Bulls

Rajon Rondo calls situation 'a test' and 'slap in the face'

Rajon Rondo calls situation 'a test' and 'slap in the face'

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rajon Rondo is on his third strike, knowing one misstep, one false move will have him playing in China or have him searching for an assistant coaching job.

The Bulls know this, too, which is why they hold the cards for his immediate future and beyond.

Put him in moth balls with little communication, yank him in and out of the lineup or rotation as they so please, the team holds the cards and Rondo knows his history has much more to do with this than the actual present.

"Without a doubt. It's a test for me," he calmly said to CSNChicago.com after his one-game reprieve from the dungeon of the bench resulted in a close loss to the Washington Wizards, a game where Rondo acquitted himself well in 27 minutes with 12 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals.

Previous transgressions make it easier to create the optics of Rondo being the problem more than he actually may be, with run-ins in Boston, Dallas and Sacramento being on his rap sheet.

Rondo doesn't lament where he is, but he certainly knows why things are perceived as such to the general public. But it doesn't stop the thinker from thinking and coming up with the conclusion that he's being insulted.

Considering he stays up at night watching games two or three times over, then comes into meetings with coaches the next morning with index cards of suggestions that don't merely revolve around his teammates' weaknesses but his own, it's not hard for him to connect the dots.

"It's a slap in the face. I'm not the first person to get slapped in the face in life," said Rondo to CSNChicago.com. "I don't feel any type of way. Either way, when you put away... I don't make excuses. This is who I work for, and it's a job."

It's a job he still loves and the players he identifies with most have the labels that lead teams to stay away — guys like DeMarcus Cousins and Monta Ellis — teammates in Sacramento and Dallas, respectively.

Those players are still in the league. Josh Smith, another close friend, is not — playing in China after failing to come to terms with a team this past offseason, following stints with Detroit, Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers since the start of the 2014-15 season.

"We're just different," said Rondo to CSNChicago.com. "KG (Kevin Garnett) told me, it's what makes me who I am. Stubbornness, not the know-it-all attitude but the work ethic. That's what makes me, me."

Smith just turned 31 last month. Rondo, his teammate at Oak Hill Academy, will turn 31 next month.

"I feel like I have at least 6-7 years," Rondo said. "The time I was on the bench, my perspective changed. I look at substitution patterns, watching other coaches call timeout. Always preparing. I even took a board home practicing my plays. I'm always trying to use my time wisely. I'm out there studying the game, how to become a coach, how to run things. Trying to continue to learn the game."

[RELATED: Rajon Rondo addresses benching]

Who knows if he's taking notes from Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg or associate coach Jim Boylen, the coaching staff member who could've very likely told Rondo that he needed to be saved from himself, but it would be ironic if it were the case.

The murky communication with Hoiberg, the lack of communication from the front office about his future in Chicago or potentially elsewhere could make him a ticking time bomb, if he didn't see it coming.

"Does it bother me? It would bother me if I didn't expect it, if it wasn't a surprise," said Rondo to CSNChicago.com. "My intuition is crazy. It's a gift and it's a blessing. I'm able to be in a situation at age 30, playing basketball. My perspective is different, this doesn't define me. It's my job."

Calling it a job is likely a way to detach himself from the situation so that frustration won't take over.

Carefully choosing Chicago given his reputation and the results of this experiment means he could likely be in the same position in six months — almost tacitly saying what was communicated to him isn't how things have laid out.

"I was very cautious this summer, where I chose to play," Rondo said. "What I was told in the meeting, It's a little different than what I was told in the meeting. Once I learn the system, I can run the show. It's what I do. I don't come in like I know it all. I put the extra work in."

After all, he's on his third strike and is the easy person to blame in the Bulls' underachieving — hence his not being able to help himself by saying "I felt fast" after Tuesday's game — an obvious shot to Hoiberg telling him that Rondo looked slow before his benching.

