CHICAGO – Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler went hard at some Chicago Bulls teammates Wednesday night in the ashes of a miserable collapse against the Atlanta Hawks.
So Rajon Rondo went hard at Wade and Butler Thursday afternoon.
Suddenly, the Bulls’ so-called “Three Alphas” – an informal nickname when they came together over the summer – have gone dog-eat-dog.
Wade and Butler, disgusted after the team squandered a 110-100 lead at home over the final three minutes against the Hawks, harshly and publicly criticized some other Bulls’ commitment and effort. After combining for 73 of Chicago’s 114 points, the two veteran stars questioned the performances of unnamed teammates.
In particular, Wade wondered if some Bulls were motivated only to “wear an NBA jersey and make some money.” And he added: “I can look at Jimmy and say Jimmy's doing his job. Jimmy can look at me and say Dwyane's doing his job. I don't know if we can keep going down the line and be able to say that."
Rondo fired back on his Instagram account, seemingly calling out Wade and Butler by comparing their decision to vent publicly with what he termed “My vets.” His post featured a photo of himself with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from their Boston Celtics days, and referred without name to former Celtics coach Doc Rivers. That crew won the NBA championship in 2008 and went back to The Finals in 2010.
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My vets would never go to the media. They would come to the team. My vets didn't pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn't take days off. My vets didn't care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn't blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn't have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn't change the plan because it didn't work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can't win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I'm not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don't deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it's the leadership.
The headstrong Rondo, 30, has been mired in the worst of his 11 NBA seasons, averaging just 6.4 points, 6.5 assists and 27.3 minutes while shooting 36.4 percent. He fell out of favor with the team’s coaching staff in December, serving a one-game suspension on Dec. 5 after arguing with and throwing a towel at associate head coach Jim Boylen.
Then he was benched by head coach Fred Hoiberg in the second half at Indiana on Dec. 30 and was held out of five straight games before returning to the rotation off the bench.
In other words, it’s legit to question Rondo’s motives in fanning flames already lit by Wade and Butler. Wrong messenger, perhaps, for what he posted in reaction to their comments about the team. But given the dirty laundry they aired, not necessarily the wrong message.
The Bulls, who had played a back-to-back set of games, did not practice Thursday. The team’s management, specifically VP of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman, have not responded publicly.
They play host to the Miami Heat Friday at United Center. But given how things are going, an intrasquad scrimmage might be way more intriguing.