Rajon Rondo Steps Up, Silences Doubters


Rajon Rondo has been heavily criticized and doubted since he signed with the Sacramento Kings. And that makes sense, to a point. Rondo is a career 26 percent three-point shooter who was coming off of a career-worst two year run in which he shot just under 42 percent from the field.

Rondo wasn’t able to shoot from anywhere over the last two seasons. He hit an atrocious 39.7 percent of his free throws in his time split between Boston and Dallas last season, which is unbelievably bad for any player and even worse for a guard.

But Vlade Divac believed that the old Rondo wasn’t gone just yet. He remembered the days when Rondo was dominating the best point guard conversation. Back in his top form (from the 2010-11 season to the 2012-13 season), Rondo averaged 11.8 points, 11.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds and two steals per game on 46.8 percent shooting.

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Divac knew that if he could get a Rondo that was even close to that caliber, he would have the missing piece this Sacramento Kings team so desperately needs to drag itself out of the Western Conference cellar. So he took a shot, signed Rondo and went for it.

After his utter demolition of the Lakers on Friday night, Vlade must be feeling pretty good about taking that shot. Rondo dumped 21 points, eight assists, three rebounds and a steal on Los Angeles’ worse team. He shot 69 percent from the field, 50 percent from beyond the arc and was perfect from the free throw line.

If this is the Rondo that’s going to stick around, these Kings will be playoff-bound. The most encouraging aspect of his game had to be the shooting–seeing Rondo making three-pointers and free throws is new and exciting for Sacramento fans.

Oct 17, 2015; Lexington, KY, USA; Sacramento Kings guard guard Rajon Rondo (9) dribbles the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans

in the second half at Rupp Arena. Sacramento Kings defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 107-98. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

But should it be? Rondo actually started making his shots from deep at a better percentage last season, in his time with the Mavericks. It was largely overlooked thanks to the epic implosion that got Dallas ousted from the playoffs in the first round, but Rondo shot over 35 percent from beyond the arc on just over one attempt per game.

Obviously the sample size isn’t huge, but that decent rate has carried over to his first two games with the Kings. Rondo is currently one-for-three on his three-point attempts, and he’s taken at least one per game, just like his time in Dallas.

Rajon Rondo isn’t going to start taking insane Stephen Curry-esque shots off of the dribble from deep, but he seems to be okay at taking a three-pointer or two per game, when he’s wide open. If he can make 30-some percent of those open three-point attempts Rondo will be doing a lot to improve the Kings’ shaky spacing.

The one area of concern for Rondo is still his defense. After three straight seasons of having a defensive rating at least as high as his offensive rating (also known as a negative/neutral net rating), Rondo is sitting at a rough 106 defensive rating through Sacramento’s first two games.

That certainly isn’t helping the Kings, who are currently the 26th worst defense in terms of points allowed per game. Luckily his offense is helping, as after two games Rondo is breaking that net rating streak with an offensive rating of 108.

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That will regress to the mean a bit as the season goes on, but if Rondo can pick up his defense to lower that number as well he’ll still be a positive contributor for Sacramento this season. You can’t expect him to manage 69/50/100 very often, but Rondo has shown he’s capable of at least flashes of his former greatness at this point in his career.

It’s just one regular season game against the lowly Lakers, but Rondo’s performance is reassuring for Sacramento Kings fans worried about his play after the Clippers game.

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If he continues to play like an exclamation point instead of a question mark, this Kings team is going to be tough to stop. There are still problems with both Rondo and Sacramento, but they might just be able to work through them together.