For years, NBA free agency rumors have connected the Los Angeles Lakers to Rajon Rondo. Monday, they finally came true, as the guard reportedly agreed to a one-year, $9 million deal to join LeBron James and Lonzo Ball in L.A. next season:
Sources: Rajon Rondo is signing a one-year, $9M deal with Lakers.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 2, 2018
And according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the Lakers might even let him start over Ball:
Regarding Rondo and the Lakers, source says they told him that with LeBron here they’re trying to win now. Best man wins the job.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 2, 2018
Rondo has been told it'll be an open competition at starting point guard. One source close to Lonzo Ball tells me: "Zo's not running from the competition."— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) July 2, 2018
The Lakers were pushing to add Rondo last summer but ultimately couldn’t work a deal out before he agreed to terms with the Pelicans, where he averaged 8.3 points and 8.2 assists while shooting 46.8 percent from the field.
Rondo’s addition makes some sense for the Lakers, who — whether Rondo is starting or not — needed guard depth even after their flurry of offseason additions. In this area, Rondo is a somewhat obvious addition given his experience mentoring younger players and similarities to Ball in being a larger, pass-first point guard (even if such similarities largely end there).
Still, as it stands, renouncing the rights to Julius Randle in order to add Rondo on such a pricey deal seems like a steep price to pay, but is also not unexpected. The Lakers very clearly only want to commit to one-year mercenary deals right now in order to preserve cap space to sign Kawhi Leonard or another star to play alongside James next season, a side effect of which is also keeping the Spurs on their toes and out of leverage to ask for more assets in a Leonard trade.
As a point guard who needs the ball in his hand a fair amount and can’t space the floor, Rondo is a curious fit next to James, which would lead one to believe Ball will still ultimately be declared the starter due to his being of more utility away from the rock. Still, Ball is going to get pushed now, and will have to be better than Rondo rather than just being declared the incumbent starter.
May the best man win.
To track all of the latest free agency rumors about the Lakers, go to this page. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.