Rajon Rondo has a plenty of nicknames.
“He’s pretty much our quarterback,” said Tony Allen, Rondo’s fellow veteran guard, in November.
“We call him ‘Coach Rondo,’ ” E’Twaun Moore said Thursday.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry has said the Pelicans’ 31-year-old point guard is one of the smartest players he’s ever coached. Last month, when the Toronto Raptors visited New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center, Raptors coach Dwane Casey said Rondo is the "computer on the floor."
DeMarcus Cousins has called Rondo "a wizard on the court.”
No nickname, however, has been used as frequently as “floor general.”
Rondo is an extension of the Pelicans’ coaching staff while on the floor, policing and aligning fellow Pelicans in certain directions, using veteran experience to mobilize the Pelicans’ offense during the first full season of the Cousins-Anthony Davis tag-team.
“Sometimes guys need a little direction,” Rondo said in November. “If I call a play, and they know where to go, I need to know where they are going to be.”
The Pelicans' trust in Rondo, a 12-year point guard, is substantial. If Gentry calls a play, but Rondo already has something dialed up on the floor — Rondo's it is.
"I always tell the guys, if I call (a play) and he's got one called on the floor, then we'll go with his," Gentry said Friday.
As the Pelicans’ offensive catalyst and captain, this week for Rondo has been historic and noteworthy. Wednesday, against a weaker Brooklyn club, Rondo dumped a franchise-record 25 assists on the Nets, the most in an NBA game since Feb. 1996.
“25 assists?” Moore said the day after Rondo's night. “That’s pretty amazing. That’s hard to do. To get 10 assists is not easy. So 25, I know, has got to be special.”
Friday, however, when in need of a comeback to wipe away the Dallas Mavericks’ 26-point lead, Rondo logged 19:41 minutes and was absent for the entirety of the fourth quarter in New Orleans’ 128-120 loss.
When asked whether he believed the decision, which sidelined Rondo for the final period, gave the Pelicans the best chance to win, Rondo stood with Gentry’s decision.
“I’m with whatever the coach decides,” he said.
With a day to reflect, Gentry cited the same reasons for Rondo’s unusual absence before Saturday’s game against the New York Knicks as he did shortly after Friday’s loss to Dallas, which owns the most losses in the Western Conference with 25.
As Gentry said, Dallas defenders were falling under pick-and-rolls — a common defensive tactic against hesitant, or poor, shooters — causing potential offensive stagnation by the Pelicans. So New Orleans opted for Jameer Nelson, a 35-year-old veteran shooting 42.5 percent from the field this season, in Rondo’s crunch-time stead.
“We couldn’t get the advantages that we needed, so we just went with Jameer,” Gentry said Friday. “Nothing against Rondo, he’s been great. Once again, he had eight assists. We just thought, in order for us to get the offense going, and be able to have the ball inside, that we might want to have someone that they would go over the top of screen and rolls with.”
“Rondo’s been great, and he was fine yesterday,” the coach added Saturday. “We were trying to get a little more flow, and they were going under so many screen and rolls that we thought with Jameer out there — it was just a decision that I made."
Rondo has played fewer than 30 minutes in 17 of 21 games prior to Saturday, including his 5-minute season debut on Nov. 13.
It’s an eerie metric, given the production and power Rondo has within the Pelicans’ offense.
Again on Friday, in yet another "tough" loss at the Smoothie King Center, as Gentry said, Rondo wasn't on the floor.
"It had nothing to do with Rondo, or the way he was playing or anything like that," the coach said. "It was just coach’s instinct.”