With the issues that the Chicago Bulls are currently having, look no further than general manager Gar Forman who is at the epicenter.
The Chicago Bulls and point guard Rajon Rondo have come to an agreement on a two-year deal that is worth $28 million, but I am not sure that the Bulls are ready for the headache that they are about to receive. Rondo is a 10-year NBA veteran that has been known to clash with head coaches and his time with the Bulls should not be any different.
During Rondo’s time with the Boston Celtics, he did help the franchise win an NBA Championship in 2008, but he was known to clash with head coach Doc Rivers which made him the subject of trade talks numerous times. The Celtics would trade Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks in 2014 and during his brief time there, he clashed with head coach Rick Carlisle. Last summer Rondo would sign a one-year deal with the Sacramento Kings. And in one season with the Kings, Rondo was able to lead the NBA in assists at 11.7 per game. But the Kings were hands down the most dysfunctional team in the NBA this past season with Rondo being a big part of it. Now Rondo will join a Bulls team that spent the entire 2015-2016 NBA season searching for their identity, and they won’t get any closer to finding it by signing the four-time All-Star to be their floor general.
This past NBA season saw the Bulls be an up and down team as they were transitioning from being a tough minded defensive unit under former head coach Tom Thibodeau, to being more of an offensive team under current head coach Fred Hoiberg. The Bulls missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008 while they traded longtime point guard Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks last month, and saw center Joakim Noah join him there via free agency. Now the Bulls have officially become small forward Jimmy Butler’s team, but only time will tell if he and Rondo will be able to get on the same page.
Rondo can bring out the worst in people as Rivers was ready to fight him during his Celtics tenure, while Carlisle who is a player’s coach was unable to get through to him. With the Kings, Rondo played under George Karl who is a Hall of Fame head coach, and just like Rivers and Carlisle, was left perplexed. Rondo tends to play to his own beat, and if these NBA veterans of the sidelines had issues with him, what is Hoiberg going to do with him on a Bulls team that is searching for an identity while also lacking the veteran leadership to keep the stubborn point guard in line?
Rondo’s best run in the NBA came during his nine-year stint with the Celtics; primarily because Boston had a strong veteran presence in their locker room with the likes of small forward Paul Pierce and power forward Kevin Garnett. The Bulls had to make a decision between parting with the oft-injured Rose or Butler as the two could no longer co-exist on the same squad. But after trading Rose, the Bulls had several options to address their point guard situation instead of signing Rondo. The Bulls didn’t draft a point guard during the NBA Draft last month, while there were other point guards available on the free agent market that could have been better fits in Chicago. Rondo’s past issues with head coaches could partially explain why he only received a two-year deal for $14 million per, as compared to point guard Mike Conley who received $130 million over five years from the Memphis Grizzlies.
Now we get to sit back and watch Hoiberg attempt to school Rondo on how he wants his offense run which will be the equivalent of mixing oil and water. And the more that the folks in Chicago will get to have a glimpse of Rondo, it might make them long for Rose that much more.
It is no secret that throughout his NBA career, point guard Rajon Rondo has been a handful for opponents and on his head coaches as well. During his time with the Boston Celtics, Rondo would clash with former head coach Doc Rivers over his attitude and his inability to stay within the realm of the team offense. After eight-plus seasons with the Celtics, Rondo was traded to the Dallas Mavericks this past December. Rondo was expected to be the missing link that would once again turn the Mavericks into contenders for the NBA Championship, but he instead has become a cancer.
In 25 games with the Mavericks this season, Rondo is only averaging 9.0 points and 6.2 assists per contest. Rondo is only averaging 28 minutes of game action and he is someone that Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has had no problem benching in late game situations. Like Rondo, Carlisle once played for the Celtics and he won an NBA Championship there as a player in 1986, but he has established a reputation as being a player’s coach while also paying attention to detail. Carlisle needs a point guard that he can trust to run his system, but so far Rondo hasn’t been up to the challenge as he tends to do his own thing. The tension between Rondo and Carlisle reached a feverish boiling point this past Tuesday when the two had to be separated on the Mavericks bench. Both men attempted to downplay the incident, but Rondo was suspended for the Mavericks Wednesday night affair with the Atlanta Hawks for conduct detrimental to the team and it was a move that had to be made as Carlisle needed to maintain his position of authority over his squad.
Regardless of whether or not that Rondo agrees with the basketball philosophies of Carlisle or not, he cannot afford to get into a public confrontation with his head coach. Rondo is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and he is costing himself some money as no NBA team that is looking to contend for a title will take a chance on a player that is not going to do what a head coach wants him to do.
