The Los Angeles Lakers recently parted ways with Rajon Rondo, sending the veteran guard to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a move that head coach Frank Vogel said was tough to swallow.
Vogel shared his thoughts on the move that opened a roster spot for the Lakers, gushing over Rondo and what he brought to the team.
“Rondo means the world to me,” Vogel told reporters on Monday, January 3. “He’s one of my favorite players I’ve ever coached. He was an integral part of us winning the championship two years ago, me winning my first championship and he’ll always be a special player and special friend to me. So I wish nothing but the best to him for now and we’ll continue to stay in touch and whatnot.”
Rondo is expected to fill in for Ricky Rubio, who had played an important role for the Cavaliers, averaging 13.1 points, 6.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game before tearing his ACL. The Cavaliers might not rely on Rondo as much, but it will provide him with more opportunity than he had with the Lakers.
Rondo averaged 3.1 points and 3.7 assists per game, notching about 16 minutes per contest. Rondo is also shooting at just a 26.7 percent clip from beyond the arc and a career-worst 32.4 percent from the field. However, Vogel admitted that Rondo’s value went beyond the box score.
“It would be more of a non-playing role, a third-string point guard role, but to use his I.Q. and intelligence,” Vogel said. “And that will certainly be missed.”
Lakers Have to Make ‘Difficult Decisions’ With Roster
The Lakers season has not gone as planned for a multitude of reasons, sitting at 19-19 near the halfway mark of the season. LA is very limited on what they can do to tweak their roster, with limited cap space and assets. While the team — specifically Vogel — would have wanted to keep Rondo around, it just wasn’t in the cards.
“It wasn’t like we wanted to depart from Rondo,” Vogel said. “But it’s just one of those front-office decisions that you have to make difficult decisions and to lose a guy like Rondo is obviously very difficult.”
And thanks to the New York Knicks stepping in, the Lakers could save as much as $4 million in salary plus luxury tax fees with an open roster spot. With the deal evolving into a three-team deal, the Cavs landed Rondo, while Denzel Valentine, the draft rights to Brad Newley (54th pick in 2007), L.A.’s draft rights to Wang Zhelin (57th pick in 2016) and cash went to the Knicks. New York’s draft rights to Louis Labeyrie (57th pick in 2014) went to the Lakers.
Lakers, Stanley Johnson Have Mutual Interest: Report
With the Lakers now having an open roster spot, they could bring in Stanley Johnson on a permanent basis after his 10-day deal expired. Johnson impressed over his stint with the Lakers, averaging 6.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in 25.2 minutes per game. He also stepped up on the defensive end, drawing praise from Vogel and LeBron James.
“Stanley Johnson has potentially become a factor for us,” Vogel said.
The Lakers and Johnson have a mutual interest in a longer-term relationship, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported.
“There’s mutual interest between Stanley Johnson and the Lakers to have him rejoin the team,” McMenamin tweeted. “LAL has three options to have him come back: Sign him outright; sign for a 10-day contract then retain; sign him for two consecutive 10-days, then retain.”
We’ll see what the Lakers decide but it looks like Johnson has the inside route on a roster spot.