The Los Angeles Lakers paired two of the brightest basketball minds in the NBA when they signed LeBron James and Rajon Rondo this offseason.
While it might take some time for fans to get used to seeing Rondo, who spent nearly a decade with the Boston Celtics, in the purple and gold, Rondo has already bought into what the Lakers are selling. He even went as far as to say the Lakers may be the best organization he’s ever played for.
“This is definitely a players-first organization,” Rondo said after practice on Monday. “I can’t say it’s not the best I’ve ever played for as far as the staff.”
Rondo praised the organizations employees for how they welcome players the second they walk in the door and how polite they are, always asking if the players need anything, a mindset that extends all the way to the front office.
“From Magic, to Rob, they’re always around just trying to encourage you. Or whatever you may need as a player, they’re always willing to give it to you or find a way to help you. Off the court, on the court,” Rondo said. “You expect (that from) certain teams, certain franchises.
“Obviously Boston that was probably the best experience I’ve had since I’ve left there, and now here. Other teams I’ve played for, they do have great organizations, but none can touch this.”
In his 12-year career, Rondo has played for a handful of storied franchises including the aforementioned Celtics, the Chicago Bulls and now the Lakers.
Rondo saying that the Lakers are arguably the greatest organization he’s ever played for less than three months after signing his contract with the team is a testament to the culture Lakers owner Jeanie Buss has built since she pushed the reset button on the team’s front office just over a year ago. It also speaks to the way head coach Luke Walton continues to approach his locker room every day.
“We put a lot of time and effort into it. The culture of a team is, from my experience, as important if not more important than a lot of other things,” Walton said. “We’re down here working with our guys, we believe in having those open relationships with the players, taking their opinions. Just doing hands-on work with them and letting them know we care.
“I think if you ask players that have left here they will say the same thing, and we do it when new guys come in.”
An extension of that culture comes through the young players the organization has hand-picked over the past year. Rondo said that the Lakers’ collection of young talent has done things he’s never seen from a young team before.
“I love our young guys and their commitment, the way they study the game, their willingness to learn,” Rondo said. “I was telling ‘Bron today, we were on the plane and I’ve never seen damn near 12 guys watching film as a team. I haven’t seen that many guys combined in my last four or five seasons out there as a team. It was very refreshing to see and understand this team and its commitment.”
What kinds of clips?— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 15, 2018
"They're defense. Kuz knows not to send me offense. We're working on his defense."
This backs up just about everything that has came out of the locker room this summer. Whether it be Kyle Kuzma watching film with Rondo or Lonzo Ball having film sessions with Rondo and Magic Johnson, it’s evident there has been an increased effort in recent months to get the Lakers’ youngsters to value watching tape.
However, despite being one of the veterans on the team, Rondo said he is just as eager to learn as the young guys are, particularly from James.
“When LeBron talks, he was breaking down some film and everyone was looking like you guys,” Rondo said to the group of reporters hanging on his every quote. “I was one of the guys as well, like ‘what can I learn?’
“It’s great to have a guy like him on your team that’s willing to give you knowledge and help make your game a lot easier.”
Rondo will have plenty of opportunities to learn from James, as the 32-year-old is expected to be the Lakers’ starting point guard for the foreseeable future. Rondo practiced with the first unit on Monday and started every game he was available for in the preseason.
It’s unclear if head coach Luke Walton plans to keep Rondo in the starting lineup, but if Rondo has made one thing clear during his brief time with the Lakers, it’s that he’s here to help in any way he can. Starter or not, that’s the type of player the organization is seeking for its culture, and it sounds like Rondo is happy to be a perfect fit.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.