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Mavs need Rondo to return to NBA roots

DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks need Rajon Rondo to be a star role player, a point guard version of center Tyson Chandler.

The Mavs are really asking Rondo to return to his NBA roots. His best years with the Boston Celtics came when he served as a box-score-stuffing complementary piece to the Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

It appears to be a role Rondo relishes after being the focal point of a rebuilding franchise for the last season and change with the Celtics.

“I’ll do what I do best on the court,” Rondo said during his Friday introductory news conference. “I’ll do the intangibles, take responsibility and run the show. That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. I’ve played with Hall of Famers. I don’t feel like this is too tall a task for me. I want to compete, I want to win.”

Running the show does not mean Rondo, who is expected to make his Mavs debut Saturday night against the San Antonio Spurs, dominates the ball. The Mavs, who lead the league in scoring, definitely do not need the league’s assists leader to be responsible for creating the lion’s share of the offense.

The Mavs will tweak some things to suit Rondo’s strengths. But Monta Ellis, who leads the Mavs in scoring (20.6 points per game) and assists (4.7), will continue to be the primary pick-and-roll ball handler, whether Dirk Nowitzki is popping or Chandler is rolling. Chandler Parsons, who has been lighting it up all month, needs to continue being given plenty of playmaking opportunities.

The best way Rondo can help the Mavs’ offense is to get them running as much as possible and make sure they get in their halfcourt sets quickly when they don’t have transition opportunities. Despite the upgrade in weapons around him, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Rondo’s assists totals dip significantly, because he won’t have the ball in his hands nearly as often as he did in Boston.

Rondo, whose basketball brain is as freakishly big as his outfielder-glove-sized hands, indicated that he has a firm understanding of how he can mesh with the Mavs’ offensive machine.

“Anywhere I go, I think I’m able to help guys make it easier for themselves offensively,” Rondo said. “Just get the ball out of my hands quicker and let guys make plays.

“I know Monta is a great guy who makes plays himself, along with Chandler. I think my job here will probably make Tyson’s job a lot easier offensively going in and drawing two [defenders], and being able to play with an athlete and being able to finish and run the floor as well. I think I can help complete this team.”

Rondo’s role on the other end of the floor is simple, if not easy. Dallas needs him to get back to being a dominant defensive player.

His four-year run of being an All-Defensive selection ended when the Celtics started their rebuilding process. The belief in Dallas is that Rondo, who says he feels physically as good as ever almost two full years removed from tearing the ACL in his right knee, returns to that intense, impactful form with his competitive fire roaring while playing for a contender.

A team that ranks 29th in defensive rebounding percentage also desperately needs Rondo, who leads all guards with 7.5 rebounds per game this season, to continue crashing the boards like a power forward.

The Mavs hope Rondo can be as much of a defensive difference-maker at point guard as Chandler is at center. That is Rondo’s most important role with the Mavs, who allow the league’s highest 3-point percentage (39.2) in large part due to open shots created by dribble penetration.

The Mavs had no shot to contend with Jameer Nelson looking like a squatty traffic cone against point guards such as Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Mike Conley, Tony Parker, Goran Dragic, etc. Dallas needs Rondo to be a disruptive force against dominant point guards -- and occasionally defend scoring wings, too.

Welcome to the West, Rondo.

“Whatever game I’m going to have to bring it,” Rondo said. “In the Eastern Conference, it’s not like they made life soft, but it’s night and day when you compare the East to the West point guards.

“I think that’s one reason why they brought me here is to get some defensive stops, check the best opposing guards on the floor. That’s my job, and I take full responsibly and I’m looking forward to it.”

Rondo's role in Dallas: facilitate an offense that doesn't need fixing, wreak havoc for a defense that needs a whole lot of help and do whatever it takes to win.

Rondo sounds ready for the challenge.