OKLAHOMA CITY -- It would be ridiculously unfair to lay the blame for this lopsided loss solely at the feet of Rajon Rondo. His misery had plenty of company from his Dallas Mavericks teammates during Wednesday's 104-89 butt-whuping by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Rondo certainly played a significant role in the excruciatingly ugly offensive performance, missing seven of his nine shots. But the Mavs' best scorers stunk it up, too. Dirk Nowitzki (6-of-16) shot the ball poorly. Chandler Parsons (3-of-12) was worse. And Monta Ellis (2-of-13) was even worse.
"Just for everybody not a good night all the way around," said Nowitzki, who led the Mavs with a meager 14 points.
The harsh reality, though, is that Rondo hasn't had many good nights since arriving in Dallas as the featured attraction in a blockbuster deal on Dec. 18. After seeing point guards fly all over the league in the final hour before the trade deadline, it's worth asking whether the Mavs would have been better off exercising patience instead of pulling the trigger on the Rondo trade.
Could Mark Cuban have closed a deal to get Goran Dragic from the Phoenix Suns? The Miami Heat gave up four warm bodies and two first-round picks for a point guard who was third-team All-NBA last season.
How about Reggie Jackson? It didn't cost a whole lot for the Detroit Pistons to acquire Russell Westbrook's former disgruntled backup with starter talent. Detroit gave up point guard D.J. Augustin, small forward Kyle Singler and a pair of second-round picks in the three-way deal with the Utah Jazz.
Or maybe the Mavs could have landed Brandon Knight, an explosive scorer who went from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Suns in a three-way deal. Phoenix gave up a pair of young backups -- center Miles Plumlee and guard Tyler Ennis -- and the Los Angeles Lakers' protected first-round pick.
A strong case can be made that any of those three point guards would have been much better fits for the Mavs than Rondo.
That isn't a knee-jerk reaction to the goggles-wearing Rondo struggling in his return after missing six games due to facial fractures. There were plenty of doubts about Rondo's fit in Dallas before he was dominated by All-Star MVP Westbrook, who lit it up for 34 points and 10 assists, compared to Rondo's five-point, six-dime performance.
"He looks healthy," coach Rick Carlisle said when asked to assess Rondo's outing. "He was a little tired because he wasn't playing. I know he didn't shoot well, but it's one game."
Well, it's a lot more than one game. Rondo always has been a subpar jump shooter, and he's not been nearly as dangerous off the dribble since his comeback from a serious knee injury, with his field goal percentage hovering just over 40 percent the past two seasons.
The presence of Rondo usually has served as clutter for what was the NBA's best offense since his arrival. It's an issue Rondo is determined to improve -- working with Nowitzki's longtime shot doctor Holger Geschwindner -- but the reality is he's at least a summer away from being even a respectable NBA shooter.
The Mavs have been a much better defensive team with Rondo, but their improvement on that end of the floor hasn't been as drastic as their offensive drop-off. And it's hard to be real fired up about Rondo as a defensive stopper in the wake of Westbrook essentially doing whatever he wanted.
The Mavs made the trade for Rondo because they felt they were nothing but first-round fodder with Jameer Nelson as their starting point guard. But Rondo hasn't made them better. They are 12-9 with him, not counting a win in Orlando when he was hurt 98 seconds into the game. That projects to a 47-win pace, which might not be good enough even to make the playoffs in the West.
The hope was that by making the deal in December, it would give the Mavs a two-month head start on establishing a rhythm with Rondo. It's been a rocky transition, and the Mavs had to start the process over in some respects after Rondo missed two-plus weeks.
"Not necessarily hit the reset button, just get back adjusted and get back in a little bit of a rhythm, not just with them but with myself as well," Rondo said. "Missing two weeks in the NBA is a lot. Coming back first game with this type of tempo, these type of guys who run the floor and be in a bunch of pick-and-rolls is challenging. But that's what it's about.
"I'm fine. I'm able to adapt and adjust to anything."
Perhaps Rondo flips a switch for the playoffs. He does have a proven track record of being at his best in the postseason. But you have to reach into his past to find reason to be encouraged about his potential to help the Mavs make a run.
"We've got to keep working," Nowitzki said. "Unfortunately, he missed some longer time than we wanted to, but he'll be OK. He's a tough kid. We've just got to still find our groove."
If things don't get much better with Rondo, the Mavs still might have to find a starting point guard this summer.