If you were to go back in time to 2010 and tell me that in just 10 years, Rajon Rondo would be a fan-favorite Lakers role player during the team’s run to the NBA Finals, and that Kendrick Perkins would have come up with the nickname that fans love to describe him with, I would have thought you were hallucinating. But a lot has changed in 10 years, and against all odds, both of those things have come to pass.
Rondo has been amazing for the Lakers in the playoffs, arguably their third-best player, and at the very least in the top five or six. He’s made huge contributions to some wins, and rarely demonstrated the flaws that led him to be maligned by the fanbase during his last two regular seasons with the team. He’s proved the “Playoff Rondo” nickname prescient, even if he hates the moniker.
Not as much has changed for Kendrick Perkins — who is still hardly a beloved figure by Lakers fans, now for his media takes instead of his work as a glorified hockey goon for the Boston Celtics — but according to Leon Powe, we do at least have Perkins to thank for one thing: The “Playoff Rondo” nickname.
He explained why in an excellent profile on Rondo from Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:
The origin of Playoff Rondo traces back to a young, unbridled, stubborn talent aiming to be a Celtics lifer. He was easy to overlook on the star-studded Boston roster — until the postseason, when he unveiled a clutch shot, a key assist or a gutsy charge that would tip the scales. Former Celtics teammate Leon Powe says he remembers hearing “Playoff Rondo” for the first time in 2010, when Powe was playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers against Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“I’m pretty sure Perk started it,” Powe says, “‘cause when Rondo was destroying us, Perk kept shouting, ‘Playoff Rondo!’”
All right, before we get to anything else, we have to acknowledge that the image of Perkins yelling “Playoff Rondo!” from the Celtics bench every time Rondo hit a shot while Rondo boils with fury at the nickname is a genuinely hilarious visual, and I hope the Lakers’ bench players still do this.
Perkins himself was reticent to take the credit for inventing the nickname, but he did admit he uses it quite a bit, and had a comparison for Rondo that Lakers fans might enjoy:
“Might have been me,” muses Kendrick Perkins, who remains one of Rondo’s closest confidants. “I did call him that a lot, because he has a history of turning it on for the playoffs.
“His mindset reminds me of [former Lakers guard] Derek Fisher, who would go from scoring eight, nine points a night in the regular season, then all of a sudden pop off for 16 in a big playoff game.”
It might not be an exactly perfect stylistic comparison, but it’s easy to see what Perkins means here, because Rondo really has taken his game up another level in the postseason. As I detailed on Tuesday, Rondo’s shooting percentage and 3-point percentage are both the second-highest they’ve ever been in the playoffs, and at age 33, he’s also putting up the third-best box plus-minus and value over replacement player (VORP) of his postseason career.
In short, Rondo has been a completely different player than he was in the regular season, and so whether he likes the “Playoff Rondo” nickname or not, it’s been proven accurate. Because of that, I’m going to write a sentence I never thought I ever would on this blog: Thank you, Kendrick Perkins.