Rajon Rondo is ready to be honest about everything that went wrong for the Los Angeles Lakers this past season, and regardless of what you think of his game or role in those struggles, it’s fascinating to hear a veteran as respected as he was by the whole locker room give his unfiltered take on everything that went down.
Rondo pushed back on the (frankly lazy) narrative that the Lakers’ younger players were the only ones affected by the Anthony Davis trade rumors, admitting that he saw it shake the veterans on the team as well. He also told Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report that he understood why the other reasons that some members of the team struggled to buy in, even beyond the rumors and noise:
“If the organization doesn’t give a guy a multiyear deal, how much can that guy really invest in the team?” Rondo asks. “His thinking is: ‘You don’t really believe in me. You’re just trying to fill a void. I’m just a plug-in.’ You can say you’re playing for a contract; on mediocre teams, OK, but on championship-caliber teams, it doesn’t work that way. Guys aren’t willing to make sacrifices.”
Now, some will dismiss this because, as you may have heard, even the lowest-paid veteran Lakers made quite a bit more than the average person over the last year.
But money doesn’t solve every problem. In the case of the trade rumors, it’s easy to tell a player to just be professional, but much harder to actually do that when someone is facing the prospect of spending the next several months without their kids or family, or the possibility of having to relocate themselves to a new city and situation at the drop of a hat.
The same thing goes for the players on one-year deals. Yes, they’re being compensated handsomely by the standards of an average person, but without the security of guaranteed money, are guys really going to lay it all on the line all the time? Dive for every loose ball, and risk the limited years they have to make a living off of basketball in the process?
You might think they should, but if your employer told you they might send you to another city in two days, would you really give it your all over those next couple of shifts? I’d imagine for most, the answer is probably not. That’s just human nature, no matter how much money you’re making. Everyone wants to feel wanted.
For the Lakers, where they can apply this knowledge moving forward is by investing this summer. If they get stars, it might be harder to get guys to agree to multi-year deals with what little space they have left, but even if they strike out, the Lakers should at least commit to building a team through the rest of LeBron James’ tenure. If they can’t get stars, target under-valued role players on movable, multi-year deals.
Expiring contracts aren’t the only way to generate cap space, and if the Lakers aren’t so stocked with them next season, maybe they’ll be able to build the type of chemistry that only comes with continuity.