The Lakers received an enormous amount of attention from the media last season about a variety of topics that didn’t include their play on the basketball court. Among them were Luke Walton’s contract status, the working relationship (and effectiveness) of Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson, and the Klutch Sports influence in Los Angeles.
Combine that with an injury-riddled season that saw everyone other than LeBron James constantly mentioned in trade rumors through the February trade deadline, and you would expect that to create some disorder in the locker room.
Rajon Rondo, who suffered two separate hand injuries and was part of at least one potential trade package for Anthony Davis, didn’t see it that way. For him, this was just par for the course for the Laker franchise, as he told Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:
For the most part, though, Rondo argues playing for the Lakers wasn’t as chaotic as it has come to appear from the outside.
”Biggest market, biggest media, you know what you’re coming into with LeBron James on the team,” he says. “To me it wasn’t as crazy. The way things ended, the way Magic exited, maybe. Things happen. You learn. ... I think we held it together as best as possible.”
It would be hard to say that the Lakers “held it together,” considering how the team played for most of 2019, and the performance of the veterans was arguably the most impacted. Rondo admitted that the older players on the team were affected by the noise surrounding the Lakers during the Davis drama, resulting in a tantrum by an unnamed vet during a February loss in Atlanta.
Rondo was hardly immune to wild swings in his level of production. However, he did enjoy the most consistent relationship with Walton and the coaching staff, so it stands to reason that he would have the most positive memories of this season. (It’s also reasonable that a coaching staff that played Rondo 30 minutes per game is no longer employed in Los Angeles.)
Then again, maybe after coming into his own with the big three in Boston, or feuding with Rick Carlisle in Dallas, or being part of a generational divide in Chicago (long live the three alphas), or watching DeMarcus Cousins go down with an Achilles injury in New Orleans — it’s possible that Rondo is somewhat immune to this level of drama. Like he said, he knew what he was getting into playing for the Lakers with LeBron.
It isn’t exactly reassuring for the Lakers going forward that the only player seemingly at peace with how last season went has had such a tumultuous NBA career. Although it’s good for Rondo that he was able to block out the noise, odds are other players won’t be as fortunate. That means the task of creating a stable locker room culture next season should be among the team’s highest priorities. Maybe now that the Davis drama won’t linger into next season, keeping the noise to a minimum will be easier for the organization in year two of the LeBron era.