I’ve said from the beginning that Playoff Rondo is the only hope the Lakers have at avoiding failure. After three games of this Rockets series, prescience appears to be an understatement for my evaluation.
After returning from injury and taking a warmup in Game 1, he spent the next two games turning the entire complexion of the NBA Playoffs on its head. Playoff Rondo is now fully activated.
Obviously I am not surprised by this turn of events. What I am surprised by though… is the fact that everyone else is so surprised!
Sure, he’s looked pedestrian as hell in countless regular season games over the past ten or so years. But those games don’t matter and he knows that more than anyone.
As a both a Dallas and New Orleans guy, I’ve had an up close view of both the best and worst of Playoff Rondo over the years, so let’s run this back…
The Mavs traded for Rondo in December 2014 and it was a rocky start. Defense improved slightly, but offense dropped from it’s top-of-league status to fourth within a month as he continually clashed heads with Carlisle.
Rondo – “I’ll call the fucking plays!” Carlisle – “Sit the fuck down!” Love it.
Despite the troubles, Celtics fans would keep telling us to wait for Playoff Rondo. They recalled his legendary performances such as the six steals in Finals clinchers vs Lakers and the time he carried his old ass squad to a 3-2 lead against the prime Heatles.
Alas, Rondo never blessed Mavs fans with that magic. His playoff tenure in Dallas lasted all of 1.5 games. In game 2 of round 1, his feuding with Carlisle went to a whole new level.
He purposely took an 8 second violation after getting pissed at one of Carlisle’s play calls, and then came out of the second half with the sole intent of getting benched. Two fouls on Harden within 20 seconds, one of them a technical, and that was all she wrote for Rondo’s career in Dallas.
He was ruled out the rest of the series with a ‘back injury’, had his playoff salary revoked by a team vote, and had physically bolted from the city of Dallas before Game 3 even began.
He’s been an enemy of Mavs fans ever since, but I still retained a soft spot for him. Shortly before the series began, this ESPN Mag feature came out and explained how he was the smartest player in the league who just had troubles relating with high ego coaches because of his genius.
Around that same time, I was fired from a short-lived job under very similar circumstances. I won’t go into details but can confidently say that I was the smartest, most talented, and easily the biggest asshole of the company. Rondo felt like a kindred spirit to me.
I love Carlisle and always will. He is one of the, if not THE, best coach in the game. But he should’ve handled Rondo differently. Our offense in 2011 took off once he finally allowed Jason Kidd to call plays, and he should’ve just done the same with Rondo.
It’s not like it would’ve made much of a difference though, and it was still a great trade for us because we also got Dwight Powell in it.
Anyways, Rondo moves on and signs a contract with the Kings to cash some checks for a year. The next season, he signs with the Bulls and has a mostly pedestrian season until the playoffs start and he singlehandedly carries Chicago to a 2-0 lead vs the 1 seed Celtics.
He got a thumb injury and missed the rest of the series, which allowed the Celtics to win four straight and breathe a sigh of relief.
In 2018, he signs with the Pelicans. Again, it’s a pretty ‘meh’ regular season until the playoffs start and he becomes a hero forever in the city of New Orleans. Playoff Rondo was for real.
Whereas three years earlier I was in Dallas and everyone HATED this dude, I found myself during this series watching games in NOLA bars and joining in the Rondo worship. What a surreal experience.
Next season he signs with the Lakers, and he’s obviously invisible because they didn’t make the playoffs. The lone exception was a nationally televised game at Boston where he activated his playoff self for 10 assists and a buzzer beating three for the win.
Fast forward to now, and he’s back in an environment where he gives a shit. After skipping most of the BS games early on in the bubble, he’s arrived for this series and the league is on notice.
So, is everyone else fucked now that playoff Rondo is fully activated for LeBron and AD? Possibly.
The only hope I can give to Lakers haters such as myself is that Playoff Rondo has a battery life. He lasted only two games in that Bulls series, and he missed the entire next Pelicans series against Golden State with an injury.
However, it’s possible he just didn’t care about those games after making enough noise to secure his next season’s contract. We’ll just have to pray and see.