Earlier this year in July, the Sacramento Kings signed Rajon Rondo to a one-year deal worth just a shade less than $10 million as part of an extreme roster overhaul. By taking a short-term deal, Rondo took a chance on himself, betting that he would return to the form that made him one of the most dynamic players in the games just a few short seasons ago, and earning a high-value contract during the next offseason.
The signing was controversial, as the team was already having in-house issues between their head coach George Karl, and their superstar center DeMarcus Cousins. Rondo had issues of his own last season with the Dallas Mavericks and their head coach, Rick Carlisle. Surely bringing Rondo into the situation would only make it worse, right?
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That hasn’t been the case for Rondo this year. Not only has Rondo been quiet and determined through the season’s first 10 games, he’s shown flashes, and not quite brief ones, of his old form. Rondo has recorded three triple-doubles in his past four games, the best stretch of his NBA career. He had never before had back-to-back triple-doubles, and as a result hadn’t reached three in four games either.
After a terrible start for the team, as they faced championship-caliber teams and played without Cousins on a few nights as he dealt with an achilles injury, the Kings found themselves with just one win in eight games. They have started a mini-winning streak since then, as they’ve collected two straight wins since then, and the duo of Rondo and Cousins have been the catalysts.
In the Kings’ 101-92 win against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, Rondo recorded his first of back-to-back triples-doubles, as he scored 14 points, pulled down 11 rebounds, and dished out 15 assists. Cousins was Rondo’s main beneficiary, as Rondo assisted on six of Cousins’ field goals for 15 of his 33 points.
On Friday, it was more of the same for the Kings, as they completed a 111-109 come-from-behind win over the Brooklyn Nets. Rondo scored a season-high 23 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and distributed 14 assists. Half of his dimes went to Cousins, who made seven of his 13 field goals off Rondo passes, worth 16 of his 40 points (the second-best total scoring output of his career). Cousins fouled out after two questionable foul calls late in the fourth quarter.
Rondo’s recent outburst has evoked memories of his best year with the Boston Celtics, when he averaged 11.8 points and 11.3 assists per game between the 2010 and 2013 seasons. His three triple-doubles in 10 games puts him within striking distance of Chris Webber‘s Sacramento Kings-era record of five in a single season. Rondo has half of the entire NBA’s triple-doubles so far, as Russell Westbrook, who has two, and Victor Oladipo account for the rest. Westbrook dishes out 10.9 assists per game, and is the only player who assists more than Rondo (9.1 per game).
Cousins and Rondo, along with small forward Rudy Gay, form a very solid trio of big threats, but they haven’t been together a lot this year. The three have played in just half of the 10 games so far together. The team also has good players behind the “Big Three”, with Kosta Koufos, Marco Belinelli, Darren Collison, and Willie Cauley-Stein making up just part of a talented roster.
If the Kings hope to turn this ship around and make some serious noise in the Western Conference, Rondo’s continued excellence on the court is one of the key factors. While the lineups that Coach Karl has had to use have been inconsistent, as players are shuffled in and out with injuries, Rondo has been the lone constant.
Rondo is the only King to have started all 10 games so far, and his presence is a must for the Kings moving forward. His resurgence in a contract year is exactly what the Kings need.