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Lakers Lair Three-Man Weave: Can Rajon Rondo be the mentor that Lonzo Ball needs?

Welcome to Lakers Lair Three-Man Weave, a subjective Lakers-related column where our resident Lakers fans answer a series of questions regarding the Purple & Gold. For this edition of TMW, we discuss the impact Rajon Rondo will have on Lonzo Ball and how they will mesh together as a duo. Our participants this week are:

1. What’s the biggest thing Lonzo Ball should look to learn from Rajon Rondo during their time together?

Soaries: What it means to be a complete student and competitor. Rondo can never be denied as a winner. Not just because he won a title in Boston, but because he plays the game as a winner. Sometimes that approach leads to the notion that he’s arrogant, well most greats carry a certain arrogance about them. So that’s something else Lonzo can pick up from Rondo.

King: The ability to be a vocal leader and command an offense. No matter what roster Rondo managed to descend upon (excluding maybe Dallas), there was no question that he was the primary voice in setting the tone on both offense and defense. Ball has a calm and often times placid look when he plays the game and his vocal tone accompanies that. These vital teachings for Ball to take charge can first be learned in the offseason during practices. Another valuable Rondo tutoring lesson that can be passed onto Ball would be, to be his own player and stay within that realm. Not every player is going to be great at everything (that is why the Lakers got LeBron James) so it is important that Ball doesn’t try and be a totally different player than he was in his rookie season. Rondo has done a stellar job throughout his career at getting the ball into the hands of the players for which the team leans on each night to produce. No doubt Ball will have to find a way to learn ways to balance his playmaking ability with that of others, much like Rondo learned in his younger playing days with the Boston Celtics. Sorry I mentioned that team in this roundtable everyone.

Boyer: Whatever it is that has made and continues to make Rajon Rondo… Rajon Rondo. Rondo is an NBA champion, four-time All-Star has made the All-Defensive First Team twice and has led the NBA in assists on three separate occasions. While the modern point guard model that has pervaded the Association is one with a premium on scoring, Ball will look to secure long-term career success playing like a “traditional” point guard, almost like a blend of Jason Kidd and Rondo himself. Despite the holes that his game contains, Rondo has been able to flip his talents into a 12-year NBA career packed with success. If Lonzo can retain information from “Rajon Rondo’s School of NBA Point Guarding,” that allows him to flourish in the same way as the aforementioned point guards, Laker fans should be ecstatic.

2. Now under the wings of Rondo and LeBron James, how do you anticipate Lonzo’s already strong feel for the game developing even further?

Soaries: Well with LeBron, he has the best player in the world as a passing target. Lonzo averaged seven assists per game his rookie season. That could easily bump up to double digits with LeBron as a recipient of his passes, especially in transition. As I spoke to in the last question, I expect Lonzo to have to become a little more gritty and assertive with someone like Rondo in his ear. I think the whole dynamic of Rondo being a tenured non-shooter will actually breed more confidence into Lonzo to validate himself as the opposite. All levels of his game should become enhanced playing with guys like this.

King: There is always knowledge to be learned about this great game. There will be instances where the 20-year old Ball will point out things to the collective four-time league champions in Rondo and James. More often than not though, there will be times when Ball will have to become a sponge and absorb what is being advised to him from these two vets. Already having a rock-solid foundation to work off of, Ball’s feel for the game can only become better. It is rare that we see young players, especially at the point guard position, come in with as high a basketball IQ and feel for the game as Ball has. James and Rondo both know this and with all three of these players being cut from the same cloth in terms of that instinctual ‘feel’ of being a playmaker, playing alongside James and Rondo will show Ball how the game can then be slowed down and approached in a much different light. Something that Ball may have never experienced before with his time at UCLA as well as in his rookie season. This expanded feel for the game could generate more opportunities to round Ball out as a player. Instilling inside of him: better anticipation on defense, picking up on subtle tendencies and deficiencies of the opponent, and spots to continually attack offensively as a scorer. These two superstars will work wonders in building upon Ball’s already profound skill-set and approach to the game.

Boyer: If there’s one area of Ball’s game that needs no further advancing, it’s his playmaking. Still, the presence of both Rondo and James will prove to be calming for Lonzo, with influence from both parties proving to be so rich that it almost seems quantifiable. Expect this to extend to all corners of Ball’s game, with both veterans deepening the way he perceives things on the court, most notably as a scorer. Scoping things out through a lens set by both Rondo and James will not only help Lonzo Ball’s feel for the game but will make him a more refined player as well. We always hear the old adage about “the game slowing down,” for some of the younger pups in the NBA, but the biggest thing I hope Lonzo takes away from Rondo and LeBron is an optimal balance between selfishness and selflessness. I think more than anything we’ll see their imprints on Lonzo’s game in that capacity.

