The crash course in getting Rajon Rondo up to speed on the Dallas Mavericks’ way of life paid off Saturday night.
A little over 24 hours after landing in Dallas following a trade from the Boston Celtics, Rondo scored six points, grabbed seven rebounds, distributed nine assists, picked up two steals and took four charges as the Mavs rallied to defeat the San Antonio Spurs 99-93 at American Airlines Center.
“It was exciting,’’ Rondo said. “The best part about it is we got the win tonight.
“It was a tough grind game, but we fought with it, we stuck with it and got the win.’’
Rondo received a warm and loud ovation during pre-game introductions. The fans obviously appreciate his game and were aware that he could be the missing link that’ll help the Mavs make a long in the playoffs.
“I love it here,’’ Rondo said. “The fans have been great, the reception tonight was amazing, and that’s what it’s all about.’’
Acquired Thursday in a trade with the Celtics, Rondo started the game and wound up playing 34 minutes and converting 3 of 11 shots. He looked comfortable for the most part in his new surroundings, and the Mavs applauded his efforts in his first game for his new team.
“He’s going to hit those shots — not worrying about that,’’ guard Monta Ellis said. “Once he gets the feel of the offense, I know he works so hard.
“He’ll hit those in the pocket shots and make the defense even more nervous and on their heels. Like I said, the more he gets involved in the offense, the more he will get the feel of the system. He definitely will get us in the offense because he likes to look ahead.”
Rondo is known as a point guard who handles the ball a lot. And in the Mavs’ system, Ellis handles it a lot down the stretch.
Some wondered if the two dynamics would clash.
“I think he did a great job — he scored 38 points,’’ Rondo said of Ellis. “I didn’t hold him back too much.
“We both like to dominate the ball, but I think we played well off each other tonight, along with Devin [Harris] as well.’’
Late in the game the Mavs went to a three-guard lineup that included Rondo, Ellis and Harris and were able to flourish.
“In that type of lineup I always want to check the best offensive player,’’ Rondo said. “I tried to give Monta a rest because he was carrying us offensively, and I wanted to switch up on [Marco] Belinelli.’’
While his offense struggled, Rondo put his defensive prowess on full display as he took four charges.
“I just tried to do the intangibles,’’ Rondo said. “I didn’t make a lot of shots tonight, so I just wanted to go on the defensive end of the floor and make plays and big plays for my team and get the ball back and have more possessions.’’
And in the game of basketball, extra possessions increase a team’s chances of winning the game.
“You guys can see what he’s capable of doing,’’ said forward Chandler Parsons, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds. “He can fill up the state sheet and a do a little bit of everything.’’
Forward Dirk Nowitzki also walked away impressed with what he saw from Rondo.
“He looked pretty smooth already,’’ Nowitzki said. “I figured a smart player like that will pick everything up pretty quick.
“I actually think he knew some of the plays better than some of our own players we had out there — that’s just how smart he is. The stuff he reads out there is just fantastic.’’
Just on first impressions, coach Rick Carlisle could envision waves and waves of good fortune coming his team’s way with Rondo in the lineup.
“I love Rondo,’’ Carlisle said. “I thought he played well.
“He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but he did a lot of great things. He did a lot of things that most guys in that position just don’t do — rebounding, making plays, things like that.’’
Rondo, who also was effective in the Mavs’ zone defense, hopes to continue making plays for the next few months and beyond.
“I’ve been here for 24 hours,’’ Rondo said, “and I probably practiced more in 24 hours than I have all season.’’
As far as getting more in tune with his new teammates and learning where their sweet spots on the court are, the eight-year veteran from Kentucky said: “It’s not going to take long, for the most part it’s basketball. I’ve been watching these guys from afar.
“It’s NBA players, I have the [NBA League Pass], I watch them all the time and they know how to play off each other. It’s a very intelligent team, I’m not too far behind, and I’ll keep watching film and keep learning my guys’ system.’’