When the Los Angeles Lakers host the Sacramento Kings at Crypto.com Arena on Tuesday, Rajon Rondo won’t be on their bench; he’ll be in Cleveland, where his new team, the Cavaliers, will have just finished their game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Rondo hasn’t played since Dec. 23, but that’s expected to change in Cleveland, where they recently got the unfortunate news that Ricky Rubio is going to miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. But Rondo’s lack of playing time wasn’t a reflection of the impact he had on the Lakers on the bench and in the locker room, according to Frank Vogel.
“We brought him here with a purpose, understanding that it would be more of a non-playing role, the third-string point guard role, but to use his IQ and intelligence, and that will certainly be missed,” Vogel said after practice on Monday.
The Lakers opened a roster spot with the Rondo trade, which Vogel confirmed was a priority for the front office in negotiations, but he added that the prospect of Rondo getting to play for a “really good, young team” was something they also took into consideration.
“It wasn’t like we wanted to depart from Rondo, but the opportunity was presented, and we’re partners with all these guys ... you want to do what’s best for the player as well,” Vogel said. “It’s just one of those front office decisions where you have to make a difficult decision, and to lose a guy like Rondo is obviously very difficult.”
Vogel and Rondo developed a close relationship during the 2019-20 season, in large part due to Rondo’s desire to be a head coach in the NBA after his playing career. Vogel even offered to let Rondo help the coaching staff prep for games while he was injured early in the 2020 Playoffs.
“Rondo means the world to me,” Vogel said. “He’s one of my favorite players I’ve ever coached, was an integral part of us winning the championship two years ago — my first championship — and he’ll always be a special player and a special friend to me, so I wish nothing but the best for him for now, and we’ll continue to stay in touch.”