The Rajon Rondo experiment could be the greatest test the Cavaliers face this season

When comparing the playstyles of Ricky Rubio to Rajon Rondo, it's apples to bananas. That, along with Rondo's strong personality, could be a challenge for head coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

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When Cleveland Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio crumpled to the floor in the team's 108-104 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, you could tell immediately it wasn't good. Rubio immediately grabbed his left knee and motioned toward the bench. His teammates had to help carry him off the court, unable to put any weight on his left leg. Rubio immediately headed back toward Cleveland's locker room, with many wondering if that would be the last time he would appear in a Cavaliers uniform.

“It was really, really hard for me,” said Cleveland forward Kevin Love. “I could see the pain he was in when he went down. … Him and I have such a history, and I genuinely care for Ricky’s well-being, so just seeing him go down like that, I just prayed that he was going to be okay, and I obviously still do.

“But just completely gutted. It’s tough for me. I obviously saw him, I think it was 2012 when he went down, and I was with him then and kind of the same reaction, but now we’ve gone through the league for so many years, and just took the complete air out of the team. I’m just pained, just gutted for him.”

Unfortunately, Rubio is done for the season. An ACL tear in his left knee was revealed in an MRI, which was administered Wednesday at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health Center. Rubio suffered the same injury during his rookie season at Minnesota, when he tore his ACL in his left knee in March 2012.

Rubio's injury is yet another hit to a Cavaliers team that keeps finding a way to get back up and keep fighting. But, it couldn't have come at a worse time for Cleveland. Star guard Darius Garland is sidelined due to the NBA's COVID protocols. Right before Rubio blew out his knee, the free agency market for guards dried up as well. So, that's why fans are seeing Kevin Pangos, an overseas journeyman ill-equipped to play NBA basketball, starting for the Cavaliers.

It became clear quickly in Cleveland's 110-93 loss to the Washington Wizards that Pangos isn't capable of handling legitimate minutes in an NBA rotation. That's why, in the moment, the Cavaliers finalizing a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire Hall of Fame point Rajon Rondo feels like a saving grace for Cleveland. According to sources, the Cavaliers are finalizing the details with the Lakers in order to acquire Rondo as soon as today.

Those same sources said that Cleveland will send the partially guaranteed contract of Denzel Valentine to acquire Rondo. Los Angeles will then waive Valentine in order to create a roster spot to sign Stanley Johnson to a long-term deal. In a vacuum, this trade makes perfect sense for Cleveland. As the Cavaliers continue to get healthy with players exiting league health and safety protocols, plugging in a strong veteran point guard in Rondo behind Garland can hopefully keep this remarkable season for the Cavaliers going.

But, of course, that's all in a vacuum and there are questions that come with the acquisition of Rondo. When comparing the playstyles of Rubio to Rondo, it's apples to bananas. Rubio likes to play at a frenetic pace, getting teammates frequently involved for easy buckets all while looking for shots to keep the momentum going for his team. Rondo, meanwhile, is well known to play at a slower pace and allows the flow of the offense to come to him, and his team, in order to create opportunities for others.

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During his time with the Dallas Mavericks Rajon Rondo was known to publicly clash and criticize then head coach Rick Carlisle due to the team's offensive identity. Could this rear its head again in Cleveland?

Mind you, that's not something to knock Rondo for – it's what has made his career Hall of Fame worthy. But, it's also going to muddle things for a Cleveland team that enjoys playing at a faster pace at times. That in itself is going to be a challenge for head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and his staff to figure out, especially when Rondo has a track record of clashing with coaches in the past when trying to force him to fit a system that may not play to his overall strengths offensively.

If that goes well, then things will be humming along like they normally do. But, if they don't, it could become an issue for the Cavaliers who already have a young and impressionable locker room. Rondo is going to be brought in with the expectation to be a veteran presence for Cleveland, similar to how they brought in Rubio before him. But, if he butts heads with Bickerstaff on how the offense should be run when he checks in, it could become a thorn in the side for the Cavaliers. Thankfully, by all accounts, Rondo is a great leader for younger teams. It's what made him so endearing to many during his time with the Chicago Bulls. So, there hopefully shouldn't be too much to worry about on that front. But it's still worth watching going forward.

Something also worth watching is the issue of where Cleveland will get their offensive production from after acquiring Rondo. But, to be fair to Rondo, the Cavaliers shouldn't expect him to provide the same offense Rubio did for them. Thankfully, with Garland hopefully back soon they can fill some of the void left by Rubio being out on top of Collin Sexton being sidelined for the year with a meniscus injury. But, do not be surprised if the Cavaliers make another trade for someone like Caris LeVert as well in order to fill the void as well. According to sources, Cleveland is a big fan of LeVert's game and would like to add him to their roster. Those same sources also said that Indiana is very open to moving Levert as well.

But, it all remains to be seen what will happen going forward. For now, all that is certain is that Rondo will be the latest member to join the Cavaliers and what they're building. Bringing Rondo into the fold on the fly will certainly be a new challenge for Bickerstaff and the rest of Cleveland's roster. Hopefully, it goes smoothly for the Cavaliers. It could be the greatest test Cleveland faces this season.

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