The Rajon Rondo debut for the Dallas Mavericks went smoothly enough although it was Monta Ellis who stole the show with a tremendous performance to lead them in a 99-93 win over the San Antonio Spurs, losing four straight games and letting most of their key players get the night off.
The main deterrent according to analysis about acquiring Rondo was how his addition might affect Monta Ellis, a guard who loves to have the ball in his hands and makes his living through pick and rolls or drives to the basket. Rondo isn’t a spot up shooter or any kind of shooter at all, so the relationship between the two on the floor was one of the more intriguing things to watch out for when Rondo played his first ever NBA game not wearing a Boston Celtics jersey.
Ellis did just fine, finishing with 38 points, including 15-of-23 from the field and 5-of-6 from beyond the arc. He had four steals and now that Rondo is next to him, Ellis feels even less obliged to share the ball. There’s a point guard to worry about spreading it to the others. Ellis can focus on simply taking it to the hole and scoring. With the Spurs not going away in the final two minutes, Ellis constantly found ways to drive from the right side and make his way to the basket, scoring six points to clinch the game after it was tied up at 91-91.
Rondo debut was quite regular for the point guard: six points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists. Things looked bad for the Mavericks when they turned to their significantly weakened bench, while the Spurs played with an entire team of bench players. Rondo didn’t make any acrobatic passes and mostly kept to the outside, further away from the basket, but still made a few nifty, impressive assists although his shooting was obviously a problem, hitting just 3-of-11 from the field.
The Mavericks can’t tell if they have something special just yet. Why? The Spurs lost their fourth straight game, but after two triple overtimes in three nights, it was time to shut down some players. Besides Kawhi Leonard who is injured, the following did not play: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Tiago Splitter and Danny Green. In short, the only key player from the finals last season to play was Boris Diaw, having a weak night with 8 points on 4-of-16 from the field. He wasn’t born to be a leading man.
With that kind of opponent on the other side, maybe it’s actually a disappointing night for the Mavericks? Not at all. The Spurs are a tough outing regardless of who is playing, and have been known to give teams problems even when they’re without their regulars. And while Rondo is something of a huge addition to a Mavericks team that has been rebuilding back it’s championship swagger over the last three seasons, it’s going to take some time getting used to him being around.
Overall, the test drive ended successfully, with Rondo bringing exactly what was expected of him. If it brings out this kind of offense from Monta Ellis every night, there are even more pluses to this trade than initially thought. Chandler Parsons helped out with 16 points, Dirk Nowitzki had 13. However, with the Mavs now possessing one of the more intriguing backcourts in the NBA, it might be time to take them a bit more seriously when it comes to their place in the championship contenders discussion.