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Bulls-Rajon Rondo drama takes bizarre twist

WASHINGTON – Rajon Rondo isn’t going away.

He’s not going to fade quietly into the night, he’s not going to run home to mommy, and he’s definitely not taking directions to the nearest pasture.

No, if certain members of the Bulls front office or coaching staff want to get rid of the 30-year-old point guard sooner than later, they’re going to have to stand up out of the shadows and get their hands dirty themselves.

Enough of these back channels trying to justify his benching or unnamed coaches warning Rondo that they are trying to “save me from myself.’’

Those are acts of a second-rate franchise.

But following the 101-99 loss to Washington on Tuesday, maybe that’s all the Bulls are these days.

The Rondo drama opened an entirely new chapter in the hours leading up to that game with the Wizards, as the Bulls suddenly found themselves undermanned. Dwyane Wade had the night off to rest, while Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic were dealing with flu-like symptoms.

That meant they had to turn to Rondo after a 5 ½-game benching. The same Rondo that has felt so ostracized these days that he’s been getting his basketball fix playing pick-up games at Irving Middle School in the Village of Maywood.

The same Rondo who was still trying to get his arms around the real reason for his benching.

“I got a slight explanation from another guy on the staff,’’ Rondo said, when asked why this benching has occurred. “A guy told me that he was saving me from myself.’’

When asked who that guy was, Rondo replied, “Who is he? I don’t want to say any names. But that’s what the explanation was. [In] Cleveland [last week], they told me I had a negative 20 [in the plus/minus category] in Indiana at halftime. I think that was part of the reason.’’

Rondo was asked how he interpreted what that staff member told him and replied, “I thought it was bulls***, you know.’’

The veteran was asked if coach Fred Hoiberg has given him the details of his circumstances and said, “Um. How can I say this? No.’’

Hoiberg, who has claimed that the decision was all his, was asked about an explanation and gave a vague response.

“I’ve talked to him about it,’’ Hoiberg said. “The biggest thing we talked about is how he’s handled it. He’s handled it great.’’

It was the “save me from myself’’ comment, however, that Rondo had a problem with.

“Save me from myself. I never heard that before in my life,’’ Rondo said. “But I guess he was trying to do the best thing for me.’’

Asked directly if he felt he was lied to by the Bulls when they were signing him, Rondo said, “Depends on how you guys write it. But yeah, it’s different. When I signed here, why I wanted to come here, it’s a lot different than what I anticipated.’’

He even fired off, “You’re only as good as your coach thinks you are. That’s a big part of each individual’s success in the NBA.’’

So how was Rondo in his return?

The guard scored 12 points, handed out six assists, grabbed four rebounds and had three steals, while posting a plus-four in plus/minus. A performance that had Hoiberg insisting that Rondo earned minutes come Thursday in New York.

After that? Nothing is guaranteed with this team.

“We’re a much better team with [Rondo] on the court,’’ Taj Gibson said after the game.

A strong statement from the veteran big man.

One that likely fell on deaf ears up top.