After essentially being left for dead as a mostly unwanted player, a rejuvenated Rajon Rondo has sprung back to life in his first season with the Sacramento Kings.
The enigmatic point guard has looked more like the dynamic star he was during his time in Boston, with his numbers up across the board following a dysfunctional half-year spent in Dallas.
In his first game against the Mavericks since they mutually separated in the offseason, Rondo dropped 21 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the field and 7-of-14 from the free throw line in a 112-98 win over the Mavericks.
Rondo often clashed with Dallas coach Rick Carlisle regarding plays and left the team just two games into their first round playoff series with the Houston Rockets due to what was ostensibly referred to as a back injury.
His disappointing stretch with the Mavericks hurt his appeal as a free agent, with Rondo taking a short one-year, $9.5 million deal with the Kings to prove himself all over again.
“I think it made me hungrier,” Rondo told ESPN.com. “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.”
Now in his ninth season, the 29-year-old is averaging 12.9 points, a league-leading 10.7 assists and 7.1 rebounds for Sacramento. His four triple-doubles are the most in the NBA and already top his three from the entirety of last season.
His scoring has been as high as it has ever been since the 2012-13 season, with his 35.4 per cent shooting on 2.5 attempts from long range both career highs.
Sacramento currently sit at 7-12, but are 6-5 with star centre DeMarcus Cousins on the floor and Rondo has been at the controls of the off-ence.
Folks, I’m not implying the Mavs miss Rajon Rondo. That’s ridiculous. But it’s alarming that offense is worse this season than with him.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) December 1, 2015
“The way I play, you could say he’s given me the keys,” Rondo said of Kings coach George Karl. “This is still his team. We’re on the same page most nights.
“We talk every game. We talk every shootaround. Tomorrow, we’ll talk. What can I do to get better? What’s he expect out of me? He wants my defence to get better. He wants my turnovers down. Whatever the case may be, there’s always communication.”
A majority of the season rem-ains, but Rondo has already built his stock back up after having it torn down last season and could be sought after this coming summer.
“He’s a max (contract) player next year,” Carlisle said. “Someone’s goi-ng to have to back up the truck to get him.”
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