So many accolades have been said about Los Angeles’ much-ballyhooed super-duo of Lebron and AD. After all, this is the Lakers’ answer to Gotham City’s Batman and Robin; the fresh new version of the Shaq and Kobe show. But basketball will always be a team sport, and there will always be 3 other guys on the court, plus other supporting cast on the bench that will make or unmake a championship. These individual talents need to be synchronized, fine-tuned and utilized optimally so that the team output becomes far greater than the sum of its parts.
That said, the Lakers are lucky to have a Rajon Rondo come in as their back-up point guard. At 34, Rajon is a veteran playmaker who has 1 NBA championship ring and 4 NBA All-Star appearances in 15 seasons in the NBA. Ironically, his 1st championship was with the Boston Celtics, against the Lakers themselves in 2008. If the Lakers win this year’s title, he will become only the 2nd player ever to have championship rings with both the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers – the other being Clyde Lovellette way back in the 60s. Significantly, if the Lakers do annex the crown now, both the Celtics and the Lakers will be tied with 17 titles each, and Rondo playing a key role in both their 17th crowns.
On the surface, Rondo’s contributions to the Lakers’ cause may not be much. But if one looks deeper at his statistics, Rajon’s penchant for outstanding playoff performance will clearly manifest itself.
Consider these. Rajon was responsible for setting up the perfect pass to Anthony Davis in the crucial Game 2 of the Lakers-Nuggets series, leading to the game-changing shot that stole the game from the Nuggets. In the ongoing Finals series, Rajon subbed for Lebron, and regrouped the Lakers from a 23-10 deficit in Game 1, eventually retaking the lead by the end of the 1st quarter. In Game 4 of the Lakers-Heat Finals, with the Heat down 95-91 with just a minute left, Rajon was also responsible for 5 of the last 7 points which won the game for the Lakers 102-96, clearly showing coach Fogel’s confidence in Rondo’s crunchtime abilities. Rajon played sparingly in Game 5, and he was badly missed in the last ditch effort to win or tie with 16 seconds left.
The Finals’ Plus/Minus (PM) rating says it all. The PM stat reflects how the team did while the player is on the court. A player with a +5 PM rating would mean his team outscored the opponent by 5 points while he was on the court. The PM stat shows Rajon as the only Laker with a positive output in the first 4 games. AD had stats of 23, 10, -26 and 17 for a total of +24. Lebron had stats of 10, 7, -4 and -2, totaling 11. Rajon had games of 11, 7, 6 and 8, for a total of 32. Rajon was steady all throughout, providing positive input across all the games. This despite the relative less playing time (average 26 mins per game) compared to both AD and Lebron (average 38 mins per game).
Rajon has always performed well during the playoffs. He hates this comment however, as it implies he doesn’t give his best during the regular season. But this also implies that the coach trusts him to provide much better output for the team when it matters most.
Rajon is as cerebral as the best point guards in the business. He is known to call out the opponents’ set plays as they dash down the floor. He plays mind games with the opposite end’s point guard, forcing him to rethink the set play. Bringing up the ball, he reads the defenses well, and is able to spot the mismatches and the opportunities faster than most, protecting the ball while directing traffic.
Rajon has had a tumultuous stint with other teams that have failed to utilize his talents well. Just like Jimmy Butler, he has had to deal with some bad rap. But just like Butler, he is a topnotch player who will call a spade a spade, and will come to the arena to fight.
Rondo is perfect fit for a Laker team that is without a legit point guard. Lebron may have taken over the starting PG role this year, but he is still a work in progress. Lebron will take time before he imbibes the role completely, if he ever does. And it is Rondo who must provide the leadership role as seen from the eyes of a seasoned point laureate.
As the Finals come closer to its completion, expect Rajon Rondo to be playing a key role for the Lakers. As the third guy in the Lakers’ player hierarchy, we foresee greater things to come for this veteran, as a player and as a future coach.
For a closer look, just click on the pics. Cover Photo courtesy of Lakers Daily. Other photos courtesy of LA Times, Silver Screen and Roll, Yahoo News, USA Today (Kim Klement), Newsbreak, Onmanorama, The Bismarck Tribune, and The Guardian.