While the Los Angeles Lakers sought out to find a backup to and mentor for Lonzo Ball, their signing of Rajon Rondo in free agency this past summer nevertheless raised some eyebrows. Rondo had developed a bit of a negative reputation and many doubted he’d accept a role off the bench.
Whether that would become an issue was not immediately known as Rondo started most of the preseason and clearly was on track to retain the job come the regular season as Ball worked his way back from knee surgery.
But Rondo’s three-game suspension created an opportunity for Ball, and he’s started ever since. He will continue to do so without any pressure from Rondo as the veteran point guard is expected to be sidelined at least one month after undergoing surgery on his broken hand.
Even as the two essentially compete for playing time, Ball revealed he asked Rondo to be tough with him as means of motivation, per ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk:
“Yeah, he’ll try to get into me,” Ball said. “Just stuff to try to get me going. He talks a bunch of trash in practice all the time, which makes me pretty mad.”
“I told him, my whole life I [respond to] getting yelled at [by the coach] so that is how I respond … if you see stuff, just yell at me. I tune into it. That is how he tries to help me out.”
Embracing healthy competition has been a focal point for the Lakers since Luke Walton was named head coach. Walton noticed during workouts and summer pickup games a difference in tone from last season, and that’s carried into practices thus far.
It’s common for several Lakers to finish a day’s work by competing against one another in shooting drills, which have often found Ball and Rondo leading separate teams.
While Rondo has been present to help push Ball, he’s now looking to control the pace in similar fashion to the 32-year-old. Ball also will need to find inner motivation, which he’s admitted to not being fully engaged at times this season.