The trade deadline was threatening to break the Los Angeles Lakers. Relentless trade rumors involving almost all of the team’s young players were hounding them by the day. LaVar Ball reappeared out of thin air to take shots at the head coach and the franchise’s star. It all culminated in an embarrassing 42-point loss to the Indiana Pacers earlier this week, with the Lakers looking disinterested and detached. The lasting image of the evening found LeBron James sitting at the very end of the bench, far away from the rest of his teammates. It became a meme almost instantly.
So Rajon Rondo took action. Chris Webber relayed a story following Rondo’s buzzer-beating shot to down the Boston Celtics on Thursday night on TNT, one that found the former Celtic calling his Lakers teammates together for a players-only practice the day after that blowout loss to the Pacers, despite the Lakers having a scheduled off day. Most of the Lakers showed, and per head coach Luke Walton, it changed the entire mood of the team.
“(Rondo) started talking junk to guys,” Webber said. “He started 2-on-2, 3-on-3 and then 4-on-4. Luke Walton said the mood of the team changed, which is something that never happened before after a 2-point loss, let alone a 42-point loss. How about that, Rondo a leader on and off the court.”
Whatever Rondo did or said during that practice paid immediate dividends, as the Lakers waltzed into Boston and escaped with a big win over a superior opponent. Even cooler? The shot Rondo hit at the buzzer looked almost identical to a shot he was practicing pregame against his son.
Rondo’s return to the Lakers lineup, though not quite as impactful as LeBron’s, has been huge in multiple ways. Not only does it give the Lakers a reliable and smart ball-handler, but Rondo has provided the team with a calming influence as they work through what’s already been a whirlwind of a season. With the trade deadline having come and gone without a blockbuster deal for Anthony Davis, perhaps things will settle down for the Lakers. Rondo will continue to do whatever he can to see to it.