A week ago, the Clippers made headlines with their acquisition of their new mentor/point guard in Rajon Rondo from the Atlanta Hawks. After their embarrassing playoff run last year, the Clippers were in dire need of a play-making and proficient point guard; however, during the office season, their front office seemed rather sluggish as they passed on name after name, some of which seemed like just the missing piece for their championship run. One notable name they passed up on was 35 year old veteran Rajon Rondo who was coming off a championship run with the Lakers. Fast forward to now, with just a little bit more than a month left until the start of their much-anticipated playoff run, they opted to trade for him, giving up 3-time Sixth man of the year Lou Williams, two future second-round picks, and cash considerations.
So, who is Rondo and what can we expect from him?
On paper, he is averaging 3.9 points, 2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in his reduced 14.9 minutes per game this season. Surely, there has to be more than that lackluster statline. Well, ever heard of Playoff Rondo? With 9 years of playoff experience under his belt, Rondo has proven to step up in the playoffs, quite unlike the star-stacked Clippers team in their agonizing defeat in the Western Conference Semifinals against the Denver Nuggets last year. In his championship run with the Lakers that same year, Rondo stepped up as their third best player behind superstars Lebron James and Anthony Davis, averaging an impressive 8.9 points, 6.6 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game; in other words, he is able to deliver on all aspects on the floor, especially when it is needed the most.
Beyond the stat sheets, he is a leader and a mentor both on and off the floor who shares the tough winning mentality of this organization. In fact, Paul George, in a recent interview after their win against the Lakers (104-86), proudly shared that "I look at him as a leader of this group." Others shared Geroge’s feelings, seeing him as the main voice on the floor and as someone who will hold others accountable in competing for the Larry O’Brien trophy. Rondo plans to help facilitate on the court with his focus on allowing Leonard and Geroge to have better and easier looks while also taking advantage of defensive steps and subsequent fastbreaks.
In addition, Ty Lue, the head coach of the Clippers, will get to coach a familiar player in Rondo: Lue and Rondo share a meaningful relationship dating back to their historic championship run in 2008 a part of the Boston Celtics. Evidently, Lue will know exactly how to make the most of Rondo, and Rondo, too, already knows what is expected of him moving onwards. This synergy is definitely something Clippers’ fans should keep an eye out for.
Nearing the end of the season, it seems like the Clippers are honing their team, and everything is coming together at the right time. The very problems that hindered their endeavor last year - lack of playmaking, leadership, and clutch time performance - seem to have been solved (or at least alleviated). What’s more, the team has played a lot more games, with both of their big-name superstars healthy (both missed a significant number last year due to injuries and load management) and playing together supported by a team full of hungry players eager to win - namely, Marcus Morris Sr., Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, and Nicholas Batum made good impressions in their respective roles this season.
All in all, with the recent addition of the 2-time NBA champion and 3-time assist leader, the Clippers should be even more excited in their pursuit to win it all this year. Rondo himself shared in an interview with The Jump that the championship is the ceiling for this team; he firmly declared that he sees this season as either a championship or a bust. His new teammates welcome him and are just as thrilled to compete in the remaining months of the regular season.
Clippers’ fans should look forward to how the addition of Rondo and his basketball IQ will contribute to the LA Clippers in their attempts to end their 51-year championship drought, starting with his second game in a Clippers’ jersey against the Trailblazers in two days.