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Rajon Rondo put on a performance of the ages last night at Oracle Arena on the biggest stage thus far in this NBA season.
The former champion and feisty competitor willed the Los Angeles Lakers not only to a win in the absence of LeBron James — who exited in the third quarter because of a groin injury — they dominated the Golden State Warriors in a 26-point thrashing.
All orchestrated by Rondo.
The 12-year veteran was amazing. He galvanized the troops, set up players with pinpoint passes, and chipped in on the scoring with 15 points. His final stat line read as follows: 15 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 0 turnovers and a plus-minus of plus-24 — did I say he was amazing?
He’s currently doing this playing backup point guard to second-year player Lonzo Ball. The idea was to pair Rondo with Ball to serve as a mentor and show him just what he showcased Tuesday night — how to win games on this level.
Ball is a genius of a player. It’s possible he studied Rondo’s every move and took it all in while he watched eagerly on the bench for the majority of the fourth quarter.
And, it’s also plausible to believe Ball, who had a noticeable pep in his step once James went down, felt slighted that a player who has had his time as a team leader, just stole his moment on national TV.
Now, if you know Lonzo and his pedigree, the latter scenario may be harder to fathom as he values winning above all individual accolades. A triple-double in a loss is meaningless to him, as that was instilled in him from an early age by his father, LaVar.
But, there is something to be said for pride and growth. Having the Lakers select him with the second overall pick in the draft a year ago with Magic Johnson publicly anointing him as the second-coming to himself — only to be shamed in front of millions of viewers when he was subbed for the remaining 1:50 as if he were the 12th man on the bench in a blowout — wouldn’t sit well with most competitors.
So what’s the plan for the Lakers with Rondo and Ball? Do you appease one only to stunt the growth of the other?
Will Rondo, after again showing he has so much more to offer as a starter, continue to play second fiddle to a player he himself believes may not be on his level (yet)?
What about Ball? How long will he be OK with sitting for long stretches (he sat for 33 minutes of real-time action) watching a player he knows can start for any other team in the NBA? When will the inconsistent minutes and unclear direction for him be too much to bear?
Only these two have the answers, but the Lakers have decisions to make before this powder keg explodes and ruins James’ inaugural LA season.