With Rajon Rondo's move to Dallas, Western Conference may get tougher

With Rajon Rondo's move to Dallas, Western Conference may get tougher
Says Clippers Coach Doc Rivers of the possibly improved Dallas Mavericks and the Western Conference as a whole: "They were a contender in the West before the trade. So, yeah, them and nine other teams. I mean, everybody's a contender in the West." (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Rajon Rondo now plays for the Dallas Mavericks, which could make things more difficult for the Clippers in the Western Conference.

Or not.


"It doesn't mean anything," Clippers point guard Chris Paul said Friday, "until you see how a team plays."

He has a point. Memphis traded Pau Gasol to the Lakers in 2008, and they went to the NBA Finals four months later. Miami traded Shaquille O'Neal to Phoenix that year, and the Suns didn't get out of the first round of the playoffs.

The Mavericks certainly got better in theory by acquiring the four-time All-Star point guard from the Boston Celtics on Thursday. Rondo leads the league in assists (10.8 per game) and is averaging a career high in rebounds (7.5).

The betting website Bovada lowered the Mavericks' NBA title odds from 12-1 to 15-2 after the trade. (For those wondering, the Clippers are listed at 14-1.)

"They were a contender in the West before the trade," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said of a team that also includes Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons. "So, yeah, them and nine other teams. I mean, everybody's a contender in the West."

The Clippers will find out how different the Mavericks are when the teams meet Jan. 10 at Staples Center.

"You always have to wait and see, but Rondo's figured it out, man," Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick said. "He's one of the smartest players in the league, and he's uber competitive, and [Rick] Carlisle's a great coach. They're going to be great."

Going somewhere?

Rondo wasn't the only player on the move in the West. The Houston Rockets bolstered their small forward ranks by acquiring Corey Brewer from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Rivers said he expected a flurry of moves to unfold in the wake of the Rondo trade.

"Once the first deal happened, it loosens up everybody," Rivers said. "They all have their hands on that lever, and now they're pulling it."

Does Rivers, the president of basketball operations who has long been seeking an upgrade at small forward, have his hand on the lever?

"No, I don't have a lever," Rivers said. "Not yet."

Contingency plan

Rivers has formulated a plan if he wants to rest DeAndre Jordan during a compacted portion of the schedule and the center protests because he holds the NBA's longest active consecutive games streak, which stands at 266.

"I would play him," Rivers said. "For a minute."

The Clippers' game against the Denver Nuggets on Friday night was part of a stretch of six games in nine days.


Reserve forward-center Spencer Hawes (bruised left knee) did not travel with the Clippers to Denver, Rivers said, because of the quick turnaround of the one-game trip. Rivers said Hawes, who has been sidelined since early in the Clippers' loss to Washington on Dec. 12, was "getting closer" and would not have to practice before playing again.


When: 7:30 PST Saturday

Where: Staples Center.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 980, 1330.

Records: Bucks 14-13; Clippers 18-8.

Record vs. Bucks: 0-1.

Update: Milwaukee rookie forward Jabari Parker will sit out the rest of the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Monday. Parker scored 12 points on Dec. 13 during the Bucks' 111-106 victory over the Clippers, who couldn't hold the four-point lead they had early in the fourth quarter. That was the Clippers' first loss of the season on the second night of a back-to-back situation.

Twitter: @latbbolch