The Lakers are bringing back a hallowed member of the 2020 championship team: Rajon Rondo.
According to ESPN, the 35-year-old security guard is expected to sign a minimum veteran contract with the Lakers after completing a buyout with the Memphis Grizzlies and clearing waivers.
Rondo previously spent two seasons with the Lakers from 2018 to 2020, culminating in winning the NBA title in the bubble at Disney World. The seasoned point guard enjoys a high level of appreciation from coaches and teammates from this group, attributed to his mental preparation and mid-game adjustments to drive them to the top.
The 8.1 points and 6.5 assists he averaged over this tenure doesn’t exactly reflect his influence. Coach Frank Vogel said last season that Rondo was “a big part of our culture” that was missed in the free agency after he left; Assistant coach Phil Handy said Rondo was “locked up like any other player I know” when the Lakers went to the NBA finals. The greatest support of all came from LeBron James, who often referred to Rondo as a peer when it came to processing the game.
“To be able to make adjustments on the fly and see how the defense plays,” James said during this postseason of Rondo, “and to be able to see how the game is played and be able to to see the flow of the game played – not many guys in our league and in the postseason can do that, that’s gigantic. ”
Rondo also shot 40 percent from the 3-point distance during this title run.
The biggest question for Rondo, as with several Lakers this season, is whether age will limit its effectiveness. He played for the Atlanta Hawks and the Clippers last season, averaging 5.4 points and 4.4 assists in 45 games while shooting the top 40.4% of his career from 3-point distance, but he was up the place had a limited impact on the Clippers as they advanced to the Western Conference finals. In the last series he played only 47 total minutes in three of the six games.
Rondo has also had frequent injuries. He has played no more than 48 games in a season since the 2017-18 season, including multiple injuries when he last played for the Lakers.
The Lakers now plan to have nine players 32 or older for the next season, which is by far the oldest roster in the league. You have four of the five active leaders in played games (James, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza and Dwight Howard) and three more in the top 21 (Russell Westbrook, Rondo and Marc Gasol).
A bit of diplomacy might be required to sign: when the Lakers faced the Houston Rockets in the 2020 Western Conference semifinals, Rondo’s brother William Rondo was expelled after verbally speaking to then-rocket Russell Westbrook, the newly acquired star of the Lakers had argued.
Rondo is the fifth former Laker to return to the franchise this off-season, along with Howard, Ariza, Wayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore.
The Lakers, who are above the luxury tax mark, now have two remaining squad spots.