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Rondo's tenure with Mavs might be short

DALLAS -- On the day the four-time All-Star point guard arrived as the headliner of a blockbuster trade, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made it clear he didn't consider Rajon Rondo to be a rental player.

A little more than two months later, Cuban might want to check in with coach Rick Carlisle on that.

Actually, perhaps it'd be best to wait for cooler heads to prevail. Carlisle predictably wasn't in much of a mood to chat about Rondo after Tuesday night's 99-92 win over the Toronto Raptors. Nor was Rondo, at least to the media.

But Carlisle and Rondo had plenty to say to each other during a tense timeout with 8:10 remaining in the third quarter. The stubborn coach and headstrong point guard exchanged a lot of expletives as they shouted at each other in a dispute stemming from Rondo's desire to have more play-calling responsibilities.

"Well, it's an emotional game and we had a difference of opinion," Carlisle said. "There was an exchange, and then, in my mind, it was over."

Well, it apparently lasted at least the rest of the game. The evidence: Rondo rode the pine for the final 20:10, a span in which reserve guards Devin Harris and J.J. Barea played key roles in the Mavs' rally from a nine-point deficit.

This isn't the first time Carlisle has clashed with an accomplished point guard about relinquishing the majority of the play-calling responsibilities. It was a source of frustration for future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd during Carlisle's first campaign in Dallas until Carlisle gave Kidd full freedom midway through the season.

But Kidd and Carlisle never had a public blow-up about the issue.

The tension between Rondo and Carlisle about play-calling had been brewing for a little while, team sources told ESPNDallas.com. It reached a boiling point when Rondo appeared to blow off a play call from the bench, prompting Carlisle to storm onto the court while calling a timeout and shouting at Rondo, who responded in kind.

Carlisle, a genius who happened to be a psychology major at Virginia, doesn't publicly show up a proud player like Rondo without some premeditation. Carlisle might never admit this, but he clearly wanted that confrontation to happen.

The question, which we won't get an answer for until July free agency, is whether Carlisle wants to continue coaching Rondo next season and beyond.

As Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki mentioned, this is far from the first heated coach-player exchanges during their Dallas tenures, much less around the NBA. Heck, Rondo butted heads with Doc Rivers plenty of times, and that didn't stop the Boston Celtics from winning a title and advancing to another Finals during their time together.

"Sometimes little dust-ups can even bring you together," Nowitzki said. "I remember Coach had a dust-up with [Jason Terry] right before the playoffs in 2011, and that probably was the best thing that happened to us because Jet was on his best behavior throughout the whole playoffs. Sometimes stuff like that can bring both sides closer together."

OK, so the coach-player relationship can probably be repaired or at least reach a level of mutual respect necessary to function.

That's far from the only issue with Rondo, who has been underwhelming in a Mavs uniform, averaging 9.0 points, 6.2 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 turnovers during 25 games with Dallas.

The biggest factor as far as Rondo's future with the franchise is his awkward fit in Carlisle's flow offense.

At this stage of his career, the 29-year-old Rondo is an offensive liability, as evidenced by Dallas' drop from historically elite to pretty good in offensive efficiency with him. Further statistical proof:

Rondo led the NBA in assists this season before being traded from Boston, but the Mavs don't need a point guard who dominates the ball. They have playmakers in shooting guard Monta Ellis and small forward Chandler Parsons and need a point guard capable of spacing the floor. That certainly isn't a strength for Rondo, whose poor jumper has always been his biggest flaw. And Rondo isn't nearly as explosive as he was before suffering a serious knee injury more than two years ago.

Carlisle declined to give a straight answer on whether Rondo was benched for basketball or disciplinary reasons for the final 20 minutes against the Raptors. It's somewhat telling that the question even had to be asked.

There are legitimate basketball reasons for Rondo, whose crunch-time benching in a Jan. 23 loss to the Chicago Bulls raised eyebrows, to ride pine at times. Based purely on net rating, he's the third-most-effective point guard on the Mavs' roster behind Harris and Barea.

Carlisle also didn't give a straight answer when asked whether Rondo would be his starter for Wednesday night's road game against the Atlanta Hawks.

"That's what we brought him here for," Carlisle said.

Is Rondo worth bringing back next season?

Rondo, whose desire for a max deal was part of Boston's motivation for putting him on the trade block, still has plenty of time to make his case. This is a guy who tends to peak in the postseason, and he could motivate Cuban to open his wallet wide by playing a major role in a long playoff run.

However, it's hard to envision Carlisle fighting to keep Rondo if they're fighting with each other.