While LeBron James and Anthony Davis have undeniably been a driving force for the Los Angeles Lakers en route to the NBA Finals, so too has Rajon Rondo since he recovered from thumb surgery and overcame back spasms in the playoffs.
Rondo has not only been a key contributor for the Lakers off the bench, he’s established a strong bond with Davis that goes beyond the court and quantitative measures. The makings of which of course began when they were members of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Davis noted the two share the same “competitive nature and will to win,” and that Rondo was among first people he spoke with after getting traded to the Lakers.
“I called and told him that I wanted him to come back because I knew how much I excelled with him and how much of a leader he is, and his mindset on the floor and his will to win,” Davis explained. “And to have a guy like that with his basketball mind, his IQ, with a guy like LeBron, and his basketball mind, his IQ, and eight straight Finals, and Rondo having a championship under his belt, they know what it takes.”
Davis’ comments provide valuable insight into the role Rondo plays for L.A. and explain why his teammates hold him in such high regard despite the stern criticism from those outside of the organization that the 34-year-old guard has faced over the last two seasons.
On a personal level, Davis added Rondo has become his mentor who motivates and pushes him to his limits and beyond. “Rondo is always in my ear about being the best defensive player on the floor, best offensive player on the floor, even when it doesn’t seem possible,” he said.
“He might tell me I need to go block a shot or close out to a guy, and if they swing it across the floor, I need to be there, too. I say, ‘That’s impossible.’ He’s like, ‘I don’t care, at the end of the day, you should be able to do it.’ He always put pressure on me to do the impossible things. It’s not easy but if you want to win, you’ve got to do those type of things.
“He just been on me since I’ve been his teammate, and he wants the best for me. He wants to win. I want to win. Any time you got two guys who want to win so bad, it’s like he hasn’t won one, it’s been 10 years. He wants to win as bad as I do, and when you have that with another guy who wants to win just as bad as us, we make a good team.”
Rondo conveying difficulty to make NBA Finals
For several Lakers, reaching the Finals is a first in their career. But for the likes of Dwight Howard and Rondo, it’s a return after going a significant stretch since last getting to play for a championship.
“I won at 21 years old, and now being 34, it’s a completely different experience, and understanding that this doesn’t come often or annually,” Rondo explained. “Being back here over a decade later is a very humbling experience.
“I’m letting my young guys know from all the rookies to the second- or third-year players like Kuz, that this opportunity doesn’t come often. Guys search for this moment their entire career, and we definitely have to seize the moment.”
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