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New Orleans Pelicans point guard Rajon Rondo faces off against his most recent former team, the Chicago Bulls, to open his 2017 preseason and the 11-year veteran tells the Chicago Tribune he has no regrets about his time in the Windy City.
Rondo had an up-and-down season with the Bulls in 2016-17 after signing a one-year deal in the offseason.
He began the year as the starter at point, was benched in the middle of the season and also got into an argument with an assistant coach, for which he was fined for.
Rondo then regained his starting job toward the end of the season and played his best basketball of the year in the Bulls’ first two road wins against the Boston Celtics in the playoffs – averaging 11.5 points, 10.0 assists, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 steals on 42.3 percent shooting from the field.
A hand injury, however, forced Rondo to miss the rest of the Celtics series and the Bulls lost four games in a row to end their season.
The Bulls waived Rondo on June 30, as the 31-year-old only had $3 million of his contract for the 2017-18 season guaranteed out of his $13.4 million team option.
Rondo signed a one-year, $3.3 million deal with the Pelicans a few weeks later. New Orleans plans to play Rondo at point and move Jrue Holiday to shooting guard.
Those two paired with stars Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins give the Pelicans a lethal Big 4 that looks to compete in a rugged Western Conference.
Rondo tells the Chicago Tribune he knew his stint with the Bulls was done well before the organization changed its course and traded star forward Jimmy Butler on draft night.
“I thought they’d waive me from the jump,” Rondo said. “That’s just my feeling and my intuition. Especially the way the season ended, I don’t think you can say, ‘OK, now we’re going to get rid of Rondo.’ Management figures are smart. They know what to say at particular times.
“But you traded away one of the best players in the game on draft night. So you kind of know where that situation is going. I guess it’s what happens when you decide you’re not trying to win.”
The young players in Chicago raved about Rondo’s leadership skills and his ability to mentor them during adverse situations. Rondo said he appreciates the love his young guys showed him and wanted them to know he had their backs.
“I had a dinner at the start of last season for the young guys because I was impressed with how hard they worked,” Rondo said. “I was in there every day and I saw Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis put in work every day. I felt somebody should stick up for them.
“It’s great to have guys come out now and say what a great teammate I am. That’s one of the biggest compliments I can have. That’s what I pride myself on. I may not get along with every coach, but the guys know I’m going to fight for them.”
Having a pass-first point guard like Rondo, whose sole objective is going to be to make sure Davis and Cousins are engaged at all times and getting touches close to the rim, is going to do wonders for the Pelicans’ dynamic frontcourt duo.
Cousins and Rondo were teammates on the Sacramento Kings during the 2015-16 season and the two formed a strong bond with one another.
Cousins reportedly played a big role in getting Rondo to the Big Easy.