Rondo agrees to join Bulls
When NBA free agency tipped off late Thursday night, this probably isn't what most Bulls fans were expecting.
But after laying low for about 64 hours, the Chicago Bulls reached agreement with veteran point guard Rajon Rondo late Sunday afternoon. The deal was reported as two years for $28 million and can't be signed until July 7.
On paper, this move makes some sense. The Bulls have an opening at point guard after trading Derrick Rose to New York, and Rondo, 30, led the NBA in assists last season with 11.7. He also has championship experience, winning a title with Boston in 2008.
One thing the Bulls might appreciate is Rondo played last season in Sacramento, which was best in the NBA when it came to playing fast.
The Kings averaged 102.2 possessions per 48 minutes, according to nba.com. Golden State was second at 101.7, the Bulls were 13th at 98.3. First-year Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg tried to get his team to play faster, with limited success last season.
Rondo shared his thoughts with Marc Spears of theundefeated.com. "I'm excited," Rondo said. "Great organization with pieces around me that I'm excited about."
This wasn't necessarily a case of the Bulls missing on other targets and settling for a backup plan. Rondo was in Chicago on Friday to meet with the Bulls and clearly was in their plans from the beginning.
The downside to this move is Rondo's star has faded over the past two years, especially since he left Boston. Rondo had a disappointing 46-game run with Dallas late in the 2014-15 season. Last season he posted good numbers, but the Kings didn't get any better, finishing 33-49.
So Rondo's fit with the Bulls will be interesting to see. It has been clear Hoiberg wants to play faster and appreciates guys who will share the ball.
Rondo led the league in assists, The Bulls drafted Denzel Valentine, a forward who ranked fourth in the nation in assists. And Jimmy Butler has produced good numbers when asked to be a playmaker.
Maybe Rondo, Butler, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic will soon be known as the Connect 4 lineup, named after Rondo's favorite board game.
Rondo has never been much of an outside shooter. His career percentage from 3-point range is .289, but he posted his best mark last season at 36.5 percent from long range.
With this move, the Bulls have about $10 million in cap space still available, and they could add about $5 million more by waiving veteran Jose Calderon and using the "stretch" provision to spread his remaining salary over three years.
One thing that's clear is the Bulls had little interest in getting caught up in this summer's free-agent spending spree. Judging by how they've spent the past three days, it seems the Bulls would be fine with getting another lottery pick in next year's draft.
Then the Bulls would have a ton of money, potentially $60 million, to spend on a deeper class of free agents next summer. It seems as if the Bulls' strategy is to let other teams punch themselves out, so to speak, spending a ton of money this year. The Bulls will collect assets and wait for 2017 to make a bigger splash.
Instead of going all in to get a little better this summer, the Bulls are gambling that a two-year plan can make them a lot better. This blueprint could backfire, but they are thinking big -- at least in the longer term.
The Bulls figure to add another piece or two before the season begins.
Right now they have a full roster of 15 players: Butler, Rondo, Valentine, McDermott, Mirotic, Calderon, Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson, Cristiano Felicio, Bobby Portis, Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell, Jerian Grant, Spencer Dinwiddie and potentially second-round pick Paul Zipser.
There is talk the Bulls still are in touch with free agent Pau Gasol, but he is expected to move on, with San Antonio, Portland, Minnesota and Toronto interested. Aaron Brooks is another free agent who doesn't figure to return.
Rondo may not be part of the Bulls' long-term plan. There were varying reports that the second year of his deal is a mutual option or a partial guarantee.
But it will be interesting to see if he can help deliver the fast-paced, high-scoring offense Hoiberg desires.
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