When the excitement wore off from Team USA’s thrilling 86-85 win against Spain , one question needed to be answered: why didn’t Rajon Rondo play? Both coach Mike Krzyzewski and team director Jerry Colangelo spoke on the subject, but no clear answer emerged from the discussions. Derrick Rose even suggested that Rondo was suffering from a sinus infection, but Colangelo refuted Rose’s claim.
Coack K, about Rondo and Granger not playing: (USABasketball.com)
Those are two veterans and young guys haven’t had a chance to start or whatever, so before we select our 12 we needed to give everyone a look.
We were trying to learn about our younger players so we started a different lineup. Before we talk about the outside, Lamar Odom should be our starting center. He’s finally into shape I think to play at this level. Curry has been out so we wanted to give him a chance and we already know what Rondo and Granger can do.
It speaks volumes about this team’s youth that Coach K considers Rondo a “veteran”, but his explanation lacks validity. Neither Rondo nor Granger have competed in adult international competition before. If Coack K wanted to sit veterans to give the younger players a chance to prove themselves, why did both Chauncey Billups and Lamar Odom– the only two players with experience playing for Team USA– start? Though Coach K said Rondo sat just to give the younger players a chance to show their skills, Colangelo gave a slightly different explanation. (ESPN.com)
“Coach told the team this morning that he was going to try some other players, change the lineup,” Colangelo told ESPN.com. “We’ve been off to some bad starts in our three games, and so he went with a different lineup, and he said some guys might not play today. And that’s how it played out. I don’t think anything is significant. I don’t know what we’ll do in the game against Greece, but we’re still trying to determine who we are and how we’re going to play, so that was just for today, what he chose to do.”
So Coach K said it was just to give other players a look, while Colangelo claimed it had to do with the bad starts Team USA has gotten off to. Hmm.
Ultimately, I’m not too concerned for Rondo’s future on Team USA. Coach K loves Rondo and Rondo’s game. He has openly praised Rondo on several occasions. Rondo is still going to make the team, and he’s still going to play a significant role. Coach K probably sat Rondo for both the reasons he suggested, and the reasons Colangelo gave. Coach K not only wanted to see the younger players against good competition, he also wanted to send a message to Rondo and Granger that they need to play better, or there spots in the rotation will not be secure.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Rondo plays against Greece on Wednesday in the last exhibition game before the World Championships in Turkey, and how he responds to the benching. Rondo has played unspectacular basketball so far for Team USA and he’ll need to improve if he plans on holding onto that starting spot. Derrick Rose has played VERY well and is poised to usurp Rondo’s role as the starting point guard.