While expectations and trajectory for the Los Angeles Lakers drastically changed with the signings of LeBron James, Rajon Rondo and other veterans, there also figured to be growing pains for the new-look roster.
Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka stressed as much, and revealed they told head coach Luke Walton not to worry about job security if or when the team struggled out of the gate.
That’s been the case thus far as Walton has experimented with various lineups and the Lakers have worked to develop chemistry on the court. Last week saw encouraging results against the Denver Nuggets but the Lakers have since suffered back-to-back losses.
In both cases they struggled down the stretch, with the latest instance coming Monday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Following the loss, Rondo called on the team to improve in paying attention to detail, among other areas, via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:
“Whatever role or whatever guys come in, we just have to be ready to go,” Rondo said. “As a team, collectively, we’re not doing things, we’re not on the same page. We’re messing up pick-and-roll coverage. We’re messing up boxout assignments. So we got to do the intangibles and come in with a better mindset.”
Not that there is necessarily any direct correlation but the Lakers’ modest two-game winning streak came while Rondo missed three games as part of a suspension for his role in a fight with Chris Paul. Rondo has come off the bench in the past two games.
He scored 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting to go along with 6 rebounds and 8 assists. It marked a second straight game Rondo out-played Lonzo Ball. The veteran’s message for Lakers was similar to frustration Walton expressed after the loss.
He was particularly unpleased with the failure to execute the game plan on Jimmy Butler, who scored a game-high 32 points and made several 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that proved critical to the Timberwolves earning a victory.