Head coach Frank Vogel’s unwavering confidence in his players helped the Los Angeles Lakers get through a tumultuous 2019-20 season that ended with them holding up the Larry O’Brien trophy at the conclusion of a long journey in the NBA bubble.
Vogel did a good job of holding players accountable but also making sure no one ever got too high or too low throughout the year. For example, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope endured a rough start to the season, but eventually picked up his play.
Rajon Rondo was another who caught plenty of criticism by fans for his up-and-down play during the regular season, but Vogel remained supportive. It paid off as Rondo returned to form in the playoffs and was a key contributor.
In an appearance on “The Lowe Post,” Vogel shared details about his conversations with Rondo and Caldwell-Pope after their Finals win:
“I think the one that comes to mind most is with Rajon Rondo. We both just sort of reflected back on the first phone call that we made after Kawhi (Leonard) signed with the Clippers. It was like, ‘OK, now we have all this cap space saved for him, now we have to go use it and fill out the rest of our roster.’ And we put together the rest of the roster in about three hours, and a lot of that day was about me getting on the phone with DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo and Danny Green and JaVale McGee and just making sure that they felt good about their role.
“They obviously wanted to be here and play with LeBron and have this opportunity with A.D., but they wanted to make sure it looked and felt right. I told Rondo at that point there’s maybe no coach in the NBA that’s a bigger fan of Rajon Rondo than I am. So he took a moment to just thank me for believing in him. To me, that’s like one of the best moments as a coach is when you show confidence or belief in someone.
“KCP and I had a similar conversation because he was being highly criticized early in the season. They reward you with great play and in this situation ends up leading to a championship, that’s just special. It’s something I’ll never forget, above all else that’s what you do this job for.”
Rondo struggled on both ends for stretches of the season, frustrating the fanbase to almost no end. However, he quickly won them back over for his playoff performances and would go on to set an NBA record for most assists by a reserve in a single postseason run.
The same applies to Caldwell-Pope, whose defense and effort never waned even when shooting struggles lingered.
Rondo’s likelihood of coming back
It is an open question as to whether or not the Lakers will be able to retain Rondo after his impressive playoff showing.
Several contenders could use a point guard with his skillset, but Los Angeles does have the ability to pay him more than other teams because they hold his early bird rights. The caveat is the front office would need to sign him to at least a two-year contract and that would eat into salary cap space for the 2021 offseason where several high-profile free agents will be available.
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