While little about Rajon Rondo and his skillset has changed in the 11 months since he was last a Laker, much about the Lakers’ situation has, namely in the addition of Russell Westbrook. In his last stint with the Lakers, Rondo was needed for on-court production as much as he was needed for off-court leadership and mentorship.
As Rondo returns, the Lakers' needs have shifted noticeably away from the court and more in the direction of that leadership and mentorship. With Jared Dudley retiring and joining the Mavericks’ coaching staff, the Lakers need a player that can be the veteran voice to the team from the end of the bench.
It’s a role Rondo has embraced publicly and it’s a role he’s flourished in throughout his career even while playing. Rondo leaned on that experience to discuss his role as a veteran leader with the Lakers this season as well as his eagerness to learn from his teammates in the same vein during his introductory press conference.
“You can’t pick and choose when you want to be a leader,” he said. “You have to show up every day. Guys are watching, young and old, and you’re being critiqued or judged. Regardless of the outcome of how you feel that morning, you try to show up and be consistent. No one likes a guy that just talks about it. You do it with your work, you do it with your discipline and your consistency.
“So for me, the most important part is understanding that I don’t know it all and I’m a willing listener, and I can learn from Malik Monk or Trevor Ariza. So having an open mindset and not being closed off and thinking you know it all is I think a big key to being a leader, and I think something I’ve grown from in my past.”
Rondo has had impacts on young players on multiple stops across the league, ranging from his time in Chicago that led to a schism in the locker room to his time in Los Angeles previously with Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma. In that regard, having him around for the few young players on the roster in Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn and Malik Monk.
The desire to also continue learning is another sign of a great leader and veteran. Rondo’s also not the first person to express a desire to learn from Trevor Ariza with Kent Bazemore sharing the same sentiment.
Pair Rondo’s eagerness to mentor and learn with his willingness to not take as active a role on the court and it sounds like Rondo is set to fill the Dudley-sized hole on the Lakers roster this season.