Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler both criticized their teammates following their 119-114 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night, a game that saw the Chicago Bulls blow an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter.
On Thursday, teammate Rajon Rondo offered a scathing response on Instagram:
"My vets would never go to the media," Rondo wrote in the caption. "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."
As Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports noted, Rondo can't easily walk back his comments:
On Friday, Bulls general manager Gar Forman told reporters, "We were extremely disappointed several players chose to speak out." He added that every team has issues but it's important to keep those issues "in house." Forman also told reporters the team had spoken to Rondo, Wade and Butler about their comments.
Rondo's criticism of the "leadership" stems from Wade's questioning the team's effort and desire to win following the loss to the Hawks.
"I don't know if I see enough guys who really want it," he said after the game, per Agence France-Presse (h/t Yahoo Sports). "Losses like this, it has to hurt them. I'm 35 years old, man. I got three championships. It shouldn't hurt me more than it hurts these young guys. They have to want it."
When asked about Rondo and his comments on Friday, Wade told reporters "I have no ill intentions toward anybody."
"We weren't guarding anybody, doing whatever we wanted to do, and we lost," Wade said. "Story of our year. Over and over. Same thing. It's not the first time we've seen this. It's not the first time we've done it."
Wade and Butler's frustrations were perhaps warranted after the former scored 33 points in the contest and the latter put up 40 points. But Rondo—who posted three points and three assists in 10 minutes off the bench—took issue with how those frustrations were vented.
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"It can go one or two ways," Butler told reporters. "Get better and win or sit and lost. If we win [it's] a good thing. If we lose it wasn't." However, the shooting guard did say he shouldn't have vented his frustrations to the media, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
Johnson added that both Wade and Butler implied they were fined for the incident.
Rondo wasn't the only player to respond to Wade and Butler on social media.
On Wednesday night, Jerian Grant posted a string of tweets: "Tough loss, that hurt for sure. But I play hard TO WIN every second I'm out there, and grind everyday for everything I have. I've played this game since I was 4yrs old. Basketball is in my blood and means way more to me than just a paycheck. The ONLY way I know how to play, is to win. My point is I work hard, I play hard, and I play to win for our team."
And in a since-deleted tweet, Isaiah Canaan wrote, "Tough Loss!!! We Win & Lose Together," according to Johnson.
Johnson also noted Wade and Butler have been frustrated, at least in part, with the play of Nikola Mirotic and Michael Carter-Williams. Mirotic scored nine points on 3-of-11 shooting from the field in 18 minutes Wednesday night, while Carter-Williams did not see the court.
As David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune opined, the pair's comments were ultimately an indictment on more than the players:
It seems all is not well in the Windy City. After starting the season 11-7, the Bulls are 23-24 and barely holding on to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The team needs some sort of spark. Wade and Butler seem to be trying to provide it.
Given the nature of Rondo's response, however, that may have been a miscalculation.