Rajon Rondo

2018 Free Agent Stock Watch: New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans opted to zig while the rest of the NBA zagged, effectively doubling down on big men in the throes of the Small Ball Era. Unfortunately, before anybody could see whether the unconventional approach would bear any fruit, it all came crashing down in the form of DeMarcus Cousins‘ torn Achilles.

The Pels rolled the dice when they acquired Cousins at the trade deadline last season and will now finally get the opportunity to find out whether they can lock him up long term.

Since Cousins’ unrestricted free agency impacts the course of the franchise in both the short- and long-term, the fact that he’ll be sidelined, perhaps even into the 2018/19 campaign, is the biggest Pels storyline heading into the offseason.

Ian Clark, SG, 27 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.6MM deal in 2018
The Pels landed an intriguing depth piece with winning experience when they inked the ex-Warriors guard last offseason. But while he’s shown the occasional glimpse of promise on the wings, Clark hasn’t exactly put himself in position for a big payout this summer. On a frontcourt-heavy roster, there isn’t much need for a wing player who shoots 29.1% from beyond the arc, but he could be a cheap rotation piece for the soon-to-be cash-strapped franchise.

DeMarcus Cousins, C, 27 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $63.5MM deal in 2013DeMarcus Cousins vertical
Cousins’ value has changed in a few ways over the course of the past 12 months. While he was once perceived as a fickle star putting up lofty but hollow numbers for a perennial loser, he’s now a major part of an intriguing organization with enormous ambitions. The catastrophic Achilles injury that cut his 2017/18 season short will have but a little impact on his stock heading forward. Given that the relationship between Cousins and the franchise appears to be on good terms, it seems well within reason that the club would offer the max allowable and then find a way to make the numbers work. Sure, the Pelicans could take the opportunity to pull the plug on the experiment before seriously hamstringing their payroll, but it could be years, if not decades, before they have as high a ceiling as they do with Cousins and Anthony Davis on the same roster. Don’t expect the injury to impact much, except, perhaps, the list of other franchises tripping over themselves trying to poach Cousins’ services.

Rajon Rondo, PG, 32 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $3.3MM deal in 2018
It’s not often that a 12-year-veteran on a minimum contract with his fifth team in four seasons would be considered a must-add, but that’s exactly what Rondo is heading into the summer. After three seasons bouncing around the league, Rondo performed admirably alongside Cousins, a former teammate and fellow Kentucky product. The Pelicans need all the affordable help they can get and a motivated Rondo, who dropped two points and 25 assists in one of the most fascinating NBA statlines of all time earlier this season, is a bargain worth chasing. Given that the surly vet hasn’t exactly been a good fit in Dallas, Sacramento or Chicago, there may not be much of a market for the Pels to compete with.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Conley, McRoberts, D. Smith, Rondo

Mike Conley is traveling with the Grizzlies on their road trip and is hoping to return to action soon, according to Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Conley, who has missed 23 games with an aching left Achilles and heel, appears to have made significant progress in his rehab program, Tillery notes after watching his pre-game workouts.

Conley and the Grizzlies haven’t commented on a possible return date. The team issued its last medical update December 18, saying Conley would be out at least two more weeks. Tillery expects further news to be announced Monday or Tuesday. After a strong start to the season, Memphis has collapsed without Conley, going 4-19 to tumble into the Western Conference basement.

There’s more today from the Southwest Division:

  • Josh McRoberts is getting closer to making his debut with the Mavericks, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Acquired from the Heat in an offseason trade, McRoberts has been sidelined with a lower extremity injury. There was hope that he might be able to play tonight against the Thunder, but he has been declared inactive, tweets Earl K. Sneed. With McRoberts returning and Nerlens Noel expected back from thumb surgery in early to mid-January, the Mavericks will again have an abundance of big men that will likely be resolved by a trade before the February 8 deadline.
  • Regardless of whatever else happens this season, the Mavericks are confident they have a building block for the future in Dennis Smith Jr. The rookie point guard has been everything Dallas expected when it made him the No. 9 pick in this year’s draft, although coach Rick Carlisle said he still needs to learn how to be a leader at the NBA level. “We drafted him because we think he can be a great player, one of the best players to ever play in a Mavericks’ uniform, on the one hand,” Carlisle said. “On the other hand, the things that are really essential to winning and are very nuanced aren’t screaming out to the world the way a triple-double is. And he’s understanding that. It’s a huge step.”
  • Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters not to read too much into his decision to leave Rajon Rondo on the bench during the fourth quarter of Friday’s loss to Dallas, relays Christian Boutwell of The Journal Times. Gentry opted for veteran backup Jameer Nelson, but that probably won’t be the start of a trend. “It had nothing to do with Rondo, or the way he was playing or anything like that,” Gentry said. “It was just coach’s instinct.”

