Storyline: Rajon Rondo Free Agency

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For the first time, Rajon Rondo answered affirmatively — and without hesitation — when asked Tuesday if he hopes the Bulls pick up a team option for him to return next season. “Yeah, I like where I’m at. I think we have a really good team,” Rondo said. “We made a big trade halfway through the season. All the things this year with 45 different lineups, we still made it to the playoffs. Right now, just try to stay consistent as possible and develop some chemistry.”

Rondo said he became more of a locker room presence and mentor in Sacramento, having to tutor Cousins following his clashes with Karl. And he said his past brushes with coaches and teammates helped him mature and prepare him for that situation. “For me to be in that situation in my 10th year, what I’ve learned and grown from in the past, I was able to handle [the chaos],” Rondo said. “I was able to handle it a lot better than maybe Year 4 or 5. A lot of people criticize and get on DeMarcus a lot, but the man is a very young man and he hasn’t had too many great vets around him to teach him how to become a better professional.

Rondo said he would “love to continue to play with” Cousins, but for that to happen, he and the Kings need to “come together and figure out if we can work, but if not, I’m always in, I’m open. I’m open this summer and I look forward to having a great career.” As for his free-agent options this summer, Rondo said, “I want to see myself in a situation where guys want to grow, guys want to get better. I don’t want to be the hardest-working guy in the gym.”

Ian Begley: Here’s Rajon Rondo’s reaction to Derek Fisher saying he wasn’t very successful against the triangle offense: “He might have blacked out a couple of times (when) we beat their a– in ’08. They got us back in ’10. He just might’ve had a moment where he was a little frustrated with my comment. But he didn’t really honestly probably think about what he said, obviously. But he has his own opinion. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion and I stated mine a couple months back about it.”

Rondo signed a one-year, $9 million deal with the Kings last year in attempt to revive his career, and he has done just that. The 30-year-old is averaging 11.8 points and a career-high 11.9 assists per game and has made it known he loves to play at Madison Square Garden. “It’s one of those arenas,” Rondo said. “That’s the biggest lights. It’s Broadway. … Madison Square Garden is the mecca of basketball, so it’s always great going there and perform in front of a lot of fans.”

It is known Knicks interim coach Kurt Rambis thinks Rondo would be a good fit in the triangle, and the future free agent said he believes all it takes is having the right personnel for it to be successful in today’s NBA. “The Lakers have proven you can have success,” Rondo said. “Even go back to the old Bulls. I think it’s about personnel and it’s about having the right guys. You need guys with a high IQ, who really know the game well to break down film and become great at it.”

Kurt Rambis high on Rajon Rondo

The Knicks are campaigning openly to see if they can find a new starting point guard next season. Carmelo Anthony lobbied for free-agent-to-be Rajon Rondo earlier in the road trip — and he will grace the Garden on Sunday when the Kings face the Knicks. According to an NBA source, Rambis is high on Rondo and what he can do in the triangle. Earlier this week, the Knicks officially signed former Sixers point guard Tony Wroten, who is not expected to play this season as he rehabs from last season’s ACL tear but will be brought to summer league. However, Wroten has a tiny guarantee for next season, and only if he is invited to training camp.

The normally mild-mannered Knicks coach Derek Fisher shot back at Rondo, who made comments in Brooklyn on Friday that the triangle offense isn’t for him when discussing his free agency. When asked before the Knicks-Nuggets game about Rondo’s remark and if it concerns him to hear that from an elite player, Fisher said: “That’s your decision on whether or not he’s elite or not. You can’t ask him when he wasn’t very successful playing against [the triangle] whether or not he wants to play in it. That’s his opinion. That’s fine. He doesn’t play for us. We’re not concerned about his opinion about us at this point.’’

Anyway, Rondo, who likes it in Sacramento, was asked about what will factor into his upcoming decision. “[The] coach. And style of play. The biggest thing for me is the style of play,” he replied before the Kings were destroyed by the Nets, surrendering 18 3-pointers and 55.8 percent shooting in a 128-119 loss. “I wouldn’t want to go to a system where I don’t really have the ball in my hands and they have you stand in the corner and shoot 3s. That’s not my style of play. … The style of play is the biggest thing, and then obviously personnel on the court and coaches.”

Rondo is with the Kings on a one-year deal, but if Cousins has any say, his starting point guard won’t be going anywhere after this season. “That’s my man,” Cousins said. “We talk a lot. There’s nothing we don’t talk about. It’s like we’ve been knowing each other for a while. There’s no other way to put it, that’s my guy.” Rondo’s ability to show Cousins how to deal with the continual scrutiny of others could be just as vital as getting the All-Star center good looks at the basket.

The frequent run-ins with coaches, the banishment from Dallas last season, and now this — it all has some team executives wondering when one of the most talented and combustible players in the league will run out of second chances. Multiple league sources told CBS Sports that some teams may stay away from Rondo, 29, when he hits the free-agent market next summer. But others suggested that the incident ultimately would have no impact on his market value, making it plausible that he could still land a max deal or close to it on the open market.

Max deal for Rajon Rondo?

But after just a little more than a month with the Kings, there’s evidence that Rondo has wiped clean the memory of his rough tenure with Dallas and has rebuilt his value heading into what could be a free-agent bonanza next summer, when the league’s salary cap will spike as new television money is added to NBA revenues. “I don’t know whether he will quite get the maximum, mostly because we don’t know what the max is going to be,” one Eastern Conference general manager told Sporting News. “But there is going to be a lot of money on the market and only a handful of players who you would really say are max guys. If Rajon were to keep playing the way he’s been playing, if he is not getting the max next year, it’ll be close.”

The Lakers spent much of the week dabbling in trade talks with the Kings for big man DeMarcus Cousins, but the team was not fully committed to making a deal at this point, knowing well that a potential free-agent bonanza awaits in six days, that would allow them to add stars without giving up their chance at Russell, who could be a franchise guard. The Lakers had long been connected with point guard Rajon Rondo in free agency, in part because of his friendship with star Kobe Bryant, but the addition of Russell ends that possibility. One source, when asked about Rondo going to the Lakers, simply said, “Doubtful.”
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May 28, 2017 | 5:23 pm EDT Update
“Not that I see,” Wojnarowski said of Paul’s chances of ending up with the Spurs. “I don’t know where that came from. I’ve spent a lot of time around the Spurs this spring. They would have to just tear up that entire payroll. It’s almost unlike anything the Spurs would’ve done or would do to even have a chance at him. I mean, they’d have to really gut the roster. And to do that for a 30-plus year old point guard, who has a couple great years left, there’s no question — I think there’s more pressure on the Clippers to have to re-sign him than for the Spurs to turn their whole franchise over to make a run at him.”
Have they told you they’re going to pick up that option? Bryn Forbes: “Not explicitly, but they don’t really tell you much explicitly, ‘This is what’s going to happen.’ From making the team, I didn’t know what to expect. (Popovich) told me after the last (preseason) game that I made the team. Every step of the way, you find out that last day, even if you thought you knew from the jump.”