DALLAS - “This is what I thrive on.”
Those six words may not be entirely true; it's easy for Rajon Rondo to talk boldly as his Los Angeles Clippers were in the midst of storming through Dallas to grab a pair of wins that tie this first-round NBA Playoffs series at 2-2.
The truth about Rondo, as Mavs fans know all too well, is that "playing against all odds'' - something he claims to love to do - has not been a constant in his career. That fact is why he got booed on Friday in Game 3 and again on Sunday in Game 4 every time the audience at American Airlines Center took note of his presence.
He quit on this team, while playing for Dallas in the 2015 playoffs, and did so in what is to our eyes and our memories an unprecedented way.
In the middle of a playoff game at Houston, Rondo just ... quit.
Is he feeding off the AAC unpleasantness? So he claims.
“I love playing against all odds,'' he said on Friday in reflection of the Clippers having been down 0-2 in this series. "I love playing against people that doubt me my entire career. It didn’t go well when I was here but at the end of the day I’m still in the game and I was able to rebound from my position here and still win another championship.''
"Playoff Rondo'' did indeed follow up his early-career success in Boston with another title last year contributing to the Lakers. And now he's contributing against Dallas, where he is respected by Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, with whom he clashed in 2015, but where he is rightfully disrespected by paying customers who watched him loaf and sleepwalk and sully the sunset of Dirk Nowitzki's wondrous career.
"My main focus now is on my teammates,'' said Rondo, who pitched in seven points, five rebounds, and six assists in 20 minutes off the bench in his team's 106-81 Game 4 win over the Luka Doncic-led Mavs. "Win one game. That’s all that matters.”
Actually, winning with class also matters. And giving effort in failure matters, too. So despite his bold words, and even as on Sunday he made quite a show of waving "bye-bye'' to the booing AAC crowd, Rondo is too smart to not know the truth.
In a way that has nothing to do with this series, Rajon Rondo stole something from the Dallas Mavericks. He may "thrive'' on the emotion of it all. But it's important that he recognize why an entire fan base finds it cathartic to express its forever displeasure with him.