Culture of Hoops

Dallas Mavericks: RondoGate, Round 2 (or 3, or 4, or… Ah, Screw It)

Image courtesy of TJ Macias/Baller Mind Frame.

Image courtesy of TJ Macias/Baller Mind Frame.

As if to foreshadow an event that would occur at a later time, Dallas was plagued with a nasty ice storm that secluded Texans in their own little corners of the world over the course of Monday and Tuesday morning. The conditions even prompted the Dallas Mavericks to cancel their Monday practice. The weather eventually improved just enough to melt ice patches scattered about the freeways, allowing fans to emerge and flock to the American Airlines Center to watch the Mavericks take on the Toronto Raptors. Little did fans, reporters – and even the Mavericks themselves – know, that that irrefragable ice storm would make its way into the Center, and descend upon the court during the third quarter.

As Dallas trailed 62-53 with about eight minutes left in the third quarter, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle sounded a clarion call to an impassive Rajon Rondo, his facial expression nonchalant as he began to dribble up the court, blatantly ignoring his coach. Rondo, with his offensive game in apparent hibernation, remained flippant, even as Carlisle called a timeout. As Rondo walked off the court and into parlous territory with his “take-no-bullshit” coach, Carlisle, in his famous raucous tone, started yelling at the point guard, who snapped back. It got so heated that assistant coach Jamahl Mosley stepped in to play the buffer.

That’s when the buzz started. Oh. Snap.

Rondo was benched and suddenly the team’s momentum shifted; the Mavs started pulling ahead and finished the third only trailing by three points.

Rondo would not play the rest of the game.

With a deflated Rondo peering out from under the alabaster hood of a draped towel that covered his head, Dallas beat Toronto 99-92.

It was time for the media to take the reins – ESPN Dallas’ Tim MacMahon to be exact. MacMahon has become infamous among Dallas media for his perdurable fearlessness when pushing Carlisle to the point of going on a stress-crushing murder spree. On January 23, following the Mavericks’ 102-98 loss to the Chicago Bulls, MacMahon wanted to know why Rondo was seated in the final minutes of the game, and pressed Carlisle when he didn’t get a straight answer.

“It was a coach’s decision,” Carlisle snapped in his best Russell Westbrook-like tone. Yet, MacMahon persisted, which earned him a death-stare from Carlisle, indicating that the discussion was over.

Tuesday’s win was no different.

“How many times do you want me to answer the same question?” Carlisle expressed in an even tone.

MacMahon held up his index finger to Carlisle, “One – and you didn’t answer it yet. Is Rondo your starting point guard tomorrow?”

Carlisle narrowed his gaze at MacMahon for a beat, obviously choosing his words carefully.

“That’s what we got him for,” he said.

Rondo has spent a better part of his time in Dallas struggling with the flow of the offense, committing a pesky amount of turnovers while attempting to fancy-up his passes. Although the Mavericks have slightly improved their defense since his arrival, the their offense has taken a 90 mile-per-hour fastball crotch-shot. As the bench numbed his rear, Rondo watched Devin Harris and J.J. Barea pull his team back up.

The media made a beeline to Rondo as he dressed in front of his locker after the game, but he eschewed those who would crucify him and instead went to speak with his former Kentucky coach, Tubby Smith, who was in attendance. As he attempted to leave after clogging up the traffic on memory lane with Smith, Rondo only had one thing to say about the matter:

“Discuss (it) with Rick.”

The calm voices of team leaders Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler attempted to shine some optimistic light on the matter, but with little to no avail.

“That wasn’t the first time I’ve seen anything like that happen, and it won’t be the last,” Nowitzki explained before he was asked if his teammate is having trouble fitting in. “Sometimes you’ve just got to work through the frustration. Taking over the team midseason is hard.”

“Those two, they’re two grown men,” Chandler told the press. “They can handle their problems with each other.”

In his own sugarcoated way, Nowitzki agreed with Carlisle’s decision.

“Ultimately, the coach has the last word,” he said.

Richard Jefferson – the hero of Sunday’s win against the Charlotte Hornets, after replacing an ailing Chandler Parsons – was the one bright light in the locker room, as he joked around with the press. When a reporter finally approached him for an interview, Jefferson smiled facetiously.

“See? At least SOMEONE still wants to talk to me!” he said.

Hopefully the ice will melt long enough to see a clear path of Rondo’s future in Big D when the Mavs take on the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday at Philips Arena.

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