SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings have plenty of needs going into the offseason and that list may have gotten a little bit longer. CSN California has confirmed an earlier report through a league source that the Kings have cooled slightly on the idea of bringing back point guard Rajon Rondo for a second tour of duty.
Rondo, 30, joined the team as a free agent last summer, signing a 1-year, $9.5 million contract. While he posted big assist numbers, breaking multiple Kings-era records and leading the NBA at 11.7 dimes per game, his style of play did not lead to a large increase in wins.
The Kings have not completely turned their backs on a possible return, but they are also not going to get into a bidding war for Rondo’s services in a summer when the NBA salary jumps to an estimated $92 million.
Rondo assumed a leadership role in Sacramento when he joined the Kings last summer. He and DeMarcus Cousins formed and instant bond, which continued throughout the season. He was a steadying influence on Cousins, even discussing with the media how he felt an obligation to mentoring the young center like Kevin Garnett had done for him in Boston.
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He finished the season averaging 11.9 points, 11.7 assists, six rebounds and two steals in 35.2 minutes per game. He orchestrated the Kings offense, leading them to the league’s third scoring average at 106.6 points per game. Sacramento also led the league in pace, averaging 100 possessions per 48 minutes on the season.
But Rondo struggled mightily on the defensive end throughout the year. Be it scheme, effort or athleticism, he was routinely abused by opposing point guards. Sacramento finished the season 30th in the NBA in points allowed at 109.1 points per game. While it wasn’t all on Rondo, he was the culprit on plenty of defensive breakdowns.
Adding to the defensive woes, Rondo also found himself in the middle of controversy for using poor judgment early in the year.
During a loss to the Boston Celtics in Mexico City on Dec. 3, Rondo was tossed from a game by NBA official Bill Kennedy. He was later suspended by the NBA for the incident when it was revealed that, according to the league, he “directed a derogatory and offensive term towards a game official and not leaving the court in a timely manner.”
The incident in question became a national news story, and once again the Kings were under scrutiny.
Controversy is nothing new for the talented, yet complex point guard. He ran into problems with Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle during the 2014-15 playoffs and was sent home early. He also had run-ins with coach Doc Rivers in Boston during his eight-plus seasons in a Celtics uniform.
The Kings weighed the pros and cons of adding Rondo’s huge personality last summer and chose to take the risk on a short-term deal. With nearly a year of close contact with him, Sacramento now has a better understanding of what he brings to the table.
Sacramento will likely allow the market to bear out Rondo’s value and length of contract before deciding whether or not to jump in the fray. With a weak free agent point guard class and very few options in the draft, don’t completely close the door on a return of the talented point guard.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe was first to mention the news.