Lonzo Ball was given a long leash during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging a team-high 34.2 minutes per game. With no one to really threaten his role — no, Tyler Ennis doesn’t count — Ball was given the keys to the car right away, but the lack of depth behind him was exposed when Ball missed 30 games due to injuries.
This summer, the Lakers signed Rajon Rondo to make sure that lack of depth isn’t exposed again, but according to general manager Rob Pelinka, the veteran will also serve another valuable purpose (via Spectrum Sportsnet and Lakers.com):
“I told you the one thing that was missing (last year) was we didn’t have a mentor for Lonzo. A veteran to mentor him. So last season, he really had to learn on his own, every game. Not this season. And we brought in the right mentor.”
Rondo has already said that he’s looking forward to mentoring Ball, even if he’ll also reportedly be competing for the starting job with him, and Rondo was by all accounts a good veteran to the young players in New Orleans and Chicago.
But even while Rondo has said all the right things, mentoring a player who he’ll be fighting for minutes with is a different dynamic then mentoring a player who doesn’t realistically have a chance to cut into his playing time.
Still, Ball and Rondo have comparable playing styles, even if they aren’t 1:1 mirror images. If there was a player for Ball to learn veteran habits from, there are worse places for that knowledge to come from than Rondo. If he’s truly willing to take Ball under his wing — and Ball is willing to accept the tutelage — then this could be a phenomenal addition for the Lakers. It just remains to be seen if everything will go perfectly, and we won’t get answers until the season gets a bit closer.