The latest loop on the roller-coaster ride that has been Rajon Rondo’s experience with Team USA: Rondo could be the last player cut before the team heads to Turkey for the World Championships.
Rondo did not play in Sunday’s 86-85 win over Spain, causing all sorts of speculation as to the reason. Before the Spain game, Rondo appeared to be a lock to make the team, starting every exhibition game and receieving praise from teammates and coaches alike.
“I like playing with Rondo,”Chauncey Billups said. “He’s a winner. I love playing with winners; guys that know how to play the game. Guys that every possession know what it means.”
“It starts with Rondo,” said Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski. “He wants to play defense. And he knows that the people behind him are playing defense, too.”
However, Rondo played sloppily against Lithuania, committing four turnovers, scoring just two points, and losing his starting spot in the second half to Russell Westbrook. After receiving a DNP-CD from Coach K for the Spain game, even Rondo considered the possibility he may not make the team.
“I think I’m on the bubble,” Rondo told ESPN.com. “Just looking at the obvious — I got a DNP last game. That pretty much speaks for itself.”
Speaking after the Spain game, Coach K told reporters Rondo and Danny Granger didn’t play because they were “veterans” and he wanted to give the younger players a longer look, but Coach K changed his tune Tuesday when talking to ESPN.
“It’s not so much what Rajon has to show, it’s what our team needs. We’ve found a good lineup, and the international game is so different from the NBA game, you can ask any of these guys,” Krzyzewski said. “Part of it is to make sure that we try not to have two non-shooters out on the court, and there’s the physicality, too.”