While with Sacramento in 2015-16, Rajon Rondo lofts a floater over New Orleans forward Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis says Rajon Rondo can ‘help take Pelicans to the next level’

by Jim Eichenhofer

Over a two-day span next month, four-time NBA All-Star Anthony Davis will host a basketball camp for kids as young as 7, helping them learn as much as possible about their favorite sport. In addition to picking up helpful pointers directly from Davis, children attending the Aug. 7-8 camp might also benefit from watching video clips of another four-time All-Star – Davis’ brand-new teammate, point guard Rajon Rondo.

“He’s very smart,” Davis described Friday of the three-time NBA assists leader. “He knows when to get guys involved, when to get guys shots. He reads defenses very well. His basketball IQ is definitely at another level. Some of the things he does, you can’t teach. He does a great job of knowing when to pass, when to take a shot, when to throw a pocket pass on a pick-and-roll, how to hold off defenders. I’m just glad we can add him to our team.”

Rondo officially signed with New Orleans on Thursday, an addition that gives the Pelicans four starters who’ve been All-Stars in the recent past (DeMarcus Cousins has three All-Star appearances, while Jrue Holiday made the midseason showcase game in 2013). Davis – who like Rondo and Cousins is a University of Kentucky product – described the acquisition as a “no-brainer” from the team’s standpoint.

“He’s a great floor general. He’s a great leader on the floor for guys like me, DeMarcus, Jrue,” Davis said from Los Angeles, where he’s been working out extensively this summer. “I think he sees the court very differently than most players see it, and he’s one of the elite point guards we have in our league.

“When I saw that we were trying to get him, it was a no-brainer. I thought we should do it. When he said he wanted to come, it was definitely an exciting day for us, knowing that we had that point-guard position filled with a guy like Rondo. It can definitely help take us to the next level.”

Davis has only played with Rondo briefly in the past, including during a Kentucky summer alumni game, as well as some pickup hoops in Lexington. But the 24-year-old has seen plenty from afar to be excited about the prospect of benefiting from Rondo’s pick-and-roll acumen and knack for dishing to teammates for easy baskets. Rondo has averaged double-digit assists four times in his NBA career (as well as averaging 9.8 in two other seasons).

“I’m very excited,” Davis said. “He and I will do very well in pick-and-rolls, especially the way I dive to the basket, or I can pick-and-pop. He’s great at finding guys at the right times with the ball. Anyone who’s been in pick-and-rolls with him has been very successful. Hopefully we can do the same thing.”

While playing against Rondo over Davis’ five seasons in the NBA, the 6-foot-11, 254-pounder said New Orleans’ strategy has often been to dare Rondo to shoot from the perimeter, but Davis added that Rondo has continued to improve his jumper. The 6-foot-1 guard had never shot over 31.4 percent from three-point range in any of his first nine NBA seasons, but over the past two campaigns, he connected on 36.5 and 37.6 percent on treys, respectively, with Sacramento and Chicago.

“We knew he can pass the ball very well and run a team,” Davis said of being an opponent, “but the thing for us was just making him shoot, because he’s not that great of a shooter. But he always still found a way to get into the lane and get around his (defender) to make the right play. Hopefully he can do that for us.

“He’s improved his jump shot a lot. Guys can’t really just let him shoot anymore, even though (some) will probably try to do that. He’s good enough where he can take that shot, even when people are backing off of him, and still be able to perform well.”

Davis also expressed optimism about the Pelicans’ new guard tandem of Rondo and Holiday, giving New Orleans a pair of dual threats. Holiday has been one of the Pelicans’ most important defenders, while Rondo was selected NBA All-Defense first or second team four times, every season from 2009-12 (he was All-NBA third team in ‘12).

“They are two tenacious defenders,” Davis said. “Jrue is a stronger, taller defender, but Rondo has those long arms and huge hands. He does a great job of getting steals. Both of them, on the offensive and defensive end, I’m willing to put them up against any backcourt in the league.”

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