To say that Rajon Rondo is having a bounce-back year is to underscore just how out of hand things got in Dallas toward the end of last season. That whole debacle has been rehashed ad nauseam here and elsewhere, so suffice it to say that both parties have not only moved on, but have gained a relatively healthy perspective on the matter.
On Monday, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle even went so far as to say Rondo is playing well enough to earn a max contract when he becomes a free agent again next summer. While that might be a bit of an overstatement, Rondo’s play so far this season has been nothing short of remarkable as he’s currently leading the league in assists and has posted four triple-doubles already during the opening month. What’s more, he actually credits his rocky tenure in Dallas for inspiring him to raise his level of play this season. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com:
“I think it made me hungrier,” Rondo told ESPN.com after scoring 21 points and dishing out five assists during Monday’s 112-98 win over the Mavericks, the first time he faced Dallas since his departure. “I never started doubting myself. It made me work a little bit harder. I think I worked the hardest I ever worked in the NBA this summer.
“I’m a competitor. I never doubted myself. All these people have counted me out since I got in the league, so it never made me any difference. I kept myself around positive people, got a great support system and just kept at it.”
But with the Kings still floundering around the bottom of the Western Conference standings, those numbers were threatening to look somewhat empty. And part of that had to do with the absence of DeMarcus Cousins, who’d missed the past three games with a back injury before returning against Dallas Monday night. The Kings are 5-5 in their last 10 but are just 1-7 without Boogie in the lineup this season.
And he made all the difference as he put up a monster 31 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, to help lead the Kings over the Mavericks, 112-98. Along with Rondo’s resurgence, they’ll need a healthy Cousins in tow if they want to find even a modicum of success this season.