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Bulls' Rajon Rondo told benching was to 'save me from myself'

WASHINGTON -- Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo said he never received a clear explanation for his benching and believes the answers he did get from a member of the coaching staff were "bulls---."

Rondo, who prior to Tuesday night had not played since the second half of a Dec. 30 loss to the Indiana Pacers, spoke for almost 10 minutes ahead of the team's 101-99 loss to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday and acknowledged that this is the most confusing circumstance he has been through in his career. He also noted that he hasn't shared more than a few words with coach Fred Hoiberg since his benching, but he declined to name which member of the Bulls' staff gave him the reasoning behind his benching.

"I got a slight explanation from another guy on the staff," Rondo said. "A guy told me that he was saving me from myself."

Rondo was asked if he needed saving from himself.

"Do I need saving from myself?" Rondo said. "In this game, you grind through it. It's a game of mistakes. You play through it. If not ...

"I don't want to say any names. But that's what the explanation was. [In] Cleveland, they told me I had a negative-20 [plus-minus] in Indiana at halftime. I think that was part of the reason."

What did he think of the explanation?

"I thought it was bulls---," he said. "'Save me from myself?' I never heard that before in my life. But I guess he was trying to do the best thing for me."

Rondo, who signed a two-year contract with the Bulls over the summer, with only one year guaranteed, is averaging just 7.2 points a game. He has stated several times that he feels his role has been different from what he and the Bulls' front office discussed when he signed over the summer.

"Depends on how you guys write it," Rondo said. "But yeah, it's different. When I signed here, why I wanted to come here, it's a lot different than what I anticipated."

Rondo was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team for the Dec. 5 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers following a verbal altercation with Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylen during a Dec. 3 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. During that game, Rondo also whipped a towel toward Boylen, something that was caught on camera during the telecast.

Rondo met with Bulls general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson after a Dec. 31 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and told reporters prior to the meeting that he would speak to Forman and Paxson about finding a new team if he were to continue staying on the bench. Rondo would state days later that he didn't get a "clear-cut" message about his future from the executives, but privately, Bulls officials believe they were "crystal clear" about their message. Rondo said before Tuesday's game that he hasn't spoken to Forman or Paxson since that meeting.

Hoiberg said before Tuesday's game that Rondo would be the team's first substitution off the bench. The point guard entered at the 6:31 mark of the first quarter. He finished with 12 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals in 27 minutes. His return to action came on a night when the Bulls played without Jimmy Butler (illness), Nikola Mirotic (illness) and Dwyane Wade (rest).

Hoiberg said after the game he still has confidence in Rondo and was pleased with the veteran point guard's performance.

"I thought Rondo was really good," Hoiberg said. "I thought our pace, especially in that first half, was excellent. When he was in the game, it was good to see him aggressive, looking to score the basketball. He gave us a real lift. I was happy with the way he kept himself ready and stayed positive in his time out of the lineup. And he went out there and I thought was really good for us tonight."

When asked if the message to Rondo was clear in the wake of his benching, Hoiberg focused the conversation on Rondo's positive attitude, given the circumstances.

"I've talked to him about it," Hoiberg said. "The biggest thing we've talked about is how he handled it. He's handled it great. He's been a positive influence on the bench for the younger guys. He's been very vocal, encouraging them. In my mind, it was a matter of time before he got the opportunity to get back out there. He took advantage of it and should see him more in the lineup."

Rondo said after Tuesday's contest that he "felt fast" on the floor. To several observers, the "fast" reference was a tweak of Hoiberg. Rondo relayed after his initial benching that Hoiberg told him he was playing "slow" in the games leading up to the veteran guard being taken out of the rotation.

Rondo remains hopeful that his situation will ultimately get handled the way he wants it to in the near future.

"I'm not the type of guy to make excuses or things of that nature," Rondo said. "Things will be handled the way -- I'll try to get them handled the way I want them, the way I would like to, but if not, it's just the way the game is. It's a business at the end of the day. Right now, that's what it is."

Bulls forward Taj Gibson was happy to see Rondo back on the floor.

"It was great to have Rajon back in the lineup," Gibson said. "Just his coaching ability on the court, how he moves the ball, his assists, it just helps us a lot. We've got a much better team with him on the court."

Rondo admitted that he felt he would be on display against the Wizards.

"Oh, I am," Rondo said before the game. "Playing for the Bulls, playing for big organizations like Boston, you're going to be judged from day one. It's part of it. You signed up for it. I don't mind being judged or pressure being put on myself. People have been counting me out since day one. That doesn't matter about being in a box. It's not a great feeling as a player to play like that. You're only as good as your coach thinks you are. That's a big part of each individual's success in the NBA.

"You look at James Harden and the year he's having. [Houston Rockets coach] [Mike] D'Antoni turned over the keys to him, and he's having his best year ever with the right personnel around him. Certain guys got an opportunity to shine and play without restraint, and certain guys will rise to the occasion. And some won't."

Rondo said he has been staying in shape by playing pickup games at Irving Middle School in Maywood, Illinois. While he declined to mention all the people who had been playing with him, he did note that teammate Isaiah Canaan was one.

For his part, Rondo seemed to enjoy the laid-back conversation with reporters on Tuesday. A member of the Bulls' public relations staff tried to give Rondo an out about midway through the proceedings, but he noted that reporters were free to continue asking questions for another few minutes, because he had already taken his shots.

"I haven't had this much attention in a while," Rondo said with a small smile.

Hoiberg noted after Rondo's performance against the Wizards that he should expect some playing time in the Bulls' next game, against the New York Knicks.

"I would anticipate Rondo getting some minutes, for sure," Hoiberg said.