This week is Marvel Week at SB Nation, and my favorite Marvel movie is “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Truth be told, I knew very little about the Guardians before the film’s release in 2014, and I spent most of my teen years reading comic books (mostly Batman and Deadpool, but still).
To my surprise, it didn’t take long for the Guardians to win me over. Their blend of eccentric personalities and specialized skills made them a really fun group, and they had enough sense between all of them to get things done.
The Los Angeles Lakers tried to build their own Guardians of the Galaxy last summer, when they signed Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo. With the exception of Rondo, the group had a reputation for being goofballs both on and off the court. For example, McGee was best known for his lowlights on “Shaqtin’ A Fool,” Stephenson gained notoriety when he blew into LeBron James’ ear in Game 5 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals, and Beas was, uh ... Beas.
The Lakers knew this, but they had hoped the four of them together would create a versatile, two-way unit that could compete against the likes of the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets in the playoffs — you know, like the Guardians of the Galaxy! And so, M.U.D. was born.
M.U.D., or Misunderstood, Under-appreciated, and Determined, was the name LeBron James gave the four-man unit of Stephenson, McGee, Beasley and Rondo. LeBron’s good at a lot of things, but giving nicknames isn’t one of them. Remember Zo and ‘Do? Or Layup?
The four of them didn’t play a single second together in the 2018-19 season (which might explain why they didn’t make the postseason), but individually, they had four of the five-worst net ratings on the team (minimum 20 games played). McGee had the highest net rating of the group at -4.4, while Rondo had the lowest net rating at -8.6. Ironically, they both signed new contracts with the Lakers this past summer.
M.U.D. might not have worked out, and the Lakers may have not made the playoffs, but at least they’ll always be remembered for how silly they were, like the Guardians. Let’s hope that Rondo doesn’t pull a Star-Lord when the Lakers make it to the NBA Finals against Thanos (Giannis).
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