Sorry, conspiracy theorists. Yesterday’s breakfast between Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo was indeed just that – a breakfast. But that doesn’t mean the Los Angeles Lakers don’t have ambitions of stealing the star Boston Celtics point guard from their time-honored rivals in free agency this summer.
According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Bryant and Rondo’s meeting was planned weeks in advance. But even though the Lakers legend apparently wasn’t begging Rondo to join him in Los Angeles, that hardly means his team isn’t interested. Like the incumbent Celtics, the Lakers want to sign Rondo come July:
The two stars had planned for weeks on meeting up for a meal when the Lakers were in Boston, sources told ESPN.com.
While there are no active talks between the two franchises involving a trade for Rondo, sources said the teams did have a brief discussion a few months ago.
Rondo will be a free agent this summer, and sources stressed that the Celtics would prefer to re-sign him.
Their willingness to engage in talks regarding Rondo is merely informational at this point, sources said.
However, the Lakers have long held interest in the point guard, who helped Boston defeat them in the 2008 NBA Finals as a rookie, and sources indicate he is high on their list of free-agent targets this summer.
Should the teams re-engage in discussions about Rondo, sources indicated Boston likely would ask for at least one first-round draft pick.
Only so much of this intel is surprising. Talks between Rondo and Boston have grown amicable since reports of discontent from both sides surfaced this summer, and it’s no secret that the purple-and-gold covet a long-term solution at point guard. It’s only natural that Los Angeles – who gets a meeting with all free agents, remember – would engage Rondo in contract discussions.
The interesting nugget here is that Danny Ainge isn’t actively shopping Rondo and is seeking a first-round pick in a potential exchange for the four-time All-Star. Los Angeles will surely have a non-lottery first-rounder from the Houston Rockets this June, and will also keep its own pick if it falls within the first five of the draft.
Is Mitch Kupchak willing to dangle the latter selection in efforts to gain Rondo’s Bird Rights? Or will he simply stand pat and bank on the promise of free agency?
Recent history suggests staying the course will be the Lakers’ play, and it’s a prudent one. This team needs a superstar to pair with Julius Randle to lead its post-Bryant era, and might not be better equipped to finding one than choosing so highly in the draft. And if Los Angeles nabs a prospect like Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns in late June, its odds of inking Rondo will surely increase, too.
This is mostly uncharted territory for the Lakers, and the Celtics haven’t been here since 2007. But patience is key to the re-building process for even the league’s glamour franchises, and both teams would be best-served playing out the season and dealing with Rondo come summer. Of course, that doesn’t mean they will exercise that plan of attack.
What do you think?
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