The 2018-19 Los Angeles Lakers season did not go even remotely as planned and while many were rightfully upset at the additions of Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson after signing LeBron James, fans still felt like the team had a chance of succeeding.
And while no one really thought the Lakers could challenge the Golden State Warriors, the feeling of knowing they had the best player in the world was comforting.
However, major injuries to key players, Anthony Davis trade rumors, and bad lineups derailed any hopes of success. This led to the Lakers going just 37-45, missing the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season and causing James to miss the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
One of the people most upset about how things went was Rondo as he felt that this Lakers team had legitimate championship potential. In fact, he was already prepping a game plan on how to beat the Warriors before the 2018-19 NBA season even started, according to Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:
“I was strategically thinking before the season, ‘OK, I can match so-and-so with Cuz [DeMarcus Cousins] … I can match LeBron with such-and-such.’ I was already planning on how to beat these Golden State Warriors,” he says.
Regardless of who else was on the roster, Rondo felt that having James meant this was a contender and that was trending in the right direction before the Christmas Day game against the Warriors. However, things just didn’t go as planned:
“Regardless of my roster, LeBron James on my team, my expectation is we’re going to the Finals. I didn’t want to be the guy that doesn’t get him there. He’s not only the best player in the world but one of the smartest. So you put my IQ and LeBron’s IQ versus Draymond Green’s. Not to discredit Steph [Curry] or any of those other guys, but all three of us have always been the most vocal guys on the court, and two versus one is better. That’s what my mentality was. … It obviously just didn’t unfold the way it was supposed to.”
It seems like an entire lifetime ago when the Lakers — in spite of a mid-third quarter James injury — absolutely dominated the Warriors in Oakland on Christmas Day. The win moved the Lakers to 20-14, which was good enough for fourth place in the Western Conference.
It’s unclear whether or not Rondo will be back for the 2019-20 season with the Lakers, but it’s fair to say the expectations may be just as high — if not higher.