A subplot to LeBron James passing Michael Jordan for fourth on the NBA all-time scoring list and the Los Angeles Lakers slipping further from the playoff picture, was Rajon Rondo plotting down in a courtside seat at Staples Center upon checking out of the game.
It was not the first time Rondo wasn’t seated with teammates on the bench, and considering there was just 48 seconds remaining when he was substituted for, it seemed innocent enough. However, the situation went viral on social media, leaving Rondo to answer for his actions.
He downplayed the matter, noting it was not the first time he’d sat somewhere other than the bench. The Lakers met with Rondo to gain clarity on his decision, but the veteran point guard avoided any fine or disciplinary action.
As Rondo has continued to draw criticism, Lakers head coach Luke Walton defended his point guard.
“He was frustrated. We talked to him, there’s no disrespect meant by what he did,” Walton said.
“The thing that people don’t get to see, other than some of the media, is Rondo was in here at 7:30 that morning getting shots up. Knowing how teams are guarding him, working on threes off the dribble.
“He got to shootaround two and a half hours early. He’s frustrated, like a lot of us are, that we haven’t been winning ballgames. He’s somebody that continues to lead, continues to work, he loves his teammates, he loves trying to compete with them.”
Aside from the Lakers’ struggles as a team, the season has hardly gone as planned for Rondo on an individual level. A fight with Chris Paul in just the second game of the season led to Rondo being suspended three contests.
He lost his starting job to Lonzo Ball during that time, and appeared in nine games before requiring surgery to repair the fractured third metacarpal on his right hand. He missed five weeks, then played in a mere three games before undergoing yet another surgery because of a torn ligament suffered as a result of a Grade 3 sprain to his right ring finger.
Thus, Rondo has been limited 31 games (14 starts) thus far.