Rajon Rondo has been a divisive figure amongst Los Angeles Lakers fans during the 2019-20 NBA season as he has seen his production and effectiveness wane in stretches.
Despite his uneven play on some nights, head coach Frank Vogel has still trotted him out in second unit lineups due to his ability to organize the offense and give LeBron James a break from handling the basketball.
However, Rondo was forced into the starting lineup against the Oklahoma City Thunder as James sat out due to illness and he responded in a huge way, recording a near triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists) and getting the Lakers going on both ends right from the jump.
In his walk-off interview with Anthony Davis, Rondo credited the team’s defense for their hot start to the game, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“Our defensive energy. Defensively, we came out, we got stops, were able to get on the break, create mismatches, and get a quick pace going.”
He also discussed how the team was able to find success despite playing without their two All-Star players:
“Just having the right mindset. We practice hard. We got a hell of a first unit we play against every day, so coming out against these guys isn’t easy but it isn’t tough at all.”
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) January 12, 2020
The next man up mentality has been a key theme for the Lakers all season and their win against the Thunder is a perfect example of that. Aside from Rondo, the rest of the starting lineup and bench all stepped up in elevated roles, knocking down shots and playing on a string defensively.
Rondo’s vintage outing should provide some hope that he still has something left in the tank because the way the roster is currently constructed, they will need him to be a playmaker whenever James is not playing. Rondo is still more than capable of reading defenses and getting his teammates involved, but he will also need to continue to look to score in order to keep opposing defenses honest.
However, even with Rondo and Alex Caruso serving as their backup point guards, the Lakers are still rumored to be looking for another ballhandler to solidify their rotation. Names like Darren Collison and DJ Augustin have been linked to Los Angeles, but it remains to be seen if they or any other guards will be donning purple and gold anytime soon.
For now, the Lakers can revel in the fact they are winners of eight straight games and should have another solid outing against the Cleveland Cavaliers.