Free agency for Rajon Rondo won’t occur until July 1, but the Dallas Mavericks already know something important about their new point guard.
“The good thing about Rajon is that he wants to be here,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He likes how we play, he’s very intrigued with things that we do.
“The things that we do aren’t vastly different from what Boston is doing this year, which helps. We’re in the early stages of it, but he’s into it.”
The Mavs acquired Rondo in a trade with the Boston Celtics on Thursday, and they started him Saturday night against the world champion San Antonio Spurs.
By all accounts, Rondo is an analytic player and a student of the game. He’s the type of player whose basketball IQ is in another stratosphere.
“He learns things very quickly, he retains things very well,” Carlisle said. “Anybody you talk to that knows him will tell you the same things about him — great intellectual curiosity about the game.
“He loves talking about it. He loves playing it.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich declined to share his thoughts about the Rondo trade.
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” Popovich said. “I have enough to think about on my team.”
Asked if the addition of Rondo makes a difference when it comes to game-planning against the Mavs, Popovich said: “Every player has different characteristics. Over time, the Mavs will decide, and the rest of the league will decide if and how to adjust.”
The Celtics won the NBA title in 2008 with Rondo — then 22 and in his second season — as their starting point guard. But the Celtics were only 25-57 last season, missed the playoffs and appear to be in rebuilding mode, which is not Rondo’s cup of tea.
“Me being a competitor, I feel like if you put four guys out there that play extremely hard, we can win any game,” Rondo said. “That’s how I’ve been since I’ve been in the league.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play for future Hall of Famers and great teams and a great coach in Doc Rivers. And to get back to that situation and be able to play with future Hall of Famers and a great coach and a team that’s ready to contend for a title, I’m fired up.”
No Felton by Christmas
A couple weeks ago, owner Mark Cuban said he expected guard Raymond Felton to be playing his first game for the Mavs by Christmas.
Prior to Saturday’s game against San Antonio, Carlisle said he doubted that was going to happen.
“Two weeks ago, I would have said the same thing [as Cuban], but we’re just not quite there yet,” Carlisle said. “He’s practicing full-out and he’s 90-something percent, but I’m not ready to put him out there yet.
“He’s just not quite his old self yet. Barring some kind of dire emergency, I won’t do that to him.”
Felton suffered a right high ankle sprain during an Oct. 10 preseason game against Oklahoma City, and he has yet to play in a game since the Mavs acquired him in a June 25 trade with the New York Knicks.
“He can go after it right now and he can give it a shot and everything, but that last five percent or whatever it is, it takes awhile,” Carlisle said. “But I give him all the credit for the work that he’s putting in.”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760