SACRAMENTO -- Rajon Rondo is different. He’s not your everyday NBA player. His passion for the game is undeniable, as is his intelligence both on and off the court. But he plays the game on his own terms.
The Sacramento Kings have fallen in love with the 29-year-old point guard. A source confirmed to CSNCalifornia.com that the team would love nothing more than to lock up the four-time All-Star with an extension. But that will have to wait.
Rondo’s team isn’t ready to commit to a long term deal in Sacramento just yet, although it’s clear that he enjoys playing alongside star center DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins may be the best big man in the game. Rondo may be the best passer in the game. If the two can come together on the court, the Kings may be onto something.
According to Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports, Rondo and Cousins paid a visit to coach George Karl while the team was in Milwaukee. The trio had a heart to heart to work out a few lingering issues and to forge a better working relationship going forward.
This is a tremendous step forward for the Sacramento Kings. It also magnifies the developing relationship between two of the most unpredictable personalities the NBA has to offer.
On the court, the pairing of Rondo and Cousins is a work in progress but showing signs of improvement. Folks around the league were leery of the potential of the duo, but when Cousins is healthy, the Kings are 6-5 on the season.
Off the court, the general consensus around the NBA was that these two talents would never mix well. From coast to coast, the instant reaction to the signing of Rondo had general manager Vlade Divac wheeling in a powder keg to a burning building.
It’s clear that the Kings are a combustible group. An early season blow-up between players and coach led to team meeting. The group has responded well in the wake of the discussion. The players have grown close, including Cousins and Rondo.
[REWIND: Kings' dysfunction nears breaking point]
Basketball experts were wrong. Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins can get along. According to Rondo, he has taken Cousins under his wing in the same way that Kevin Garnett did for him. Call it a graduate level mentoring program between a professor and one of the game’s most complex students.
Why has it worked so well? That’s not the easiest of answers, but a stab in the dark goes something like this...
Rondo is searching for redemption and he sees Cousins as his salvation. He distances himself from the media spotlight because he has been burned. His mistakes have become fodder for the masses.
If you think he doesn’t care, you are wrong. All you need to do is watch the painful expression on Rondo’s face as Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle had his players foul the talented point guard time and time again.
There is bad blood between Rondo and his former coach after he was sent packing in the middle of a playoff run last season. By exposing Rondo’s weakness, Carlisle successfully did what very few coaches have accomplished this season -- he forced Karl to take Rondo out of the game.
While the Mavs focused on Rondo, Cousins did what any good teammate would do. He destroyed the Mavs and won the game. And that really sums up why Rondo loves to play with Cousins.
While the Kings have shuffled through players throughout Cousins' five-plus seasons with the team, few have garnered his respect. The one player that sticks out as a Cousins favorite is Reggie Evans.
The bond between Evans and Cousins serves as a road map to why Rondo has so quickly found his way into Cousins inner circle. It’s no secret that Cousins keeps tight company. Like Cousins, Evans lived through massive amounts of scrutiny in the media. Known as a dirty player for years, the perception of who he is as a person became skewed.
While Evans could be an enforcer on the floor, he is also a vibrant, family man with a huge smile off the court. Despite Evans’ diminishing skills as a player in Sacramento, he became a voice of reason in Cousins’ ear and a trusted confidant.
Cousins finds solace in shared experience. In this way, he and Rondo -- like he and Evans -- are kindred spirits. They know what it feels like to have a portrait of who and what you are painted in the media. Whether that description is accurate or not, players like this live their lives with the knowledge that people all over the globe have already judged them as people.
“The way we compete and the type of competitors we are, it’s hard for us not to get along,” Cousins told Spears. “We damn near think alike all the time. I’m soaking in all I can. He’s a champion. I basically look up to him.”
Rondo may leave Sacramento next summer and never look back. He is dramatically improving his stock in Karl’s system and he has every right to chase money elsewhere.
If it’s up to Cousins, Rondo will stay. You can find the two chirping at each other in the locker room or on the practice floor. It’s not always positive as they throw barbs back and forth, but they are clearly cut from the same cloth.
At this point in their careers, they need each other. Rondo loves playing the role of mentor. It gives him a chance to pull from his own experience and pass down important knowledge that he has received from others.
Cousins’ hatred of losing has driven him to dark places. Rondo can help him find a path through the chaos of the NBA, because he’s seen it all. He might also be good enough to help Cousins reach his enormous potential as a player, which could lead to team success on the floor.
Rondo has the ear of Cousins and that’s worth a whole lot more than $9.5 million a year. Cousins has the ear of Divac, which may lead to a long-term commitment to one of the most intriguing tandems in basketball both on and off the court.