When Rajon Rondo signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, the organization touted his championship experience and ability to serve as an extension of head coach Luke Walton on the court. Rondo was given an opportunity to start, which he did at the beginning of the season.
He was suspended two games into the season and upon returning filled a role off the bench. He’s largely remained there, however, due to Ball’s ankle injury that will likely sideline him the rest of the season, Rondo has been forced into more playing time.
Rondo is still a good player, but his best days are clearly behind him, and his 32 minutes per game average returning from his second hand injury in January could be too much of a tall order.
Despite that, Walton has continued to be positive about his veteran point guard. “He’s been great,” Walton said.
“He’s a professional, he works hard, gets in early, comes in on off days, he watches film. He’s very competitive, he wants to win. I think part of the reason he came here was to win, which we were all excited to do, and we were doing it earlier in the season.
“We’ve hit an unfortunate part in the second half of the season, and I think people are a little frustrated. He continues to be a great teammate, continues to work extremely hard.”
Walton previously defended Rondo amid criticism he received over not sitting on the Lakers bench during the final seconds of their loss to the Denver Nuggets.
In the 18 games since Rondo’s return and rather quick move into the starting lineup, the Lakers are 5-13. This isn’t to say that that is entirely Rondo’s fault, but it’s clear that Ball would have helped win at least a couple more games, considering the Lakers’ record in Ball’s 46 games this season was 25-21.
Rondo’s leadership abilities certainly aren’t in doubt, and Walton has time and time again reiterated how important Rondo has been to this team. And had his role not been expanded due to Ball’s injury, that may have been even more true.