Rajon Rondo: Benching 'no big deal'

DALLAS -- Rajon Rondo, the four-time All-Star point guard whose prowess in the clutch was cited by the Dallas Mavericks' brass when they acquired him in a December blockbuster trade, was benched for the final 5:12 of Friday night's 102-98 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Coach Rick Carlisle repeatedly referred to Rondo's crunch-time benching as a "coach's decision" during his postgame news conference and declined to discuss the strategic logic of not playing Rondo down the stretch.

"It's called coach's decision, and that's how we're going to roll," Carlisle said after the fifth question on the subject. "Next question."

Rondo acknowledged he wants the chance to contribute in closing situations, in which he excelled during his eight-plus-season tenure with the Boston Celtics, who he helped win the 2008 championship and advance to the 2010 NBA Finals.

In Rondo's 28 clutch minutes with the Mavs -- using NBA.com's definition of "clutch" as the last five minutes of a game with the score within five points -- Dallas has outscored opponents by 29 points.

But Rondo stressed he wasn't upset with Carlisle.

"Coach made a decision. It's as simple as that," said Rondo, who had six points on 3-of-9 shooting, four assists and two rebounds in 27 minutes. "I've been in this game a long time. It's not like it's the end of the world. I like what Coach Carlisle has done for me this year. I don't have any regrets."

This was the second time this week that Rondo, who has averaged 10.1 points, 7.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds in 16 games for the Mavs, didn't play well through three and a half quarters against a high-quality opponent. However, in Monday's road win against the Memphis Grizzlies, Rondo played a critical role in Dallas' 14-4 run to close the game, scoring on a floater and baseline jumper to start the spurt after the Mavs briefly lost the lead.

"A guy like that, you've just got to put him in there in crunch time and let him do what he does," Carlisle said Monday.

Reminded of that quote after Friday's loss, Carlisle replied: "Today's Friday. That was Monday. That's where it is."

"Listen, if you want to make it a blow-up story, be my guest," he said. "Go talk to him. It's a coach's decision."

Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who frequently raves about Rondo's ability to impact games in a variety of ways during crunch time, told ESPN.com that he did not have an issue with Carlisle's decision.

"It happens," Cuban said via the Cyber Dust messaging app. "Coaches coach by feel sometimes. I'm good with it."

The Mavs trailed the Bulls by eight points when Carlisle decided to put backup point guard Devin Harris in the game for Rondo with 5:12 remaining.

One possible explanation for the decision is the Mavs' need for shooting and spacing while attempting a comeback. Harris is shooting 36.4 percent from 3-point range this season, significantly better than Rondo, who is shooting 31 percent from 3-point range this season and 25.9 percent for his career.

Rondo, who described the benching as "no big deal to me," said he did not receive an explanation from Carlisle and didn't necessarily need one.

"If he brings it up, he does," Rondo said. "It's not something that I'll go to his office and make a big deal about."

Chicago point guard Derrick Rose, who scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half, essentially sealed the Bulls' win by grabbing an offensive rebound with 4.7 seconds remaining. Rondo, who leads all NBA guards in rebounding this season with 6.5 per game, watched helplessly from the bench.

"There are very few correct decisions when you lose games," Carlisle said. "I've learned that after coaching over 1,000 of these. Listen, you've got to roll with your gut. When you're in the position that I'm in, you've got to take the heat and you've got to welcome the heat, because that's what this job is about.

"But you've also got to roll with your gut, so that's what we did. And we just came up short, all of us. We all own it."