Going into the season, there was a lot of buzz around Rajon Rondo, not only because of what he could offer the Los Angeles Lakers on the court, but also because of what he could provide L.A.’s young locker room off the court. While he’s been limited to just 14 games games this season because of a combination of injuries and suspensions, he’s lived up to the hype.
Before the Lakers took on the Golden State Warriors on Monday, Kyle Kuzma said that Rondo has been a big help to the team despite the fact that he hasn’t been able to play at full speed for nearly a month.
“Since he’s been out he’s been just as helpful as he’s been on the court. Talking, helping guys, watching film with guys. When he’s on the court he’s a natural-born leader. He’s a guy that we look to because of all his experiences and his credibility throughout his entire career, so whenever he’s on the court it’s always a good thing for not only the team, but the young guys as well. We look up to him,” Rondo said.
When it was announced that the Lakers signed Rondo to a one-year, $9 million contract, most people assumed that Rondo was brought on to mentor Lonzo Ball and while that may still be true, Rondo’s natural leadership skills have benefitted everyone on the team from Kuzma to rookie Isaac Bonga, who named Rondo as the veteran he was most excited to learn from earlier this season.
“Definitely Rondo,” Bonga said in November. “If I’m trying to be a good point guard, I have to ask him a lot of stuff. He watches a lot of video and that’s what I’m trying to do right now too. If I’m trying to be a leader or go to the next level, I definitely need to start watching video every day.”
He’s not just leading by example, though. Rondo has sat down and had film sessions with just about anyone that has asked, including Kuzma and Ball. He famously had an hour-long film session with Ball and his boss, Magic Johnson — who just happens to be one of the greatest point guards to ever lace up a pair of sneakers — during the preseason.
Rondo is hoping that by watching film with the young players, they learn how to be more vocal leaders on the court, something head coach Luke Walton has put an emphasis on this season.
“We’re talking. Tyson [Chandler] and I, LeBron [James], we’re all trying to teach them what to say, because a lot of times people don’t know what to say so they don’t talk, and right now it’s been a learning curve as far as a lot of film sessions on what guys see out there and what they’re supposed to say,” Rondo told reporters earlier this month.
However, as someone who was also challenged to be a vocal leader on a team with championship aspirations at a young age, Rondo understands that speaking up isn’t always easy.
“It’s a learning curve. You’re not going to always be right, but if you have the right intentions and the right heart about what’s going on then it will always come out pure,” Rondo said.
Rondo will make his return for the Lakers on Thursday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He’s missed the last 14 games because of a Grade 3 finger sprain he suffered on Christmas Day.
With James still sidelined and Lonzo Ball just starting his injury rehab, Rondo believes the young Lakers have to start taking everything they’ve learned and translate it to wins on the court.
“Right now we’re at a crucial part of the season as far as where we’re teaching the guys what to do and how to learn to play the game the right way,” Rondo said. “We still have a lot of young guys with great talent, it’s just for me the game is a lot more mental than physical.”
Hopefully by actually being on the court, Rondo can help the Lakers reach their full potential.