Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said Sunday that Rajon Rondo "will be a max player next year." He also went into detail for the first time about what went wrong between the point guard and the team last season. In his view, the issue was the fit.
"Listen, we all did everything we could to make it work. It was challenging," Carlisle told ESPN.com as the Mavs prepare for a reunion with Rondo in Monday's road game against the Sacramento Kings. "Going back in time, it's a deal we should have shied away from, for the sake of us and for the sake of him. It's a deal we shouldn't have made.
"I don't have any regrets about the way we did anything," Carlisle said. "It's just going back in time, it's a deal that had red flags. We should have stayed away from it.
"With everything that happened with that whole situation, the bottom line is we fit him worse than he fit us. We were a worse fit for him than he was for us. We had a team of slashers last year. He needs shooters.
"Now he's got a center that's a shooter, he's got wing players that can all shoot the ball, and George has given him the keys to the ignition. He'll be great in that situation. We didn't have enough shooters around him."
Carlisle added that he "learned a lot going through the year with him and trying to be creative" and reiterated that it's no surprise Rondo is having a great season, adding that "George Karl has done a brilliant job" with him. With the Sacramento Kings, Rondo is averaging 12.4 points, 11.0 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game, though his issues with shooting from the perimeter and the free-throw line remain.
Frankly, Rondo could still use more shooters around him in Sacramento. The situation, though, is much better than it was in Dallas, where he had to share the backcourt with Monta Ellis. Before Rondo was traded to the Mavericks, Ellis was essentially the point guard, running pick-and-pops with Dirk Nowitzki and pick-and-rolls with Brandan Wright. Rondo needs the ball to be effective on offense, and neither he nor Ellis could shoot well enough from long range to preserve proper spacing.
There was a lot of discussion about Rondo and Carlisle's relationship, particularly after a suspension in February, and things obviously ended extremely poorly. They did, however, try to make it work -- Carlisle told ESPN months ago that "talking to him has been one of the best parts of him being here." Basketball-wise, Rondo and the Mavs were just never a good match.
Ironically, Rondo would likely work a lot better with Dallas as presently constructed, assuming that Chandler Parsons' 3-point shot comes back to him at some point. Offseason acquisition Wesley Matthews makes much more sense with Rondo than Ellis ever did. As Carlisle said, though, everyone has now turned the page.