After poking the ball loose from John Wall, Rajon Rondo sprints downcourt and throws down a rare dunk in the first quarter. (0:20)
Rondo, who prior to Tuesday night had not played since the second half of a Dec. 30 loss to the Indiana Pacers, spoke for almost 10 minutes ahead of the team’s game against the Washington Wizards and acknowledged that this is the most confusing circumstance he has been through in his career. He also noted that he hasn’t shared more than a few words with coach Fred Hoiberg since his benching, but declined to name which member of the Bulls’ staff gave him the reasoning behind his benching.
“I got a slight explanation from another guy on the staff,” Rondo said. “A guy told me that he was saving me from myself.”
Rondo was asked if he needed saving from himself.
“Do I need saving from myself?” Rondo said. “In this game, you grind through it. It’s a game of mistakes. You play through it. If not …
“I don’t want to say any names. But that’s what the explanation was. [In] Cleveland, they told me I had a negative-20 (plus-minus) in Indiana at halftime. I think that was part of the reason.”
What did he think of the explanation?
“I thought it was bulls—,” he said. “‘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.”
Rondo, who signed a two-year contract with the Bulls over the summer, with only one year guaranteed, is averaging just 7.2 points a game. He has stated several times that he feels his role has been different from what he and the Bulls’ front office discussed when he signed over the summer.
“Depends on how you guys write it,” Rondo said. “But yeah, it’s different. When I signed here, why I wanted to come here, it’s a lot different than what I anticipated.”
Rondo was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team for the Dec. 5 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers following a verbal altercation with assistant coach Jim Boylen during a Dec. 3 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. During the game, Rondo also whipped a towel toward Boylen, something that was caught on camera during the telecast.
Rondo met with Bulls general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson after a Dec. 31 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and told reporters prior to the meeting that he would speak to Forman and Paxson about finding a new team if he were to continue staying on the bench. Rondo would say days later that he didn’t get a “clear-cut” message about his future from the executives, but privately, Bulls officials believe they were “crystal clear” about their message. Rondo said before Tuesday’s game that he hasn’t spoken to Forman or Paxson since the meeting.
Hoiberg said before the game that Rondo would be the team’s first substitution off the bench. The point guard entered at the 6:31 mark of the first quarter and had six points, three rebounds and two assists in the first quarter. His return to action comes on the same night the Bulls were without Jimmy Butler (illness), Nikola Mirotic (illness) and Dwyane Wade (rest) against the Wizards.
Rondo admitted that he felt he would be on display against the Wizards.
“Oh, I am,” Rondo said. “Playing for the Bulls, playing for big organizations like Boston, you’re going to be judged from day one. It’s part of it. You signed up for it. I don’t mind being judged or pressure being put on myself. People have been counting me out since day one. That doesn’t matter about being in a box. It’s not a great feeling as a player to play like that. 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. [Houston Rockets coach] [Mike] 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.”
Rondo said he has been staying in shape by playing pickup games at Irving Middle School in Maywood, Illinois. While he declined to say all the people who had been playing with him, he did note that teammate Isaiah Canaan was one.
For his part, Rondo seemed to enjoy the laid-back conversation with reporters. A member of the Bulls’ public relations staff tried to give Rondo an out about midway through the proceedings, but he noted that reporters were free to continue asking questions for another few minutes because he had already taken his shots.
“I haven’t had this much attention in awhile,” Rondo said with a small smile.