Rajon Rondo is getting closer to making his return to the lineup for the Lakers. The team is listing him as questionable to play in Game 2 of their first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers after going through a full practice on Wednesday, but whether Rondo gets on the court or not, he’s been finding ways to try and help this team get ready for the NBA playoffs.
Rondo has been serving as an honorary assistant coach for the team, even while away to get surgery on his fractured thumb. He was sitting in on the Lakers’ virtual coaches meetings, and watching practice via Zoom. He was also watching their games, and offering tips to one of the players trying to replace him as the team’s backup floor general.
“I kinda texted him a few times (while he was away),” said Lakers guard Alex Caruso. “Getting his thoughts after a couple games, talking about how I played, or how we’re playing as a team.
“Obviously we’re excited for him to be back because he brings something to this team that I don’t think anybody else can do, just with the experience and the way he plays in the playoffs,” Caruso continued. “Understanding coverages and understanding what we’re trying to do with our schemes and our game plan, and then applying it into the game. He’s one of the most vocal people I’ve ever played with. I’m just excited to have him back. He brings a different dimension to our team that I don’t think anybody else can.”
Caruso said that Rondo’s return has helped the team’s energy, while also admitting that they likely would have gotten a natural infusion of that from the playoffs anyway. But for as much as Rondo’s value on the court has been the source of much debate, off the court, there is almost no doubt he can help this team.
Rondo is a respected locker room figure, and someone who gets along with basically everyone in the organization, from his teammates to the coaching staff and more. His enthusiasm, leadership and ability to challenge the Lakers’ two stars — LeBron James and Anthony Davis — are a pure plus for the team’s off-the-floor dynamics. Him trying to help Caruso get ready for his first playoff experience by giving him tips on how to be more effective at reading the floor and more are just the latest examples of the value of his presence.
“He’s one of the most competitive people I’ve ever been around,” Caruso said. “He just loves basketball. Him being away after he was here for three days, he’s been itching to get back and be in practice. So he’s been step-for-step in line with everything we’re trying to do.”
When Rondo gets back, we’ll see if he can help fix the Lakers’ very real on-court issues. But for now, him trying to teach his younger teammates and balancing things out off the court certainly can’t hurt.