CHICAGO — Among the first few questions asked to Rajon Rondo during his introductory news conference at the Advocate Center Thursday is who is the top guy on the Chicago Bulls for the 2016-2017 season?
Could it be himself, the NBA’s leading assist man from a year ago? How about 12-time All-Star Dwyane Wade, who agreed to a contract with the team on Wednesday?
For Rondo, it’s all about the guy who is already here.
“Obviously I think it’s Jimmy’s team,” said Rondo.
He, of course, is referring to Jimmy Butler, the two-time All-Star who is the biggest player left in a “retool” effort by the Bulls following a playoff-less campaign in 2015-2016. Forman deflected that question the day Derrick Rose was traded, but Rondo confidently said that the team’s leading scorer from a year ago leads the way.
“Jimmy’s the youngest, he’s the engine here,” said Rondo, who joins Butler after signing a two-year, $28 million deal with the team. “It will be Jimmy, Wade and then a pecking order.”
Who’s going to be following that? Who knows. His signing along with Wade’s comes as a major surprise to Bulls fans after Forman said the team was looking to specifically get younger a few times leading up to the NBA Draft and free agency.
Rondo comes to the Bulls at 30 years old after 10 years playing with the Celtics, Mavericks and Kings. Wade arrives at the age of 34 and will turn 35 on Jan. 17 in the middle of his 14th NBA season.
Both are strong personalities with plenty of experience in the league and now they join Butler, a 26 year old with his own opinions to share, on a team coached by Fred Hoiberg, who is entering his second year as an NBA head coach.
Can this work?
“The main thing is that we have three ‘Alphas.’ There will be three ‘Alphas’ on the team,” said Rondo. “Just trying to mesh together and try to make sure we are doing the best thing for the team.”
There is history to prove that Rondo can make this work. In Boston he worked with “The Big Three” of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, bringing the Celtics franchise their greatest amount of success since the Larry Bird era of the 1980s. Rondo was on the point when the Celtics won their 17th NBA Championship in 2008 and helped the back to the Finals in 2010 when they lost to the Lakers in seven games.
“I was able to see how those guys interacted one another. Knowing that not everything has to be perfect in practice. You are going to disagree,” said Rondo of his time with “The Big Three” in Boston. “If you all have one common goal and that’s to get a ‘W’ at the end of the day, than that’s all that matters.
“Egos all go out the window and we have one common goal,” he said.
The next year will prove if Rondo can make that happen again, even if a younger player is the face of the franchise.