Rajon Rondo’s deep career tour through the NBA will continue in 2017-18 when he plays for the New Orleans Pelicans, his fifth team in four seasons.
Rondo agreed Saturday to a one-year deal with the Pelicans, according to multiple reports. In joining the Pelicans, the 11-year veteran point guard will be reunited with former Sacramento Kings teammate DeMarcus Cousin, with whom he grew close during the 2015-16 season.
Rondo, 31, spent his first eight full NBA seasons with Boston, helping the Celtics win the 2008 championship and reach the Finals again in 2010. He was traded to Dallas in December 2014, where he clashed with coach Rick Carlisle.
After signing and spending one season with the Kings, Rondo joined the Chicago Bulls on a two-year deal last July. But he had a run-in with assistant coach Jim Boylen and was briefly benched by the Bulls in January. After returning with the second unit, Rondo also drew attention for a social-media squabble with teammates Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade.
Eventually, though, Rondo played his way back into favor with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, at least enough to help Chicago snag the No. 8 playoff berth in the East and grab a 2-0 lead in its first-round series against Boston. He suffered a thumb fracture in Game 2, however, and was unable to play again in the series; the Celtics swept the next four games.
Rondo’s reputation was restored enough by the Bulls’ elimination that he was a candidate to be brought back — except only $3 million of his $14 million salary for 2017-18 was guaranteed if Chicago released him by June 30. With the Bulls entering a rebuilding phase — and eager to pocket the $11 million difference — Rondo hit the free agent market, drawing interest from the Pelicans, the Lakers and the Knicks, according to various reports.
New Orleans pursued Rondo for his ability to serve as a backup to Jrue Holiday, who earlier this summer signed a five-year, $126 million deal to stay with New Orleans. It’s possible Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry will use the two guards together at times, with Holiday playing off the ball. Rondo also is expected to excel at setting up big men Cousins and All-Star Anthony Davis.
Despite his bumpy 2016-17 season, Rondo remains one of only three players to average at least six assists the past nine seasons. He averaged 7.8 points and 6.7 assists for Chicago, off from his career stats prior to joining the Bulls (11.0 ppg, 8.7 apg). His 37.6 percent on 3-pointers was the best percentage of Rondo’s career, though he attempted fewer than two shots from the arc per game. He shot 40.6 percent overall and made just 60 percent of his free throws.