Then in the 2012 conference finals, Rondo was hit with a flagrant foul after he yanked Wade midair on a lay-up. It was Wade who was the “dirty player.” Two other factors seemed to argue against a Rondo signing: Under Bulls president John Paxson, the team has portrayed itself as committed to “character guys.” And its general manager, Gar Forman, justified trading Rose and Noah by saying the team wanted to get younger and more athletic.Rondo is certainly the latter, but at 30 years old—what many pundits call a “hard 30”—he doesn’t exactly seem the linchpin of a youth movement.He is a man full of contradictions—prodigy smart and ruthlessly competitive on and off the court.(Just ask the teammates he’s schooled in his favorite off-hours obsession, Connect Four.) But he’s a genius who repeatedly does dumb things: picking fights with coaches, getting baited into on-court spats and shoving matches, and, in one case last December, unleashing a homophobic rant at a ref.On a postpractice early afternoon at the Chicago Bulls workout facility, just across from the United Center, the players—stars and scrubs, vets and rooks—have vanished into the bowels of the building to simmer in a whirlpool, stretch a balky back, grunt and heave in the weight room.The gaggle of journalists has packed it in, too, save for a straggler murmuring questions to one of the athletes.“If our guys are willing to run every possession, we’re going to get some easy shots at the rim, and we haven’t been getting those.” As for meshing with the team’s two other alphas, Butler and former nemesis Wade? “They’ve all bought into a leadership role, and when you’ve got as many young players as we do on this roster, you’re going to need multiple leaders.” For his part, Rondo has been nothing if not deferential, telling reporters in his first press conference, “This is Jimmy’s team.” That’s not to say that Hoiberg didn’t seek assurances.
Then there was the bickering with head coaches, starting with the frequent jawing on the sidelines with the Celtics’ Doc Rivers, with whom he reportedly almost came to blows; after that, the rocky relationship with the Dallas Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle, who benched him repeatedly; and finally last year’s season-long strain with George Karl, then of the Sacramento Kings.
“Chicago Bulls’ Rajon Rondo Signing Makes No Sense,” echoed Forbes.
“What a fucking joke,” one wag (“your friendly Bulls Blogger”) added in a post for SB Nation.
Far from being a distraction, Rondo “instantly brought the young guys in and took them under his wing and worked them out every day,” Hoiberg said. His ability to be vocal in our coverages and plays makes it easier on everybody.
It rubs off on everybody.” Before the signing, in fact, Hoiberg sat down with Rondo to review film.