Southwest Notes: Rondo, Bickerstaff, Mavs, Grizzlies

Rajon Rondo is making his mark on the Pelicans, using his veteran presence and playmaking abilities to help the team, William Guillory of NOLA.com writes. Rondo missed the start of the season due to a sports hernia but is now drawing praise from his teammates for his teammates.

“I’ve said it many times, once Rondo is on the floor he makes the game easier for a lot of guys. He takes guys’ games to the next level,” DeMarcus Cousins said. “Since Rondo has been back, I think Jrue (Holiday) and E’Twaun (Moore)’s game has gone to the next level. Darius Miller, his game has gone to a whole other level. It’s just making the game easier for everybody.”

The Pelicans are currently in eighth place in the Western Conference with a 13-13 record. Rondo, 31, brings NBA championship experience and one of the most respected basketball minds in the NBA. As Cousins, Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and the rest of the team compete for the playoffs, Rondo is clearly establishing himself as a vital presence for the team.

Check out other news and notes from the Southwest Division:

  • This season hasn’t gone smoothly for the Grizzlies as the team has endured the firing of head coach David Fizdale, a deteriorating relationship with All-Star Marc Gasol, and an 11-game losing streak, putting the team close to the Western Conference cellar. However, interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff thinks the team is trending in the right direction, Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal writes.
  • Speaking of changes with the Grizzlies, the team hired former player Greg Bucker as an assistant coach, per Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal. Bucker has served as an analyst for FOX Sports and played for the Grizzlies during the 2008/09 season.
  • After improved play — including recent wins over the Clippers and Nuggets — the Mavericks are starting to find their identity on both sides of the floor, Eddie Sefko of Dallas Sports Day writes.

Southwest Notes: Holiday, Motley, Gasol

The addition of Rajon Rondo to the Pelicans‘ lineup has helped bring out the best in Jrue Holiday. William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes that the converted shooting guard is playing some of the best basketball of his New Orleans tenure.

Holiday has established himself as a desperately needed perimeter scoring option, especially now that the presence of Rondo allows him to focus on scoring. The extra offensive output comes at an ideal time for the Pelicans, as they’ve been without Anthony Davis for the past three games..

I think Jrue is one of the best. He’s easily one of the top three 1-on-1 players in our game today,” Rondo, who signed with the Pelicans in the offseason, said. Since Rondo has slid into the lineup, Holiday has averaged 20 points and 4.4 assists per game with a .483 field-goal percentage.

His aggression and just taking advantage of being a bigger guardHe’s one of the best two-way players in this league when he’s aggressive. That’s the guy we need for our team to go to the next level,” Pelicans big man DeMarcus Cousins added. “He’s been playing great, he’s taken our team to another level and we’re a tough team to beat when he’s playing that way.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • The Mavericks have added Johnathan Motley to their active lineup for the first time this season after the two-way contract signee averaged 22.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in the G League, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes. “[When you’re in the G League] you can’t just try to be a guy and get everybody else involved,” teammate J.J. Barea, an alum of the NBA’s minor league, said. “You got to kill it. That’s how you get noticed.
  • The NBA has fined Marc Gasol $15K for dropping an F-Bomb on live television, the league announced. It’s been a rocky season for the Grizzlies.
  • The Rockets have looked impressive with Chris Paul back in the lineup, not only on offense but on defense. Sam Amick of USA Today writes that Paul’s defensive presence – in addition to P.J. Tucker‘s and Luc Mbah a Moute‘s – has helped Houston make a name for itself with the fifth-best defensive rating in the league.

Southwest Notes: Rondo, Asik, Martin

The addition of Rajon Rondo to the Pelicans lineup helps ease the burden on superstar big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes.

When the guard was sidelined for 13 games as a result of a core muscle injury, Cousins – the Pelicans’ 6’11”, 270-pound center – ended up handling much of the team’s playmaking responsibilities.

