Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo has experienced a tumultuous few years in the NBA. At 31 years old, the four-time All-Star has played for four teams in the last three seasons, and has made headlines for controversial reasons during his time with the Bulls, Celtics, Mavericks and the Kings.
Earlier this season, Rondo posted an Instagram post in which he called out the leadership of current teammates Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. With the media fueling the narrative that Rondo was an agitator in the locker room, the Bulls suspended him for conduct detrimental to the team, bringing back memories of prior instances of disciplinary measures. Last season, Rondo was suspended by the league for a homophobic slur directed at an official. The season before, during his short tenure in Dallas, he was benched for a game following a heated dispute with head coach Rick Carlisle.
Even with all this trouble off the court, Rondo has recovered this postseason to lead the Bulls against his former team. In the first-round series against the Celtics, Rondo has been the X-factor.
How has an aging point guard who has bounced from team to team and coasted for the better part of the last three seasons become the most important player in the series against the top-seeded Celtics? Regardless of the reason, Rondo has been the difference in the first four games of the series for the eighth-seeded Bulls.
With him, the Bulls went into Boston and dominated the first two games against the Eastern Conference’s best team in the regular season standings. Under Rondo’s direction, the Bulls’ offense was a machine on the Boston parquet floor, as he flashed fancy dribble moves and nifty passes to open up the floor and find his teammates for quality shots. Rondo ratcheted up his defensive efforts and took charge vocally, suddenly facilitating Chicago’s surprisingly unstoppable play. The Bulls looked primed to make history by knocking off the top-seeded Celtics.
Just when it looked like Rondo had turned back the clock and his vintage play had returned to the national spotlight, reports broke days after Game 2 saying Rondo would miss Game 3 due to a right thumb injury.
During the next two games, Rondo was on the bench in a suit and forearm cast. Without Rondo guiding the offense, Chicago grew stagnant, ultimately allowing Boston to come back and even the series at two games apiece.
Now, the series shifts to Boston, with Rondo’s immediate future in doubt in this series. In a matchup featuring Butler, Wade and Isaiah Thomas, Rondo has emerged as the most pivotal asset, and the drama of his possible return looms over the series as it comes toward its finish.
Whether or not Rondo can return may very well determine which team advances to the second round – his current squad or his former franchise.