In spite of winning an NBA Championship in Boston, Rondo had run-ins with Rivers which led him to nearly being traded on several occasions. And now Rivers who is currently the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers can sit back and say,”I told you so” after seeing Rondo’s recent issues with Carlisle. When a player like Rondo tends to clash with his head coach, you can attribute it to the fact that there needs to be a veteran presence around him. But the Mavericks have veteran leadership on their team in the form of power forward Dirk Nowitzki and center Tyson Chandler and in spite of that Rondo is still acting up. And if the issues with Rondo don’t get addressed soon it will greatly hinder the Mavericks chances to win the NBA Championship this season.
The situation with Rondo has reached the point where there are only two things than can be done. Carlisle and Rondo more than likely will need to have a face-to-face meeting in order to clear the air. And if that is the case then Rondo needs to understand and respect what Carlisle needs from him. Eventually for this marriage to work Rondo will have to conform to Carlisle’s system, but this is a classic example of buyer beware. The Mavericks were in need of an elite point guard, but they should have done more homework before making the move to acquire Rondo if he is unwilling to conform to their system. Carlisle was the Mavericks head coach when they won the NBA Championship in 2011 and he also has the backing of team owner Mark Cuban which means that Rondo is fighting an uphill battle if he wants to have things done his way in Dallas.
If the Mavericks are going to make the NBA Playoffs and navigate their way through the Western Conference, they need everyone to be on the same page. Luckily for the Mavericks they have another veteran point guard in Devin Harris. Harris was expected to be Rondo’s understudy, but he understands and plays within the realm of Carlisle’s system. Harris doesn’t have the ability of Rondo, but he is someone whom Carlisle trusts. This is a dicey situation which will test the mettle of both Carlisle and Cuban, but it could ultimately be remedied if Rondo simply does what his asked of him.
X-Toronto Raptors 49-33 (4)
Last season the Toronto Raptors came out of nowhere to win the Atlantic Division. The Raptors did it with a team that had a workman like approach and also had a star in the making. Last season Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan averaged a career-high in points with 22.7 per game and at 25-years of age he is in the process of becoming the new face of the franchise in Toronto. Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri received good news this summer when point guard Kyle Lowry turned down an opportunity to join the Miami Heat and return to Canada. Like DeRozan, Lowry averaged a career-high in points last season (17.9) along with 7.4 assists per game. Heading into this season the starting backcourt of Lowry and DeRozan gives Raptors head coach Dwane Casey one of the best combos at the guard position in the Eastern Conference.
Aside from Lowry and DeRozan, the Raptors will rely on a slew of role players that include center Jonas Valenciunas, power forwards Amir Johnson, and Patrick Patterson along with guard Greivis Vasquez who all know how to go out there and do all of the dirty things for Toronto to be successful.
The schedule at the beginning of the season is not a difficult one for the Raptors and as their expectations have changed, Toronto will need to be up for the challenge in 2014.
Y-Brooklyn Nets 46-36 (5)
The Brooklyn Nets have called Downtown Brooklyn home for two seasons and in the process they have made a pair of trips to the postseason. But will the Nets be able to take that next step for the 2014-2015 NBA season? The Nets will begin this season with their fourth head coach since the start of the 2012-2013 NBA season. Lionel Hollins is the new head coach of the Nets. Hollins comes to the Nets after he led the Memphis Grizzlies to the 2013 Western Conference Finals and the main reason why he is in Brooklyn is the fact that he knows how to deal with different personalities.
The Nets are a veteran team that needs shooting guard Joe Johnson, center Brook Lopez, and point guard Deron Williams to all be healthy and on the same page. Last season Lopez only appeared in 17 games as a foot injury kept him on the sidelines. In the past three seasons Lopez has combined to miss 150 games. More than ever the Nets will need a healthy Lopez in the post as he has averaged 18.0 points per game in his NBA career.
It is put up or shut up time for Williams in Brooklyn. Last season Williams had his worst season since his rookie campaign during the 2005-2006 NBA season. Last season Williams only averaged 14.3 points and 6.1 assists per game as he drew the ire of many members of the New York media as they feel that he is not living up to the five-year, $98 million deal that he inked two years ago. Williams has cited bad ankles, but he has developed a reputation of being a coach killer and a prima donna. Williams must push all of that to the side and find a way to focus on being the leader of the Nets. For Johnson he is coming off of one best shooting years as a pro as he was 40 percent from beyond the three-point arc and he should flourish in Hollins’ offensive system.
Hollins and the Nets have a tremendous supporting cast of veterans and youngsters alike to support Lopez, Williams, and Johnson. Nets power forward Kevin Garnett is entering his 20th NBA season and his second in Brooklyn. Garnett is 38-years old and he is coming off of his worst season as a professional as he only averaged 6.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. But Garnett is the consummate pro and he wants to go out on better terms than that. Last season as rookie, Nets center Mason Plumlee averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds and he has the potential for a breakout season if Brooklyn cannot rely on a healthy Lopez. At 6’10”, Plumlee has a knack for running the floor and the basketball always seems to find him. This season the Nets will be the seventh NBA team for point guard Jarrett Jack. For his nine-year NBA career Jack has averaged 10.9 points and 4.3 assists per contest and he is a player that will push Williams for minutes at the point guard position.
