Thanks to what has been an amazing season for the Los Angeles Lakers, a lot of people forget just how bad the team was during LeBron James‘ first year. The Lakers didn’t even sniff the playoffs and LeBron seemed checked out after the trade deadline. They had a really young team so that negativity certainly permeated throughout the franchise.
The Lakers cited Rondo’s IQ when they signed him, then quickly learned his willingness to challenge the best was an unexpected bonus. Amid a frustrating 2018-19 season, Rondo noted James souring on the young players and immediately confronted him.
“When guys are making the same mistakes over and over and over, it’s hard to bite your tongue,” Rondo says, “but I tried to get [James] to focus on his body language … Those young guys were looking at everything he did. If they missed four shots in a row and LeBron was making a face, it was crushing to them. He was their Michael Jordan. They didn’t want to let him down. But if LeBron said one thing positive to Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma, they immediately were back to their old selves.”
The Lakers had a very young team last year and that was a situation that LeBron wasn’t really used to. Rondo putting the superstar in check didn’t really help turn the team around but it’s important to have guys who can keep the stars grounded.
ALL the latest Lakers news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on Lakers newsletter here!
Analyst Believes Rondo Saved Lakers
It’s no secret that Rondo struggled for most of the season. Fans soured on him really quickly and it seemed like he was only being kept around because of “Playoff Rondo.” While it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, “Playoff Rondo” is real and the veteran guard has been one of the Lakers’ most important players during the postseason.
Former NBA player turned analyst Kendrick Perkins believes that the Lakers wouldn’t have gotten this far without Rondo.
“I honestly believe his return to the bubble saved the Lakers’ season,” Perkins said. “They were struggling without him. He takes pressure off LeBron and AD, and he turns the key in the back of role players like Caldwell-Pope and Kuzma, because he’ll put them in the best position to succeed.”
Rondo has been exactly what the Lakers have been lacking all season. It’s probably a bit of an exaggeration to say he saved the Lakers but it’s impossible to deny that he’s been one of their best players.
Rondo ‘Grateful for the Opportunity’
It’s been a long time since Rondo has been back in the NBA Finals. If fans would’ve had it their way, the guard wouldn’t even be on the team right now. He’s happy that he’s been able to make it this far with the team.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Rondo says. “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.”