Rajon Rondo leaving the Lakers as a free agent is a loss, but probably not an insurmountable one.
After an incredible playoff run that made him just the second player ever to win a championship with both the Lakers and Celtics, Rajon Rondo is departing the team in free agency. Following two seasons in purple and gold, Rondo has opted to leave the Lakers, although his announcement thanking the organization on Instagram didn't make it clear where he’s headed, but the latest reporting is that he's joining the Atlanta Hawks.
Rondo was mediocre-to-bad for the Lakers in the regular season, but that all turned around during a historically good playoff run in which he ended the playoffs with 105 assists off the bench, setting a new NBA record for the most by a player off the bench since starts began being tracked during the 1970-71 season, per Elias Sports Bureau. He gave the team the secondary playmaker they were desperately seeking all season, and in the process played his way into becoming a valuable free agent.
Now that he’s cashed in on that value, the Lakers will have some guard depth to compensate for, but in a rushed regular season during which the team is going to have to load manage a ton, bringing in some fresher legs that didn’t just play the longest season in NBA history and aren’t nearly 35 years old may not be the worst thing for the team. Rondo would have helped the Lakers, but they will likely be able to fill this void, especially given that we know Rondo barely tries during the regular season anyway.
The playoffs are a different story, and the Lakers will miss the urban legend known as Playoff Rondo. However, at his age, it’s an open question if Rondo will be able to access that level by flipping the switch again. There is a chance that Rob Pelinka and the front office will regret not bringing him back, but it’s also entirely possible that last season was the best case scenario for Rondo and that he wouldn’t have been able to repeat it.
We’ll find out in a few months, but don’t be shocked if the Lakers can fill this void more easily than you may think. Losing a guy that LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Frank Vogel trusted so much sucks, but this isn’t an insurmountable defection, especially not with the writing already on the wall given the addition of Dennis Schröder, who will likely be a massive regular season upgrade (and possible playoff one).
We can all appreciate what Rondo has done and thank him for his service while also remembering how maddening his style could be during the regular season. This is a departure the Lakers can probably survive.
So thanks to Playoff Rondo for the memories. The Lakers very well may not have been able to win a title without your insane ability to flip the switch, and best of luck moving forward. For as much criticism as you got at times (including on this blog), you proved everyone that did so wrong in the most Rondo possible way imaginable in the end. The organization is surely just as grateful for your tenure as you are to them for giving you the opportunity.
This developing story will be updated with more information. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.