Last summer, the Los Angeles Lakers signed veteran point guard Rajon Rondo to a sizable one-year deal with the hope that he’d mentor — and presumably backup — former No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball. While Rondo did play backup to Ball for a moment, he ended the season with 29 starts in 46 games games because Ball suffered another season-ending injury.
This season — with a new, two-year veteran’s minimum contract — Rondo, will have the opportunity to earn the full-time starting point guard job, and there’s reason to believe he’s already gained some traction in that regard. When the Lakers wrapped up their first practice of training camp on Saturday, Rondo was seen scrimmaging with the the group that many expect to start on opening night: Danny Green, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee.
Vogel downplayed the lineups he used for the team scrimmages, saying that the “starting” lineups will change throughout training camp — with the exception of James and Davis, of course — in an effort to build team chemistry, but he didn’t sound opposed to the idea of the 33-year-old starting at point guard.
“That particular lineup, I think Rajon Rondo’s going to be a different player off the basketball than he’s been in his career,” Vogel said. “I think Jason Kidd is a model of being a non-shooter early on his career, coming here and being a guy that became fourth or fifth all-time leading 3-point makes is a great model to be for Rajon, and he shot 36 percent from the 3-point line over the last four years, okay? That’s above average and he’s going to get clean looks, he’s going to be encouraged to have a green light and he’s going to be a good off-the-ball complement when he has the ball.”
“And when they’re together, he’s going to be playmaking and making things easier for LeBron so he doesn’t have to do it all himself as well as AD. They already have the chemistry of having done that together in New Orleans and there’s a lot of positives with that lineup.”
Davis has made it no secret that he’s excited to share the floor with Rondo again, and after practice on Saturday, he said that Rondo and James have played a big hand in making him feel comfortable since he arrived in Los Angeles.
“Rondo’s a leader on the floor, leader off the floor and spending time with him that one year in New Orleans was definitely huge for me. He was able to help me out as I transitioned. He’s been on several teams, so he’s experienced that before. Him and LeBron have been very helpful in the transition process and especially this first day being with a new group,” Davis said.
James is just as excited to have Rondo back in his locker room, and said that Rondo’s presence will be valuable to him regardless of whether or not they share the floor.
“Rondo’s always helpful for me, just because of his basketball IQ and what he brings to the game. We kind of bounce things off each other all the time, trying to be two quarterbacks on the floor at the same time. When one guy’s in and the other guy’s out, we try to see from the sideline and be like an offensive and defensive coordinator for one another, so that’s always there — no matter what.”
There are legitimate questions about how Rondo fits in the starting lineup — which, as constructed only features two reliable 3-point shooters in Danny Green and LeBron James — but there is something to be said about Rondo making Davis feel comfortable in his new basketball home.
Rondo might not be Lakers fans’ first choice, but he could very well be Davis’s, and a large theme this season will be keeping Davis happy ahead of next summer, when he’ll hit unrestricted free agency. If Davis is happy, the Lakers should be alright.