Rajon Rondo has had a fantastic career despite such a short tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ah yes, the lone silver lining of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise tying the Boston Celtics franchise in titles with 17 in Boston: Feeling good for Rajon Rondo and his absurdly layered redemption narrative coming full circle.
A little over five years removed from Rondo’s tumultuous, short-lived Dallas Mavericks tenure, folks were certain any chance of him being an integral piece of a championship team again like he was for the 2008 Celtics, was gone. Prevented by his brash arrogance and personality that has rubbed countless former teammates the wrong way.
To have a great, veteran coach in Rick Carlisle give up on him after just a five-month stint, and have multiple public shouting matches and straight-up benching the polarizing point guard, it was certainly the lowest of the low for Rondo in his career.
When considering the context of both parties: Carlisle a few years removed from leading his Mavs to the 2011 title through a loaded western conference and the historic Miami “Heatles”, while Rondo was still dealing with the leaks of feuds with former Celtics coach Doc Rivers and Ray Allen on his way out of Boston. The consensus narrative in the league around Rondo was the headache isn’t worth the services he provides.
That seemed to still be the case after a forgetful season with a consistently rebuilding Sacramento Kings following his time in Dallas. Then, he famously helped lead an 8 seed Chicago Bulls team to a 2-0 lead alongside Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade over his former Celtics in the first round of the 2017 playoffs.
And a right thumb injury at the end of that game 2 kept him out for the next four games in which the Bulls lost all four on a fast track to Cancun with his absence being the difference.
At that juncture, his negative narrative had scaled back a tad. It became more clear that in Dallas, Rondo may have just been too smart for his own good. As the world was just reminded of how insurmountably valuable his IQ, commitment, experience, and overall savviness is come playoff time.
Then we saw Rondo find new stomping grounds yet again. This time in New Orleans, where we’d see a near-perfect connection and fit with then Pelican Anthony Davis. A foreshadow for what would be to come in Rondo’s vindicated roller-coaster legacy.
With two top three players in the association leading these Los Angeles Lakers in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the only doubts Lakers nation had about winning a title were head coach Frank Vogel’s in-game adjustments and if the Lakers could get offensive production from a third guy consistently.
In recent memory with Cleveland, LeBron teams constantly ran into the issue of being unable to sustain leads when he needed a blow on the bench. This postseason, he was able to do so stress-free with Rondo running the show.
His excellent film studying and subsequent full understanding of each opponent and ability to control the pace and flow of a game were instrumental in this postseason run. A quintessential extension of the coach.
With outstanding intangibles and hard-nosed defense combined with a well documented incredible facilitating ability and shockingly shooting at a very high clip from three throughout this postseason, he was undeniably an asset to this championship mix.
Now all of a sudden Rondo is an unrestricted free agent and therefore a high commodity in the free-agent market in a glaringly weak free-agent class. If I’m Rob Pelinka and the Lakers front office, though it doesn’t seem that LeBron has any interest in showing old age or deterioration at all, entering season number 18 it’s in the Lakers best interest to hang onto that backup point guard to run the show while LeBron sits.
The Lakers can also retain Rondo on a more reasonable price tag than most available point guards. Though this postseason run has earned him a sizably upgraded deal than his $2.5 million base salary from this past year.
It’s quite likely that’s what the Lakers will do, and a 34-year-old Rondo will have a sustained home for the first time since the end of his Celtic tenure. However, the one event that may send Rondo packing elsewhere again is the swirling rumors of the Lakers’ interest in acquiring Chris Paul.
An on-brand truth to Rondo’s narrative, having infamously spit in Paul’s face nearly two years ago in one of his first games for the Lakers.
Although Paul would be a great fit to the Lakers roster makeup and identity, hypothetically distancing themselves as even greater title favorites for 2021, Paul’s hefty payroll hit and questionable “assets” the Lakers would have to give in return to Oklahoma City should prevent it.
Expect the Lakers to run it back for the most part outside of adding some perimeter bench scoring, with Rondo astoundingly serving as an integral piece, yet again.