Rajon Rondo may have already overstayed his welcome in Chicago before so much as a half-season with his new team.
For the second time in less than a week, the veteran guard was benched for nearly the entire second half during the Bulls’ 111-101 Friday night loss to the Central Division rival Indiana Pacers.
After an 8-4 start, the Bulls have now dropped seven of their last 10 and presently sit at just 16-17 overall, locked in a dead heat with the Milwaukee Bucks for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
And much of the blame for their steep decline is being indirectly pointed at Rondo, averaging a near career-low 7.2 points per game on just 37 percent shooting as he struggles to master Hoiberg’s quick, ball-moving, precision offense.
By the time he was sent to the bench for the night against the Pacers, Rondo was still scoreless and the Bulls were a minus-20 when he was on the floor.
“I’m a veteran,” Rondo said of Hoiberg’s decision to go with the recently acquired Michael Carter-Williams for the bulk of those minutes. “It’s not going to determine that I’m not going to work hard. I’m going to stay in the gym every day. Lead these guys when I can, talk to my teammates. Be a professional.”
If some of the most recent developments are any indication, the Bulls may not be asking Rondo to do much more than that, at least over the short term.
Hoiberg has stressed he has been impressed with what Carter-Williams has shown he can provide since coming back from injury, and his increased minutes are more of a reflection of that than anything else.
“It’s not life and death,” said Rondo. “Life is too short to be unhappy, and it’s part of it. If I start [Saturday], great. If I don’t, as long as we get the win that’s all that matters.”
As the Bulls’ continue to struggle, Rondo isn’t the only one rumored to potentially be on his way of town.
ESPN recently reported Hoiberg himself could be on the hot seat, following an offseason where the Bulls dealt hometown hero Derrick Rose and let fan favorite Joakim Noah leave via free agency after missing the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.
This all came just a year after the Bulls fired veteran coach Tom Thibodeau to hire the former Iowa State coach who had never coached in the NBA before then.
“I don’t think you would think about going into a new position that you’re going to get the hot seat,” Hoiberg told reporters when asked if he had heard all the noise about his future. “It’s part of this game, part of this level, that if you go out there and struggle, which last year we had very high expectations, we didn’t live up to those, those rumors are going to happen,” he added. “But you can’t worry about it.”
But all of a sudden, management seems worried about everything. Word is the Bulls “have been increasingly assessing the coaching fit” and could decide to make a move sooner rather than later, despite Hoiberg still being owed a sizable portion of the $25 million he initially signed for over five years.
Bulls All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler has heard all the rumblings, and as of now Hoiberg still seems to have his support.
“He’s our head coach,” he said. “Go out there, we play, we fight with him. At the end of the day, that’s all we have. I don’t read those articles so that’s over my head. I just know that he’s here, we want to continue to win games with and for him. We got another one tomorrow, man. He ain’t on no hot seat to me. If we just win games, everything’s good.”
[Featured Image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]