it’s the end of the world. I like what Coach Carlisle has done for me this year. I don’t have any regrets." 

That is a mature take and a relief. Veteran Mavs fans will recall Jason Kidd’s re-arrival in Dallas in 2008 after a blockbuster trade and then-coach Avery Johnson’s decision to bench him in the final minutes of a big game at San Antonio. Avery didn’t explain it very well. Kidd did not respond very well. 

Rick isn’t explaining this very well. Maybe the situation is salvaged by Rondo responding well. 

But inevitably, all of this is going to lead to a bigger question about the Mavs-Rondo marriage and this summer of free agency, when they have decisions to make about repeating their vows.