"I've been in this game a long time, great players, great coaches," Rondo said. "What happened to me early is kind of a curse. I expected it would be how it was my early years in Boston. How the veterans were in the locker room. How the players were all for one another."

"KG (Kevin Garnett) always told me, this isn't how it usually is around the league. it's a little surprising I'm going through it but at the same time, I was warned that this is the NBA."

He knows he's also the odd piece who doesn't fit in with Jimmy Butler's ascension and Dwyane Wade's homecoming, and has probably figured out the Bulls likely wouldn't have signed him had they known Wade would actually leave the Miami Heat in free agency.

But just because it was easy for him to put the pieces together that the pieces don't fit together doesn't mean he'll sit idly or cower in the corner, or perform with less vigor when his name is called upon.

It merely means he'll play the way he always does, or at least the way he intended to play when agreeing to terms with the Bulls — and it's no surprise to see how much energy he played with Tuesday with the younger players following eagerly, as they likely bonded over opportunity that doesn't come often.

In his mind, his expectations are simple but apparently hard to fulfill.

"I managed to get three hall of famers the ball (in Boston) and keep everybody happy," Rondo said. "All I have is two here, I had one last year. It's what I do, I run the show. It's a little different."

And it's clear the decision-makers with the Bulls don't like things being a "little different", thus leading to this impasse, one without a clear solution or person to blame.

Report: Bulls possibly interested in adding Jrue Holiday?

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USA TODAY

Report: Bulls possibly interested in adding Jrue Holiday?

According to a story by Sporting News NBA writer Sean Deveney, the Bulls may be looking for help in the form of one of the NBA’s better two-way players.

In the post, Deveney goes over the most salient points made by brand new New Orleans Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin. This included the fact that Griffin stated that Pels head coach Alvin Gentry will be back and that Jrue Holiday is considered “a franchise building block”.

This could be a bit of gamesmanship from Griffin, hoping to drive up the asking price for an All-Star caliber player such as Holiday.

But Deveney suggests that New Orleans may indeed be serious about their efforts to keep building with Holiday on the roster. Deveney stated, “if the Pelicans don't trade Holiday, it will set up the team for an attempt at a fast turnaround rather than a long, slogging rebuild......It will also frustrate teams looking for a versatile point guard in his prime, hoping that Holiday would be on the block.”

Phoenix was mentioned as the “top contender” for Holiday’s services should he be made available, as the Suns are one of the few teams with an obvious hole at PG. Along with the Suns, Chicago and Orlando were the other teams listed as having interest in Holiday. The Magic completed a low-risk trade during the 2018-19 season that landed them 2017 No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, so they may not be inclined to give up solid assets in a deal.

As far as the Bulls are concerned, any serious inquires on Holiday are likely to come after the May 14 NBA Draft lottery.

Depending on where the Bulls lottery pick ends up, the Pelicans could be much more inclined to make a deal with the Chicago front office. The Pelicans ended the season tied with Memphis and Dallas for the 7th spot in the draft lottery odds, and their specific organizational goals could make moving up in the draft order worth losing a valuable player like Jrue Holiday. And for the Bulls, nabbing a player like Holiday helps build onto the positive team culture that Jim Boylen wants to establish and gives the Bulls a perfect guard to pair in the backcourt with Zach LaVine.

Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

This is the first entry in our "8 for 38" series, where will be looking at eight different under-the-radar NBA prospects that the Bulls could snag with their No. 38 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Charles Bassey/ 6’11’’/ 275 lbs./ Freshman/ Western Kentucky  

Bassey is a a well-regarded five-star recruit from Nigeria, who played his college ball at Western Kentucky University. He is a physical force on the court but definitely is a raw prospect at this stage of his development.

Bassey came into the season as an assumed first round talent, however, his stock has dropped after his impressive freshman season still revealed holes in his game that will definitely be exploited at the NBA level. All that being said, he was quite the prospect at WKU.

Strengths:

In his lone season at WKU, Bassey averaged 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game on 62.7 percent shooting from the field. His impressive double double average was built on his insane dominance inside the paint.

