The contact was somewhat surprising given the Lakers’ stated desire to add “shooting and defense” and Rondo fulfilling neither skill set, but doing due diligence is never a bad thing and it didn’t sound like a signing was imminent.
It appears Los Angeles’ interest may have been more than due diligence. While Ramona Shelburne of ESPN prefaced her report by saying the Lakers were “obviously hanging back at start of free agency,” she added that “one player they continue to give strong consideration to is Rajon Rondo.”
Update: Mark Medina of the Southern California News Group confirmed Shelburne’s report while adding that the two sides would talk more on Sunday and Monday.
The Lakers need a back-up point guard behind likely starter Lonzo Ball, and if Rondo was willing to come on a one-year deal so the Lakers could conserve cap space for 2018, then he could be a decent signing for the team if the price was right.
But while the front office surely knows this, the Rondo the Lakers would be getting is not the one that went up against them in the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals, or the improved one that morphed into one of the best point guards in the Eastern Conference in the years after.
Rondo averaged 10.7 points and 8.5 assists last season for the Chicago Bulls last season, but his unique brand of assist-gunning inflates the latter numbers. While some have cited his 3-point shooting last season as being better than D’Angelo Russell’s when addressing criticisms of his shooting, Rondo only attempted 133 threes last year, aka two less attempts than Russell had makes.
Rondo didn’t even average two attempts per game, and his makes were often set up for him:
94 percent of Rondo's made threes last season were assisted.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) July 2, 2017
Russell was assisted on 63.7 percent of his threes.
Rondo also doesn’t necessarily address the Lakers need for defense, despite his reputation. The Bulls were 3.5 points per 100 possessions better defensively when Rondo sat than when he played, according to NBA.com. That’s not a perfect way to measure individual defense, but it’s something to note.
For whatever it’s worth, the young Bulls players reportedly swore by Rondo as a mentor last season, although the downside of his locker room intangibles is that he’s battled with basically every coach he’s ever had in the NBA.
The Lakers could make worse signings (see last summer for reference), and ultimately their goal is a stop-gap option until next summer and nothing more. Rondo has been linked to the Lakers going back to the last front office, so obviously someone in their brass likes him. We’ll see if this is the time he actually ends up in purple and gold.