In Game 5 of the 2020 Western Conference Semifinals, when the Houston Rockets were already trailing the Los Angeles Lakers by 23 points, Russell Westbrook exchanged words with a fan sitting courtside at The Arena in Florida — that fan was William Rondo, the older brother of Rajon Rondo.
That heated interaction was one of the first things I thought about when it was announced that Rondo was signing a one-year deal to return to the Lakers, who traded for Westbrook earlier in the summer.
The second thing I thought about was the time Westbrook got ejected from a game for pushing Rondo, which prompted Rondo to point to the exit tunnel. The push alone didn’t get Westbrook ejected; he already had a technical foul for an earlier toss-up with Rondo.
That was in January.
But Rondo and Westbrook won’t go into the season with any hard feelings toward each other. There is no lingering beef. In fact, on Tuesday, Rondo expressed nothing but respect for his new teammate for the way he approached their matchups throughout the years.
“Russ and I, we’ve been competing for so long,” Rondo said. “He’s one of the best, ultimate competitors I’ve played with in my career. I love competing against Russ. I know he’s going to bring it every night. I know he’s looking to destroy me. Likewise, I’m looking to destroy him.
“There’s no better feeling than to go out against someone that plays at a high level and is going to bring it.”
Unfortunately for them, the days of them going at each other’s throats are over, at least for now. Instead, they’ll look to bring that competitive fire to the Lakers with the hope of winning a championship together this season.
For Rondo, that energy is expected to be relayed almost exclusively from the sidelines, but it’s easy to imagine him getting under Westbrook’s skin at practice and raising the intensity of team scrimmages. I mean, they have to have some sort of outlet for those feelings, right?