The Los Angeles Lakers are making their first NBA Finals appearance since back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010, when they defeated the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics.
And while it has been a decade since the Lakers franchise has been this deep in the postseason, role players Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo have seen similar droughts in their own careers. Both players fell to the Lakers in 2009 and 2010, respectively, and haven’t seen a Finals appearance since, all while dealing with a number of tumultuous environments and personal drama.
Rondo suffered a particularly painful loss to the Lakers, something he’s tried to remove from his memory since. “I think I blurred a lot of it out. It was ugly,” Rondo said on Finals Media Day.
“We were up 3-2 and obviously we didn’t get the job done. We were up in the fourth quarter, that stands out to me, as well. But Kobe played well. He didn’t have a great offensive scoring night, but he did a lot of intangibles. He had I think 18 rebounds. Pau Gasol played well, Bynum played well, key role players hit bit shots, Fisher, Ron Artest.
“It was a collective team effort. But that’s a long, long time ago, and I look forward to obviously changing the chapter and continuing to go past this different chapter in my life and write a better story ending.”
Rondo also reflected on the lessons he learned from that Finals loss to his appearance this season with L.A. “Well, when I was a lot younger I had a lot of success. 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,” he said.
“Being back here over a decade later is a very humbling experience, and 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.”
The Lakers do not have a very young team, but they have several players who are in their first Finals. Eight of the 15 players on the roster have not been to a Finals. That includes younger players like Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma, but also veterans Markieff Morris and Jared Dudley.
Rondo’s advice certainly can be helpful for players who have never reached this milestone, as knowing that another Finals appearance isn’t guaranteed will ensure that they give their all in this series.
Anthony Davis appreciates Rondo pushing him to do the impossible
Rondo’s biggest asset to the Lakers has been the mentorship of younger players like Kuzma and Davis. Davis, who has been excellent during the postseason, credited Rondo for pushing him past his limits.
“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,’” Davis said.
“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.”
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