It wasn’t long ago that Rajon Rondo seemed destined for journeyman status, playing for six teams in five years, but now he’s a fixture on a Lakers squad that’s two wins away from an NBA title, writes Jackie MacMullan of ESPN. The veteran guard averaged a career-low 20.5 minutes per game during the regular season, but “Playoff Rondo” has been on display since he returned from a fractured thumb in August.
“I honestly believe his return to the bubble saved the Lakers’ season,” said ESPN analyst and former teammate Kendrick Perkins. “They were struggling without him. He takes pressure off LeBron (James) and (Anthony Davis), and he turns the key in the back of role players like (Kentavious) Caldwell-Pope and (Kyle) Kuzma because he’ll put them in the best position to succeed.”
Helping others succeed has been one of Rondo’s defining qualities throughout his 14-year NBA career. He has handed out more than 7,200 assists and has been an on-court strategist whom Alvin Gentry calls the smartest player he has ever coached. Rondo told MacMullan that he hopes to play four more seasons and eventually transition into a coaching or front-office job.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Rondo says of being close to his second career championship. “I want to be the best role player there is. I don’t need acknowledgement from other people on whether they consider me a winner or a great teammate.”
There’s more Lakers news to pass along:
- Michael Lee of The Athletic reviews the six NBA Finals that James has lost and looks at how each has motivated him to become better. “There’s nothing out on the floor that I cannot do at this point in my career. That’s all because of the competition and the adversity and the losses and everything I’ve been through throughout the course of my career,” said James, who has been to the Finals in 10 of the past 14 seasons. “The best teacher in life is life experience, and I’ve experienced it all.”
- Long-time coach Rick Pitino believes his former graduate assistant, Frank Vogel, has been an ideal leader for the Lakers, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. “It’s a player’s league, and he’s with two of the top five players,” Pitino said. “Frank is the perfect coach for those two guys and the team. He’s going to do all his work behind the scenes, get them ready, never be on camera, never get any credit. And he wants it that way. His perfect scenario is them winning a championship, never mention his name and get ready for next season.”
- Danny Green sounds determined to play in Game 3 despite his injured hip, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “I’m not worried about my body,” Green said. “I’ll worry when it’s over… We’ll see tonight how it goes.”