Rajon Rondo has had an up-and-down year in his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers. The veteran floor general has missed 34 of the team’s 76 games with a combination of injuries and an early season suspension for fighting with Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul, and when Rondo has been in the lineup — especially down the stretch — he hasn’t been able to make the type of impact the team was probably hoping for when they signed him to a one-year, $9 million deal in July.
All that aside, Rondo told Dave McMenamin of ESPN that he still has interest in coming back to the Lakers next year:
“Absolutely,” Rondo told ESPN when asked if he wanted to come back to the Lakers next season. “Absolutely. I mean, the only way we can go from here is up.
”So, I don’t know what the future holds as far as the summer -- if I come back, or who else comes back or if I don’t come back. Those things are out of my control. But at the same time, it’s a great organization. I can’t say enough about the staff and the people who work here. They’re really kind and helpful, so I want to continue, if I can, help this organization grow.”
In fact, Rondo apparently was originally trying to sign in L.A. on a multiyear deal, and is still interested in staying long-term, even if he ultimately is only signed for this current season:
He is finishing out a one-year, $9 million deal with the Lakers but said there were discussions between him, his agent Bill Duffy and the Lakers last summer about coming to L.A. on a multiyear commitment.
”We talked about it,” Rondo said. “As far as long term, maybe not like a six-year deal, but you know, I’m only 33.”
Our own Laker Film Room summed up the reaction of most Lakers fans to reading the above quotes:
Please God no— Laker Film Room (@LakerFilmRoom) March 30, 2019
Rondo’s numbers this season tell the story of why so many would be unenthusiastic about his return. The Lakers have been a full eight points per 100 possessions worse when Rondo is on the floor than they are when he sits, according to NBA.com, and he’s additionally posted the second-worst field-goal percentage of his career (40.4 percent), per Basketball-Reference.
Really, outside Rondo’s leadership — which Luke Walton and LeBron James separately credited Rondo for after the Lakers’ 129-115 win against the Hornets on Friday, and Rondo himself has said is really important to him — his impact on the team has been pretty muted, if not an outright negative, at least on the court.
Now, there are arguments to be made that Rondo’s veteran leadership and experience are valuable enough to outweigh on-court factors, but the bottom line is that the Lakers need to win next season, and they need a more capable option to play the majority of the minutes at point guard for the team. If that just means Lonzo Ball staying healthy, great, but the Lakers certainly can’t afford to sink $9 million into a backup point guard that isn’t a major difference-maker on the floor again.
There is also the reality that while James and Rondo clearly have a ton of mutual respect for one another’s basketball IQs, and that part of Rondo’s addition was an attempt to ease James’ playmaking burden, James himself essentially deemed that roster experiment a failure recently, and while he wouldn’t say this himself, he and Rondo don’t really complement each other on the floor. Both players need the ball in their hands to be their most effective — and Rondo is a borderline hinderance without it — but it makes no sense to take the ball out of James’ hands with any frequency in order to maximize Rondo.
The Lakers may see positive impact from Rondo’s tenure in L.A. over the years to come, because as mentioned above, he has genuinely gone out of his way to try and teach the habits necessary for winning to the team’s young core. It just remains to be seen if they should double-down on trying to see a positive impact from him on the floor again when he just may not have that ability at this stage of his career, and especially not in this specific roster situation.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.