The Lakers have officially signed Rajon Rondo, their 14th player on next year’s roster. The terms were originally reported as two years at the minimum.
This marks the first time since Rondo was traded from Boston to Dallas that he will start the season in the same place that he finished the last one. Over the past five years, Rondo has gone from Dallas to Sacramento to Chicago to New Orleans and then Los Angeles. It seems fitting that the point guard nomad has found his only two NBA homes with the Celtics and the Lakers.
The point guard pool was fairly limited this late in free agency, and Rondo is about as good as the other backcourt options such as Jeremy Lin, Jerryd Bayless, and Raymond Felton. He also has a level of familiarity with both Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, having played with both big men on the Pelicans, and with Cousins on the Kings.
As a result, this appears to be akin to a marriage of convenience. The Lakers don’t seem to be as enamored with Rondo as they were last season, when they signed him for $9 million. Not only is the value of this current contract lower, but the team is also rumored to be considering starting LeBron James at point guard, and not Rondo.
Rondo was a favorite of former head coach Luke Walton and his minutes load last season didn’t really correspond with his level of production on the floor. That was while the Lakers still employed another starting-caliber point guard in Lonzo Ball, in addition to other creators like Brandon Ingram and James. New coach Frank Vogel has no previous attachments to Rondo, and thus may have a more realistic opinion of the 33 year-old’s performance at this point in his career.
If the Lakers are truly considering playing James at point guard in the starting lineup (alongside two wings, presumably Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), then Rondo could be a serviceable backup point guard, forming a bench duo alongside his good buddy Cousins. Rondo wasn’t rumored to have a market beyond the Lakers, which is why he likely settled for the minimum and a lesser role.
The main benefit of having Rondo on the team last year was that the younger Lakers (who are mostly all gone, but still) seemed to genuinely appreciate Rondo’s leadership in the locker room last year. That won’t really be necessary this year since the Lakers have filled out their roster with older veterans.
As a result, it’s hard to see why the Lakers wanted Rondo back, other than the fact that he was available, friends with several of their players, and they had a spot. Maybe continuity after so many years will help Rondo rediscover the production level he had in Boston. That’s about the best that the Lakers can hope for.
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