I don’t have to be as much of a playmaker as I’ve had to be in the past,” Cousins said of Rondo’s return to the Pelicans. “Having a floor general like that and missing him from the beginning of the season, it hurt us as a team. But once we get him at 100 percent, I think we’ll be a totally different team.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • For the first time since last February, Pelicans big man Omer Asik was on the Pelicans‘ active list, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes, but that doesn’t mean he’ll start logging big minutes any time soon. “He hasn’t been able to run or condition or anything like that,” head coach Alvin Gentry said prior to the team’s Wednesday night contest. “Even when he’s released to play, it’s going to take a while for him to be able to play anything other than really short spurts.
  • Tennessee native Austin Nichols will suit up in the FedEx Forum as a member of the Memphis Hustle tomorrow night. It will mark the G League affiliate’s only performance in the Grizzlies‘ arena this season. “I was a little burned out on ball, but I’ve fallen back in love with it,” Nichols, once a featured member of the city’s revered college program until his unceremonious exit told Pete Wickham of Grind City Media. “I’ve matured on and off the court, trying to figure out who I wanted to be, and trying to mature as a person. I wanted to stay in the States, and when this option became available, it was great to be back home playing for the city.”
  • Although he hasn’t had much of an opportunity to showcase it, Grizzlies forward Jarell Martin believes that the sky is the limit for his development as a player, Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype writes. The 23-year-old, who didn’t start playing basketball until his junior season in high school, has averaged 4.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game this season.

Southwest Notes: Conley, Mejri, Noel, Rondo

The Grizzlies provided an update on injured point guard Mike Conley after Friday’s game, saying treatment and therapy will be used to lessen the pain in his left heel and Achilles tendon, according to an Associated Press story. The team plans to re-examine Conley in two weeks, and coach David Fizdale is optimistic that he will be ready to play by then.

“It’s unfortunate, but watching him play in pain like that and really trying to push through that stuff was worse to watch,” Fizdale said. “For whatever reason, this thing is just not going away on its own.”

While Conley is sidelined, the starting role will go to Mario Chalmers, who signed with Memphis in July after a year out of the league following a torn Achilles tendon. Chalmers is averaging 8.0 points and 3.5 assists through 14 games. Ben McLemore and Wayne Selden may also see increased playing time.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Moving Dirk Nowitzki to center has worsened the logjam in the middle for the Mavericks, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. The other four centers on the roster, Salah Mejri, Nerlens Noel, Dwight Powell and Jeff Withey have all gone through games where they didn’t get off the bench. The problem will work itself out eventually — Withey’s contract is non-guaranteed, Mejri has a player option for next season and Noel will be an unrestricted free agent next summer — but for now there’s frustration over a lack of playing time. “It’s almost like we went to Costco and got a forklift full of centers,” said coach Rick Carlisle. “They’re all good players, but there are a limited number of minutes and with more teams playing hybrid centers, it makes it even harder.”
  • Mejri is sympathetic toward Noel, who expected a larger role after being acquired from the Sixers in a February trade, relays Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News. Noel was in a similar situation in Philadelphia, where he was competing for time with Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Richaun Holmes“I’m trying to tell [Noel] … hey, just go out there and play as hard as you can when you come to practice,” Mejri said. “Practice as hard as you can and then they will see that you’re trying to compete and they have reason to say, “Ah, we didn’t play Nerlens or we didn’t play Salah.’ It goes to everybody, you know?”
  • A healthy Rajon Rondo will turn the Pelicans into a different team, claims Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype. Rondo returned this week from a sports hernia and made an immediate impact with 8 assists in 14 minutes in his first game in the starting lineup.

Southwest Notes: Leonard, Noel, Black, Rondo

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said injured superstar Kawhi Leonard is “gonna be back sooner rather than later” as he recovers from a right quadriceps injury, Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News writes. Leonard has not played this season due to the injury but the Spurs have performed well — they currently sit in third place in the Western Conference with a 9-5 record.

San Antonio has relied heavily on role players while Leonard recovers. Popovich explained the Spurs’ need to operate as if Leonard does not exist because other teams will not feel sorry for their temporary loss. Thus far, at least, the team has made good on that goal.