He shot an astounding 77.4 percent on shots at the rim and that number is even higher on non-post up shots around the basket. Bassey has a rudimentary hook shot that he can hit over his left shoulder but his postgame isn’t the hub of his offense. He generates most of his points by finishing on pick-and-rolls and using his faceup game.

Bassey’s physicality leads to him setting hard screens, and when he doesn’t set a hard screen, he slips to the basket quickly where he takes advantage with his soft touch when looking to score. It is tough for help defenders to knock Bassey off his path when he is rolling to the rim, as his immense lower body strength allows him to displace smaller players.

When Bassey faces up from 15-feet and in, he uses the aforementioned soft touch to convert on 40.8 percent of his 2-PT jump shots per Hoop-Math.com. On top of that, he generally has the speed to blow by most big men.

Bassey’s biggest strength from day one in the NBA will be his motor. He clearly gets fired up for big matchups, as he showcased when he dominated Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, who ended up winning the 2019 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given by the Basketball Hall of Fame to the country’s best center. In their late December matchup, Bassey helped hold Happ to a very inefficient 20 points on 23 shots.

In that same game Bassey finished with 19 points (7/8 FG, 5/5 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 4 blocks. He has arguably had better games, but the all-around versatility showcased in the stat line above is outstanding.

Bassey has flashed the ability to make nice passes before:

Since Bassey’s NBA offense will be centered around pick-and-roll plays, further developing his decision making on the short-roll will be a boon to whatever team drafts him.

On defense, Bassey already shows the ability to be an asset in the right system. When he is allowed to play in a traditional defensive system that has the center dropping back in pick-and-roll coverage, he swallows up shots with his 7-foot-3 wingspan.

Weaknesses:

The gigantic weakness Bassey showcased this season was an inability to function as a switch defender. He was great when it comes to protecting the rim--he averaged 2.4 blocks per game-- but he was consistently beat off the dribble by guards.

Of course it is rare to find any center--let alone a young one--that has the legitimate ability to function at a high-level when it comes to switching on to smaller, faster players. But that is precisely what makes Bassey the exact type of center you can find easily.

This is why a player of his talent level can slip into the second round.

Another big issue for Bassey is hands, or more specifically, the inability to hold on to passes when diving to the rim. As mentioned above, pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop basketball is how Bassey will carve out a niche in the league. But he occasionally struggled to hold on to the ball on throws that many would not even consider to be “tough passes”.

In the above strengths section it is mentioned how Bassey has some untapped potential as a passer, but he will never cash in on that potential if simply possessing the ball is a difficulty for him. He isn’t as explosive as usual if there are multiple defenders crowding him and raking at the ball, which happens often.

Over 1,067 minutes Basey amassed 24 assists as compared to a whopping 97 turnovers.

Long term outlook:

I believe Bassey will have a long NBA career due to his finishing in the paint and ability to block shots.

Bassey ran roughshod over his mostly Conference USA opposition on the season.

His 62.7 percent shooting from the field and 3.0 blocks per 40 minutes were a few of the many things that showed that Bassey is at least ready for the physicality of the NBA.

But to become much more than a solid journeyman center, Bassey will have to hone his perimeter jump shot to the point that he can become a solid 3-point threat. He shot 45 percent on a very limited 20 attempts from 3-point range and converted on 76.9 percent of his free throws, an enticing set of numbers that show the type of player he could be in the future.

Whether or not Robin Lopez stays, the Bulls will be short on center depth next season.  After Wendell Carter Jr. went down for the remainder of the 2018-19 season, we saw the Bulls play ultra-small lineups that got beat up on the glass often as Jim Boylen was still reluctant to play Felicio more than 15 minutes per game.

Adding a high-upside prospect like Bassey helps Boylen and co. avoid over-using lineups with Lauri Markkanen at center, which helps keep Markkanen fresh and theoretically improves the overall team defense.