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Early Returns from Bulls camp: Everybody Loves Rajon

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The Bulls are praising Rajon Rondo early in camp, but beware

NBA: Chicago Bulls-Media Day David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls’ signing of Rajon Rondo was met with plenty of negativity this summer, so it’s not all that surprising that the first day of training camp brought a lot of love for the mercurial point guard.

From head coach Fred Hoiberg to star Jimmy Butler, the praise has been effusive, as noted by ESPN’s Nick Friedell.

Here’s Fred:

"The biggest thing that I've been most impressed with with Rajon is, the minute he stepped on this floor, when he got back here in August, is he pulled everybody together," Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg said after Tuesday's practice. "His voice -- he's got the best voice on the team.

"When you have your point guard out there that can get you into something and talk the way he does, that sets the tone for everybody. If you got a guy not only offensively getting you into something, but defensively making sure guys are pointing and talking and getting back and getting matched up in transition, that's where it starts. He's been here. He's been great. He's a guy that [you] can watch film with -- in September before we got rolling here in camp. He's been great, and today he got us off to a great start."

And here’s Jimmy:

"He's super smart," Bulls All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler said. "I think he really sees things before they even develop out there on the basketball floor, so it makes everybody's job a lot easier. And not only is he leading the team on offense, but he's constantly talking on defense, so he's letting everybody know where they have to be. And then [free-agent signing Dwyane] Wade's the same way, so he makes everybody's job easier as well, and you learn from that, so you just follow suit for the most part."

Friedell even noted that front-office personnel have been lauding Rondo for weeks, so apparently everybody loves the guy. (And Rondo claims he’s never had chemistry issues with any player!)

Now, as much as I despised the signing, I’m not going to rule out Rondo being a leader and helping the Bulls this year. He’s talented and still one of the best passers in the league, and I’ll let some games play out before potentially writing him off if things go south.

However, I’m not going to buy into this spin just yet. It’s not surprising the Bulls made it a point to single out Rondo as making a “big” impact early given the negativity that came with the signing and his reputation that’s taken a dip in recent years. I see this partially as a pushback to that negativity, as well as a point to paint him as a significantly superior option than Derrick Rose (kind of a low bar right now given Rose’s issues, but still).

Friedell even seems to agree somewhat on this:

The plaudits being tossed Rondo's way have come from all corners of an organization in desperate need of a stabilizing point guard presence after dealing with Derrick Rose's injury woes for years.

Furthermore, almost the exact same kind of things were written about Rondo at the beginning of Kings camp last season.

From Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, on 10/3/2015:

Rondo already has taken the reins as a vocal leader, something the Kings have lacked for years.

“He’s a guy who just talks, talks, talks and tries to make the team better,” said forward Rudy Gay, who has known Rondo since high school. “That’s what you need out of your point guard.”

Rondo believes communication is vital to the Kings’ chances for success. He also thinks his talkative ways can be contagious. Ideally, Rondo’s voice won’t be the only one heard on the court.

...

“He’s been a strong leader,” Karl said. “There’s no question he’s a very veteran, no-nonsense, do-it-the-right-way guy. And this team probably needed some of those guys.”

The Kings then proceeded to stink again, Karl was fired, and while Rondo posted some prolific stats, he still drew plenty of ire for some of his habits and the team clearly didn’t want him back.

So, while some of this praise may be legitimate, I’ll take some of it with a large grain of salt.