“A team just has to play in a sense like he doesn’t exist,” Popovich said. “Nobody cares if you lost a good player, right? Everybody wants to whip you. So it doesn’t do much good to do the poor me thing or to keep wondering when he is going to be back or what are we going to do. We have to play now, and other people have to take up those minutes and we have to figure out who to go to when in a different way, and you just move on.”

Below you can find additional news coming out of the Southwest Division:

Rondo Expected To Make Pelicans Debut

Point guard Rajon Rondo is scheduled to make his Pelicans debut Monday against the Hawks, William Guillory of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Coach Alvin Gentry said Rondo would likely be limited to six minutes of action, Guillory adds.

Rondo missed the first 13 games of the season after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia during the preseason. New Orleans signed Rondo to a one-year, $3.3MM free agent contract to be their starting point guard, with Jrue Holiday sliding over to the shooting guard spot. Holiday has mainly been playing the point in Rondo’s absence.

Rondo’s return is expected to eventually cut into the playing time of E’Twaun Moore and two other longtime veterans, Tony Allen and Jameer Nelson.

Southwest Notes: Rondo, Allen, McLemore, Parker

The Pelicans won’t have to wait much longer for Rajon Rondo‘s season debut, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. Coach Alvin Gentry told reporters tonight that he expects Rondo to be ready in about a week to 10 days. Rondo underwent surgery for a sports hernia on October 10 and was projected to be sidelined four to six weeks. He was expected to take over at point guard after signing with New Orleans in July.

There’s more tonight from the Southwest Division:

  • Tony Allen was held out of tonight’s game with left knee inflammation, but the Pelicans were prepared for occasional absences when they signed the 35-year-old guard, writes William Guillory of The Times-Picayune. Gentry called the condition minor and said it shouldn’t be a long-term concern for Allen. “It’s going to be that way throughout the season,” Gentry said. “He’s got a lot of years and a lot of miles on him. There’s going to be little hurts and pains that may keep him out a game or so, but it’s not anything that I’d spend any time worrying about.” Allen has been a valuable reserve for New Orleans, averaging 4.8 points and 2.2 rebounds in 12 games.
  • Ben McLemore saw his first action for the Grizzlies tonight after signing with the team in July. McLemore had to undergo surgery in August after suffering a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metatarsal on his right foot during a summer pick-up game. He is expected to add more scoring punch to an already deep Memphis team after averaging 9.4 points per game during four seasons in Sacramento. “I’ve been working really hard on rehab and things like that to get back into game shape and being able to play my first game this season, so I’m excited,” McLemore said in an interview tweeted by the team.
  • The Spurs will have Tony Parker back soon, according to a post by Michael C. Wright on ESPN Now. Coach Gregg Popovich said his point guard continues to make progress in rehab, and Parker has expressed hope that he will be cleared to play by the end of November. He was originally expected to be out of action until January after rupturing a left quadriceps tendon during the Western Conference semifinals.

Southwest Notes: Rondo, Curry, Pelicans

Offseason addition Rajon Rondo has stepped as one of the vocal leaders in the Pelicans locker room despite the fact that he hasn’t suited up for a single game this season, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes.

The 31-year-old playmaker will slot into a frontcourt-heavy Pelicans lineup that could benefit from reinforcements on the perimeter. That doesn’t mean the veteran is going to rush back from the core muscle injury that has sidelined him since undergoing surgery in mid-October.

I wake up and I feel pretty good everyday. We take for granted that we can get out of bed on the regular, for the couple weeks I was down, I couldn’t. I’m just happy I can get out of bed without having assistance or not having to roll over to my side and get up,” the Pelicans guard said.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry mentioned November 17 as a possible return date but Rondo will be particularly cautious about making his debut. “I want to play the rest of the [season]. I don’t want to come back and play two games, then I’m sitting out for another two weeks,” he said.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Don’t expect the Mavs to instantly turn their season around once Seth Curry makes his 2017/18 debut but the sharp-shooting guard can help create space with his .432 career three-point shooting abilities, Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News writes in a question-and-answer feature with readers.
  • Shaky perimeter play has limited the Pelicans this season, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes, and that was on display yet again this week. The team has struggled in 2017/18 in part because they rely too heavily on their star-studded frontcourt for offense.
  • Count Mavs owner Mark Cuban among those excited about Dennis Smith Jr. Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News writes that Cuban thinks the rookie guard needs to work on his shot but has the strength and attitude to thrive in the NBA.