Rajon Rondo is accepting the challenge defensively in Dallas.  (USATSI)
Rajon Rondo is accepting the challenge defensively in Dallas. (USATSI)

Rajon Rondo has taken some criticism for his effort level on defense while with the Boston Celtics. In his two weeks with the Dallas Mavericks, he's already appeared to increase his intensity on that end of the floor. Back in Boston to face the Celtics, he was asked about Dallas' defensive numbers improving since the trade.

"I haven't played defense in a couple of years," Rondo said, via Masslive.com's Jay King. "I've been able to hide it a lot with Avery Bradley on the ball. He's helped me out, the young guy. But here they expect me to play defense. And in the West, if you don't play defense you'll get embarrassed every night at the point guard position. I took it as a challenge [for] myself. It's not just me. It's my teammates. Our communication is getting a lot better and our coverages are getting better. So it's the whole team concept, it's not just me. Obviously people are going to look at the stats and say, 'Since Rondo's came there, they're down seven or eight points or whatever defensively.' But we still have a lot of room to improve and I believe we'll still get better defensively."

Let's look at those stats then. The Mavericks have a 100.6 defensive rating since Rondo showed up, which is down from 105.1 pre-trade, per NBA.com. He's certainly helped, as evidenced by his work against John Wall and Russell Westbrook in Dallas' two most recent wins. He might be right that the Mavs can still improve defensively, but the bigger issue is getting better offensively. Rondo's as brilliant as ever as a passer, but his subpar shooting has predicably harmed Dallas' spacing. 

As for how he defended in Boston, it's true that the Celtics often used Bradley on the opponent's best backcourt player, regardless of whether it was a point guard or a shooting guard. Rondo didn't have the same pressure to perform on that end that he did earlier in his career. At the same time, you can't imagine Boston head coach Brad Stevens will love that quote. 

Rondo also spoke glowingly about the city and the fans, and he revealed that he Celtics president Danny Ainge woke him up with a phone call to tell him about the trade, via ESPN's Chris Forsberg:

Dallas plays Boston at TD Garden at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday.