EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The morning after breaking his proper hand, Rajon Rondo was at the Los Angeles Lakers’ follow facility barking out insights and directions to his teammates.
“He was speaking. Shock, shock,” Lakers coach Luke Walton mentioned with a smile. “He was speaking lots.”
Along with his hand swelling via its splint, Rondo directed Brandon Ingram and gamers on the second-unit via units in preparation for his or her subsequent sport at the Orlando Magic.
Rondo lobbied Walton once more to be an element of the group’s upcoming three-game highway journey after which he was gone, off to Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute to have Dr. Steven S. Shin restore the third metacarpal in his proper hand.
“Oh yeah,” Walton mentioned of Rondo touring as soon as cleared by group medical doctors. “We would like him round as a lot as potential.”
LeBron James’ voice is with out query the most vital and influential in the Lakers locker room; however a number of of the youthful gamers view Rondo’s management as second, if not on par, to that of James.
Whereas some coaches and execs instructed ESPN over the summer time that Rondo might be a ache for the Lakers, the point guard has been a coach on the flooring and mentor to the younger core for Walton.
Given the freedom to be himself, Rajon Rondo has been … Rajon Rondo. The Lakers have seen the acclaimed basketball IQ. They’ve additionally seen his unpredictability, his hearth manifesting in a flurry of punches in his first sport in Staples, leading to a three-game suspension after the NBA dominated he had spit at Chris Paul.
However his greatest — and now major — affect will likely be on the growth of the “Child Lakers.” Rondo has been making an attempt to affect Ball, Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart by instance and instruction. And with the sidelining of the veteran point guard for a minimum of 4 weeks, that stability will tilt fully towards instruction.
“My complete life I ain’t by no means performed with somebody like him, or LeBron,” Ball mentioned. “It is new to me to simply attempt to observe of their footsteps in a means, simply because you may see them get the most out of all people and the practices are means higher than they had been final yr as a result of they’re at all times difficult individuals.
“I imply, he is the greatest chief that I’ve ever performed with — between him and LeBron.”
Sept. 20 was supposed to mark one of the final pickup video games earlier than coaching camp commenced.
However Kuzma remembered it feeling not like some other offseason run that they had. Whereas LeBron and Rondo had each been in the coaching facility at numerous occasions all through the summer time, the two hadn’t shared the courtroom in a pickup sport till that day.
“It was very intense,” Kuzma recalled. “The fitness center had most likely the greatest buzz it had all summer time from the standpoint of having two guys that simply do not shut up on the courtroom.”
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When it got here down to a alternative between Golden State and Los Angeles, the former Defensive Participant of the 12 months may see himself solely in a Lakers uniform.
The voices of Rondo and James reverberated all through the constructing.
“He is on the market calling [plays] like, ‘Floppy!'” Lakers normal supervisor Rob Pelinka mentioned of Rondo.
The 2 flooring generals orchestrated pick-and-rolls and directed defensive protection on the bottom as workers noticed Rondo’s notorious competitiveness — he wasn’t backing down an inch to James.
It was what Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson had hoped for. He needed to encompass his younger core with vets who fixated on basketball to the point of compulsion. In Rondo, Johnson had added the bodily embodiment of basketball obsession.
“I am unable to flip it off,” Rondo mentioned when describing the fixed chirping and cataloging of ideas, his thoughts racing via each possession, each determination.
It is an innate high quality, but in addition a trait whose NBA roots may be traced again over a decade in the past, taking part in alongside one of the NBA’s most cerebral thinker and talker in Kevin Garnett.
“I’m at all times replaying the sport again … I speak on my voice memos,” Rondo defined. “So I will likely be like, ‘OK. Three:18. First quarter. I appreciated this out-of-timeout play,’ whereas watching movie.”
Doc Rivers, who coached Rondo for seven seasons with the Boston Celtics, has by no means seen a participant watch extra movie than Rondo.
The LA Clippers coach and Minnesota Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau, an assistant beneath Rivers in Boston, had been lately laughing over dinner as they recounted tales about how the point guard would pounce on any scouting error at follow or shootaround.
“I believe most gamers watch one sport and suppose they’re ready,” Rivers mentioned. “Rondo watched 10 video games and was as ready as a coach. That made him totally different.”
Take into account Rondo’s typical postgame routine:
Regardless of final result, Rondo will ruminate about the sport over a late dinner.
He’ll cue up some Bob Marley and ease into a movie session, reviewing the previous occasions.
This routine begins round midnight and may stretch to as late as Three a.m.
“I arrange the atmosphere,” Rondo mentioned. “I get the temper proper the place I want to be mentally.
“Something I do … playing cards, Join 4, driving to faculty [and knowing the best route]. My life is fairly calculated. I’m going residence, I’ve to sleep [pregame for] 2½ hours. I eat at sure occasions. I received to depart the home at sure occasions. I bathe at sure occasions earlier than the sport.
“It is like having solutions to the check. That’s how I have a look at life, how I have a look at on the courtroom. If I’m on the market and I received the reply to the check, I’m going to do a greater job on my check.”
The Lakers have been making an attempt to unlock Ball’s hearth for over a yr now.
Ball has admitted to having issue getting engaged at occasions — and Rondo has been tasked with unsealing the former No. 2 choose’s potential. He has been in Ball’s ear to rebound, push the ball in transition and publish up smaller defenders.
“Yeah, he’ll strive to get into me,” Ball mentioned. “Simply stuff to strive to get me going. He talks a bunch of trash in follow all the time, which makes me fairly mad.”
“I instructed him, my complete life I [respond to] getting yelled at [by the coach] so that’s how I reply … for those who see stuff, simply yell at me. I tune into it. That’s how he tries to assist me out.”
On a minimum of three events this season, Rondo has known as an impromptu players-only movie session.
“He just about leads the complete factor,” Ball mentioned. “He simply calls it randomly earlier than follow and he received the clicker and he goes via all the pieces, from guards to bigs. I believe that helps me the most.”
In a session over the summer time, Rondo performed footage from the Lakers’ March 22 sport in opposition to the New Orleans Pelicans final season. Sitting with Johnson, Pelinka and Ball, Rondo — who performed reverse Ball in that March match — confirmed footage of the Lakers dropping what ought to have been an insurmountable 11-point lead in the fourth quarter.
“The Lakers had been up and we had been making a run, nevertheless it appeared like they had been down,” Rondo mentioned. “You bought to point out a pair of guys on the group that appeared like that they had s—ty physique language.
“That is little s— as the point guard, you want to ensure everybody understands that.”
There’s 15.9 seconds left on a Saturday night time at the San Antonio Spurs and Rondo has a path to an uncontested layup. In the earlier timeout, Walton had instructed the group to take a fast basket and foul if James didn’t have a right away Three-point alternative.
As an alternative, Rondo pulls the ball again out to strive to catch the Spurs off guard for a possible tying Three. The Lakers miss a Three, and Rondo explains that the Lakers had no timeouts left.
Even on good phrases, Rondo can have a tough time together with his coach if their methods do not align. The 13-year vet prepares like a coach and has no qualms with difficult a coach.
However Walton has given the point guard the freedom to make on-the-fly choices as a result of he trusts Rondo’s judgment. He got here to this place after speaking with different coaches and assistants who had success using the similar sentiment. Alvin Gentry, who coached the guard in New Orleans, instructed Walton how a lot the Pelicans gamers liked Rondo.
“[Gentry] mentioned, ‘I completely love teaching Rondo,’ and I agree,” Walton mentioned. “I’ve had zero points with him as a participant. He is been nice. The one factor I ever have to inform him is like, typically I want him to be much less vocal after we try to get instructing executed. However he is by no means an issue. Every little thing I’ve ever requested him to do, he is executed.”
Throughout his second season in Boston, a younger Rondo would stroll into the Celtics coaches’ workplace and brainstorm sport plans with Rivers and his workers.
“We’d have drag-out arguments,” Rivers mentioned. ” … We had our ups and downs however largely so far as individuals we at all times appreciated one another. That does not imply we received alongside all the time.
“He needs to be heard and desires a voice. Perhaps I’m fortunate however I’ve at all times seen that as a optimistic factor.”
The younger Lakers have seen Rondo’s consideration to element. Hart says the Lakers typically stroll out of a huddle and Rondo identifies the opposing play simply by the positioning of the gamers on the courtroom.
Ball mentioned Rondo as soon as identified that a participant had his sneakers untied throughout a movie session in the midst of all the different issues he noticed on tape. Kuzma says he is seen how Rondo consistently appears to be like at his Apple watch throughout follow.
“I do not know what he does with that watch however looks as if he’s fairly calculated with all the pieces,” Kuzma mentioned.
Rondo, who says he screens his coronary heart charge and steps together with his watch throughout follow, admits he’s deliberate with all the pieces he does on and off the courtroom.
“He retains it tremendous real, tremendous actual,” Ingram mentioned. “He’s in vocal mode always. He’s at all times telling me to assault. He at all times says, ‘You need to turn into an All-Star, proper?’ Then he goes on and on how I can turn into that, how I can get simple baskets, how I is usually a higher defender.”
With Rondo sidelined for a minimum of a month, James can have to depend on newly acquired Tyson Chandler to keep the vocal depth on the courtroom. However that won’t cease Rondo from making his ideas recognized, even from the bench.
“Rondo’s a pure chief,” James mentioned. “I believe he simply was introduced into this world to lead.”