Of the Nets first seven games in the upcoming season, only one contest will be against a playoff team from last season which is an opportunity for Hollins and his crew to jump out of the chute fast as they look to win the Atlantic Division.
New York Knicks 40-42
The New York Knicks are set to begin a new era of basketball that has their faithful fans in the Big Apple buzzing. After winning 11 NBA Championships as a head coach, Phil Jackson has returned to the franchise that he helped win a pair of NBA Titles as a player in the 1970’s. But this time around Jackson will not be coaching as he has instead opted to be the Knicks team president. Jackson came aboard late in the 2013-2014 NBA season and he began the process of shaping the franchise in his own image.
Jackson’s first order of business was to find a protege that he could groom as a head coach. Derek Fisher just capped off a 20-year playing career in the NBA. Fisher spent 9 of those 20 seasons playing for Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers where the two combined to win five NBA Championships. Now Fisher will get his shot to show the world that he can lead an NBA team.
Jackson had his hands full over the summer as he had to convince small forward Carmelo Anthony to remain with the Knicks. Anthony opted out of his deal and there was speculation that he would chase a championship in another NBA city. But the allure of being under the guidance of Jackson along with being in the Big Apple was enough to convince Anthony to remain with the Knicks. But this is not the most talented team in the world that will be around Mr. Anthony.
Knicks power forward Amar’e Stoudemire has a pair of bum knees and his stats have declined in each of his four seasons with the Knicks. Stoudemire is the final year of his contract as he is set to earn nearly $21.7 million and you can expect Jackson to attempt to trade him. The Knicks have a duo at the shooting guard position in Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith that have fallen out of favor with the Knicks front office. Shumpert could simply use a fresh start with a new team while Smith has a low basketball IQ which will make it tough for him to navigate the triangle offense. Veteran point guard Jose Calderon is 33-years of age and he has been a journeyman as he appears to be the Knicks starting point guard of the present, but how effective will he be?
For his 11-year NBA career, Anthony has been one of the best scorers in the league. In the triangle offense Anthony will be asked be more of a team player, but the Knicks simply don’t have that consistent sidekick that he can depend on. Six of the Knicks first eight games this season will be against playoff teams from a year ago and the New York media will have a field day if the Knickerbockers get off to a slow start.
Boston Celtics 32-50
The Boston Celtics are rebuilding and the process could take a little bit longer than they initially expected. The Celtics only won 25 games last season. The ping-pong balls didn’t bounce the way that the Celtics expected last spring as they had to settle for the sixth overall pick which they used on guard Marcus Smart. By trade Smart is a point guard, but he has a scorer’s mentality and it will be interesting to see how he will be used in Celtics head coach Brad Stevens’ system. The Celtics already have point guard Rajon Rondo and you never know how the wind will blow with him. Rondo has seen the best of times and the worst of times with the Celtics as he was the starting point guard when Boston won the NBA Championship in 2008. Rondo can be high maintenance and it would be in the best interest of Celtics general manager Danny Ainge to trade Rondo. But it will be tough to ship Rondo out of town now since he is currently recovering from a broken hand.
Whomever the Celtics starting point guard is for the upcoming season he will team with shooting guard Avery Bradley in the backcourt. But Smart and Rondo must find a way to get the Celtics froncourt involved that includes forwards Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Jared Sullinger, along with center Tyler Zeller. Sullinger has the potential to become an All-Star, but it all comes down to the big man remaining healthy.
Stevens is set to begin his second season as the Celtics head coach and a fast start this fall could go a long way for him and his young team.
Philadelphia 76ers 22-60
Unfortunately for the basketball fans on Broad Street, the term “starting over” and the Philadelphia 76ers seem to go together. The Sixers only managed to win 19 games last season and they have numerous questions marks on their roster heading into this season. The last two years have seen the 76ers use early picks in the NBA Draft on players that have been unable to contribute. Last year the Sixers traded point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for the draft rights to center Nerlens Noel. While at the University of Kentucky, Noel suffered an ACL injury which kept him out of action for the entire 2013-2014 NBA season. Noel is expected to be on the floor for the Sixers this season, but you just don’t know what he is going to be able to give the team. Then there is center Joel Embiid. Embiid was selected by the 76ers third overall in last spring’s NBA Draft, but a broken bone in his foot currently has him sidelined. The Sixers do have the NBA’s reigning Rookie of the Year in point guard Michael Carter-Williams who averaged 16.7 points per game to go along with 6.3 assists, but one man cannot do it by himself in the NBA.
For the fans in Philadelphia, they can take solace that their Eagles are in playoff contention in the NFC East which can help to cushion the blow another potentially bad season from the 76ers.
Y-Clinched Playoff Berth