Mac Engel

Calipari is right about Nerlens. Like Rajon Rondo, Noel doesn't fit with Mavericks

Although he is moody, guard Rajon Rondo, left, has found new life in New Orleans.
Although he is moody, guard Rajon Rondo, left, has found new life in New Orleans. AP

On this date in 1980, the Dallas Mavericks were born as the NBA granted an expansion franchise and in their first season they won 15 whole games. This past season, they upped the total to 24.

In between they created some of the worst, and best, basketball a franchise could deliver a fan base, including Rajon Rondo to Nerlens Noel.

Watching Rondo play for the New Orleans Pelicans in these NBA playoffs is almost as disgusting as watching Noel eat hot dogs and do little else this season for the Mavericks.

"I have not talked to him, but this stuff with Nerlens I did not see coming," his former college coach, John Calipari, told me in a recent interview.

Noel played for Calipari at UK in 2012-13.

"He is really an intelligent kid," Calipari said. "He's not a dummy. He's not some, 'I don't know' guy. He is still young enough to do this."

Both Rondo and Noel are former Kentucky guys whom the Mavericks acquired via trades with great optimism only to have their hope shoved right back in their face. Rondo deliberately stuck it to the Mavericks, and specifically the head coach, while Noel shows no signs of caring.

No matter the potential, or the need, the Mavericks have to dump Noel because there is no indication he is going to find it the way Rondo has since he left the team.

Calipari, however, is one to believe there is something there with his former center.

"We don't know where all of this is going, but he can do this," Calipari said. "He is somebody who is athletic, has length, can block shots and has an impact on the game. You've got to stretch him out. You can't leave him near the basket. And then [you have to ask], 'How are you going to play pick and rolls with him?' You can throw it to the top of the backboard and he will go get it.

"I say this not knowing all of it, and I don't know all of the facts. Now he's in this situation, whatever happened it happened. It's time to learn from it, and let's go. You screwed up, learn from it and let's go."

The Mavericks tried all of this, which makes it the right time to let Noel go.

Sometimes guys just don't fit. That is the best case for Noel.

Because that is certainly the case with Rondo with the Mavericks, specifically head coach Rick Carlisle.

Watching Rondo play well for the Pelicans in their sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs is another fist full of sand in the Mavericks' eyes after they already absorbed so many particles during the entire season, which includes Noel.

Rondo is averaging a double-double during these playoffs, including a postseason-best 12.8 assists per game. His performance is what prompted Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry to call him "Playoff Rondo."

Rajon became "Playoff Rondo" for some truly impressive postseasons in his time with the Boston Celtics.

Allow me to remind you about the "Playoff Rondo" the Mavericks know: two games, 9.5 points per game, 3.0 assists, 1.0 turnovers, 10,000 percent quitting.

In Game 2 of the '15 first-round series against the Houston Rockets, Rondo literally shut it down on the Mavs during the game. Carlisle was finished with his moody point guard and effectively suspended him for the remainder of the playoffs. Rondo's teammates also voted to exclude him from their postseason money.

Rondo's behavior likely cost him millions in free agency, but he's stuck around in the NBA, playing for Chicago and New Orleans in each of the past two years. He's always been a weird guy, but always a player who could play given the right team, and offense.

Noel is just a guy only no one knows what he needs. The sixth pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Noel has shown tremendous raw ability, but there was a reason why the Philadelphia 76ers dealt him to the Mavericks last year.

After turning down a $70 million contract last summer, Noel received some terrible advice from his agents and instead was stuck accepting a one year, $4.1 million deal from the Mavericks.

It's one of the best deals Mark Cuban has ever made.

Noel played but 30 games this season and averaged 4.4 points and 5.6 rebounds. He was also suspended by the NBA for violating its drug policy.

He will soon be an unrestricted free agent. Despite the fact he's 24 and will be cheap, there is zero indication the Mavericks want him back.

Sometimes guys, like Rondo, just don't fit.

And sometimes guys just don't care.

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