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Rajon Rondo: 'I have nothing but love' for Mavericks

Rajon Rondo and Rick Carlisle didn't exactly see eye-to-eye during Rondo's time in Dallas. Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

Rajon Rondo returns to the American Airlines Center on Tuesday night for the first time since his ugly, bizarre breakup with the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavs made a blockbuster trade for Rondo in December 2014 with the hopes that he could be the piece that elevated them into legitimate contenders. The deal ended up being a disaster, as Rondo and coach Rick Carlisle clashed repeatedly before Rondo was benched in Game 2 of Dallas' first-round series against the Houston Rockets and left the team for good the next day, purportedly due to a previously undisclosed back injury.

Rondo, an All-Star candidate again as the engine of the Sacramento Kings, discussed his brief stint in Dallas with ESPN.com after the Mavs’ visit to Sacramento earlier this season.

Why didn’t it work in Dallas?

Rondo: Every relationship doesn’t work. It just didn’t work. No excuses, no pointing the finger at anybody. It made me stronger, made me appreciate just playing the game, especially playing at a high level. I never doubted myself. It just didn’t work.

When did you realize it wasn’t a good fit?

Rondo: Probably when it was over. Tried to keep on staying positive, but things just didn’t work out for the best for either side. And that’s just part of it. Every player, every coach doesn’t always see eye to eye. Every team doesn’t fit every person’s style of play.

What did you learn from the experience? How did it change you?

Rondo: I don’t know, you go through what you go through. You handle adversity, and I think it made me hungrier. I never [started] doubting myself. It made me work a little bit harder. I think I worked the hardest I’ve ever worked in the NBA this summer. I’m a competitor. I never doubt myself. Always people have counted me out since I got in the league. It never made me any difference. I kept myself around positive people, got a great support system and just kept at it.

Do you feel like the way things went in Dallas hurt your value this summer?

Rondo: No doubt about it. I had a tough three, four months in Dallas. It hurt, but it helped as well. I’m in a great situation. I have no regrets about what happened in Dallas. Everything happens for a reason; I’m a big believer in that. And I’ve got great relationships with those guys [with the Mavs], especially on the staff. Guys like Casey Smith, Mike Procopio, my man [Darrell Armstrong], [Mike] Shedd, the equipment managers Al [Whitley] and Craig [Metcalfe], all those guys. They’re all good people. They treated me really well. I have nothing but love for that organization. Mark Cuban’s a great guy. I don’t have any regrets. I went through what I went through.

You and Rick just couldn’t get on the same page?

Rondo: Yeah, that’s all. We tried. I tried my best, he tried his best and it didn’t work.

Obviously, the way it ended, it’s not a normal ending. The back …

Rondo: Yeah, my back was hurting.

You’re gonna stick with that?

Rondo: What do you mean, stick with it?

Let’s just be honest here. The back’s not the reason you left.

Rondo: Yeah, my back was hurting. What else was reported? I mean, you never heard from me, did you? I haven’t said a word, so …

No, I didn’t hear from you, but I did hear from other people that it was essentially a mutual departure.

Rondo: Yeah, we had some talks. I guess the game where I didn’t continue to play -- that’s why I tell [DeMarcus Cousins], "You have to stay off the floor. The floor is undefeated." In Boston when I had back problems, I would hit the floor a lot. It’s just a nagging feeling. I still to this day try to make an emphasis not to hit the floor.

So you wouldn’t have been able to play the rest of that series because of your back?

Rondo: Um, I could play through anything. But just thinking about I have kids, longevity, I probably would have made more of a conscious effort not to hit the floor, but at the end of the day in the playoffs, you can’t play that way. You just have to play and give it your all.

If they would have asked you to come off the bench, would you have been OK with that?

Rondo: No, I wouldn’t have been OK with it, but if it would have helped the team win, I would have gotten over it. I’m not going to be too detrimental to the team. Like I said, all those guys over there, we always joked, laughed, played cards together. I was always about the team, regardless of our relationship wasn’t working out or didn’t work out, whatever you want to say. It’s like a brotherhood.

If you could go back, would you have stuck around for that series, hurt or not?

Rondo: Well, both parties talked about it, and I didn’t want to draw too much negativity to the team. I may have ended up doing that anyway, but I didn’t want to be a part of that. People said what they said about me, but it didn’t bother me at all.

You felt like you sticking around wasn’t going to help and might hurt?

Rondo: I think it ended up hurting anyway. But me just sticking around, I didn’t want any more tension between myself and Rick and all the media attention that it was getting. People were seeing stuff on the floor, like making up plays that I took off, and it’s like, some plays I might take off to this day. I mean, I was tired, so you just never know. I just wanted to get out of there and just lay low and had a talk with my agent. But that’s water under the bridge.

Anything Mavericks fans should know or you want them to hear from you?

Rondo: I mean, I loved every minute I was there. I don’t regret it. The fans treated me with a lot of respect, and I played as hard as possible every night. I wanted to win. I’m going to always be a competitor.