Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo Returns

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

Less than one calendar year after playing a key role in L.A.’s 2020 Championship in the NBA Bubble, Rajon Rondo is back with the Lakers.

“This is a special team,” said Rondo on Tuesday afternoon after the team announced his return, stating his goal of winning another title, but one with an actual parade this time. “It’s a hell of a team as far as competitors.”

Rondo said key relationships – with teammates LeBron James and Anthony Davis, VP of Basketball Ops Rob Pelinka, and coach Frank Vogel – were key reasons he wanted to come back. He spoke to Vogel Tuesday morning, and Vogel relayed how much he missed having Rondo in the locker room.

The 35-year-old is set to enter his 16th NBA campaign, a year after he split time between Atlanta, with whom he signed as a free agent, and the Clippers, who traded for him after 34 games.

Rondo’s previous two seasons, including the title-winning year, came with the Lakers, and his best run of play came in the 2020 playoffs, as dictated by his production:

Reg. season: 20.5 mpg, 7.1 ppg, 41.8% FG’s, 32.8% 3’s, 5.0 apg, 3.0 rpg, 0.8 spg
Postseason: 24.7 mpg, 8.9 ppg, 45.5% FG’s, 40.0% 3’s, 6.6 apg, 4.3 rpg, 1.4 spg

And yet, the value of Rondo during that stretch wasn’t just on the floor. As a player known for his mastery of the sport, plus his willingness to speak his mind to star players and rookies alike, he was an invaluable piece in the locker room, film room and dining room.

He’ll be a welcome presence on a roster that has only four of his 2019-20 teammates (LeBron, AD, Talen Horton-Tucker and Dwight Howard) back, alongside several veterans against whom he’s competed for many years like Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza and Marc Gasol. Young players like Kendrick Nunn and Malik Monk will surely benefit from his tutelage just like THT repeatedly said he did as a rookie.

“More excitement, more energy in practice” is how Rondo described Westbrook, and he noted how eager he is to compete with the likes of Anthony and Ariza, who’ve been in the NBA even longer than him. And that, he added, is a compliment – guys that play this long know what they’re doing. It’s not exactly easy to play in the NBA for that long.

Rondo’s role on the basketball floor for the coming season has yet to be determined, but the same could be said for almost the entire roster, set aside LeBron, AD and Westbrook.

“It hasn’t been 10 years,” he said when asked about where his game is at relative to his performance in the Bubble. “I don’t think I’ve changed much. I don’t think my game has declined … but I understand (the stage of my career)… my main focus is if we win, nothing else matters.”

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