3. Where might Rondo and Ball find issues when sharing the court together?

Soaries: Outside shooting is what jumps out at you. Lonzo has shown that he can make shots but still has to prove himself as a true shot maker. That could create floor balance issues, and it’s on Lonzo to show an ability to be effective off the ball because when he shares the floor with Rondo he probably won’t operate as much as the point guard.

King: No question it has to be related to scoring. Rondo and Ball are great playmakers for others but there will be times when the Lakers need them to be guards who can score and therein lies the issue. It is not a James Harden and Chris Paul scenario where both are great shooters and are capable players working off the ball when they aren’t orchestrating the offense at the point. Both players are too familiar with being the primary ball-handler and when a brunt of that responsibility is expected to be divided, there is an adjustment that needs to be made. However, I will say defensively I don’t believe there will be any lapses as Ball and Rondo are both active and tenacious on defense.

MORE: How the ceiling looks for Brandon Ingram with LeBron James in the picture 

Boyer: We all know about their shortcomings as shooters and how much of a challenge leapfrogging that hurdle will be for the Lakers, but I’m worried about their overall ability to score the ball, which may handicap Los Angeles’ offense and put defenses in advantageous positions on a way too consistent basis. Every championship-winning team LeBron James has played on featured a reliable, high-scoring guard stationed in the backcourt (Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving), and Los Angeles currently doesn’t have a guard that fits that prototype on their roster. When waging war against the likes of the Utah Jazz or Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles may be able to get away with rolling out Ball and Rondo together for prolonged periods of time. Against teams like the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, two teams that have a proclivity for scoring and will run teams that cannot keep up offensively off the court, the leash on a Ball/Rondo backcourt is going to be much, much shorter.

4. What is it that makes Rondo and Ball such an intriguing pair to you?

Rajon Rondo and Lonzo Ball look to find success in the Lakers’ backcourt. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Soaries: The more high-level passers you have on the floor the more intriguing you are. The two of them push the ball fast and with pace. They get rid of the ball quickly in most cases. That kind of combined passing ability is pretty rare.

I think what’s most interesting is the comparison between them. Ball is almost a young, modern version of Rondo with the potential to become a more gifted all-around player and scorer. But what Rondo has, and what’s made him a champion and fierce veteran competitor, is the kind of stuff that Ball might need to elevate his approach to the game.

King: Their combined ability to get others around them involved. While both are at separate junctures of their respective careers, both have a knack for using the pieces around them to result in overall team success. Had Ball been on the court more often who knows how many more wins that could have meant for Los Angeles. As far as Rondo, while he has been huddled with superstar talent through a large majority of his playing days, he has found a way to get role players involved and clicking with the other members on the team. Think Glen Davis in Boston and E’Twaun Moore in New Orleans last season. Say what you will about his off the court ‘distractions,’ when the ball hits the hardwood, Rondo is a gamer and somebody you want in your corner. I find that, although shooting may suffer when the two are on the court, that the most intriguing thing about this pairing is that the ball will never stick and there will be fluid ball movement and proper decision making that will be necessary for slaying the other Western Conference powerhouses.

Boyer: The prospect of having two elite playmakers on the floor, and also a backcourt mate in Rondo that can further unlock Lonzo’s abilities off the ball. Ball is an intelligent cutter, a viable lob-option and showed progress in the catch-and-shoot department as last season danced on, attributes that may compel Luke Walton and Los Angeles’ coaching staff to further experiment with Lonzo as an off-guard. In most of the Lakers’ backcourt pairings last season, Ball was slotted next to the likes of Jordan Clarkson or Josh Hart, two players with scant playmaking capabilities. We all know the damage Lonzo can do to defenses with his passing, but it’ll be interesting to see him in a new offensive role that at times deprives him of the ball more than he’s used to and forces him to be deliberate and decisive in his movements away from the action.

I’m also intrigued to see if the duo can execute the Lakers’ switch-happy defensive scheme. We saw Los Angeles find success with Ball and Hart flipping actions, and I wonder if Ball and Rondo, two lengthy defenders that don’t shy away from defensive contact, can mirror that success.

Mostly though, I’m amped to have two cerebral guards that are constantly canvassing the floor to discover and or create passing windows for teammates.

 

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