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Pros and Cons of Los Angeles Lakers Pursuing Rajon Rondo During 2015 Free Agency

Howard Ruben@howardrubenContributor IApril 26, 2015

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) points to Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) after a foul in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Thursday Feb. 5, 2009. The Lakers beat the beat the Celtics 110-109 in overtime.  At right holding Rondo is Celtics guard Ray Allen. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Are the Los Angeles Lakers really serious about pursuing Dallas Mavericks point guard Rajon Rondo this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent?

And if they are, how would signing the 29-year-old former Boston Celtic and longtime Lakers adversary play into the team's plans to rebuild what is presently a decimated franchise?

And does it make sense, given his numerous injuries, advancing age and recent flame-out with the Dallas Mavericks?

A March 26 SportsNation poll (in ESPN The Magazine) asked fans which team Rondo will play for next season. An overwhelming number—42 percent—voted for the Lakers, with 10 percent picking the Mavericks, 11 percent the New York Knicks and 29 percent selecting "elsewhere."

For the sake of editorial balance, there are a few obvious Rondo traits that could make him attractive to the Lakers. One of his biggest admirers is Kobe Bryant, who has said on numerous occasions he wants the Lakers to pursue the point guard.

Pros

1. Champion

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Rondo has been a champion, having starred for the Boston Celtics when they beat L.A. and captured the title in 2008.

2. Tremendous passer

Rondo's court sense is uncanny. He makes good players better by finding them in open spots on the floor. There have been games when Rondo's skills as a pass-first point guard conjure up comparisons to some of the greats, such as Steve Nash, John Stockton and Magic Johnson. Rondo averaged almost 11 assists in the 22 games he played in Boston this season.

3. Exceptional rebounder

Rondo is only 6'1" and 185 pounds, but he is a tenacious defender and knows how to get in position to grab errant, loose balls that don't find the basket. Prior to being dealt earlier this year to the Dallas Mavericks, he was averaging a career-best 7.5 rebounds per 32 minutes in Boston.

The first question the Lakers must ask themselves as they ponder the pursuit of Rondo: What is our plan? Do we actually have have a plan?

If L.A.'s plan is to rebuild with a mix of smart draft picks, free agents and a few core players from this year’s team, then signing Rajon Rondo to a big contract over several years makes no sense. Where does one begin?

Cons

1. He's injury-prone

Since tearing his right ACL in 2013, Rondo has had eight serious injuries, including a broken hand, broken nose, sore left Achilles, sore knee and sore back.

With all that Bryant has suffered through the past few years, do the Lakers really need another aging veteran who keeps breaking down? He is not the same player physically; it is plain and simple.

2. Terrible shooter

The model for today's point guard is someone who not only is a floor general, but is also capable of making shots. And while Rondo will occasionally knock down a couple of three-pointers in succession, he mostly is so awful from beyond the perimeter that teams often dare him to shoot.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Rondo has never been good at shooting, but his ability to make passes and defend is what allowed his career to flourish. Last I checked, the Lakers were in dire need of more offense, not less. For his career, Rondo shoots just 26 percent from beyond the arc and isn't much better at free throws (61 percent for career, 45 percent this season with the Mavs).

3. Tough to handle

While ESPN.com's Ramona Shelbourne writes that Rondo is respected by players around the NBA and thinks L.A. should go after him, he certainly doesn’t come across as a clubhouse or on-court leader. Some of his closest teammates in Boston, while praising his abilities, are quick to point out how tough Rondo can be to understand and deal with.

Kevin Garnett, a lock for the Hall of Fame who played with Rondo on Boston's 2008 championship team, recently said of Rondo, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN The Magazine, "He's got that fire, man. That alpha fire. But he's got to be able to control it."

And this from Danny Ainge, Celtics General Manager, who dealt Rondo to Dallas last December, via Holmes:

He (Rondo) doesn't like to be told what to do. He wants to be coached, but when you coach him, you'd better know what you're talking about. And even then, he still may challenge you. The question always was, 'Is he a good enough player to behave the way he does?'

4. Issues with coaches

Rick Carlisle isn’t the only head coach to have at it with Rondo, just the most recent. Rondo and Carlisle got into a shouting match on the court in a regular season game, and the coach put him on the bench for the rest of the contest as well as the next game, per The Washington Post

And in Game 2 of the Mavs playoff series with the Houston Rockets, Rondo again was benched after committing an eight-second backcourt violation and then picking up two fouls against James Harden followed by a technical.

When asked after the game if he expected Rondo to wear a Dallas uniform again, Carlisle would only say, per The Boston Globe, "No, I don't."

Former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, who often praised the play of the mercurial Rondo, collided with the temperamental player and almost came to blows after the point guard cursed at him during the 2013 season, per Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops.

5. Max contract defeats idea to build

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak surely has moved away from considering a max contract offer for Rondo this summer. Or has he?

With his production down and with him appearing to quit on the Mavs during the playoffs, one would think Rondo's value in the free-agency market has plummeted. Would L.A. still offer a max contract, or any contract, to him now?

The Lakers have money to spend this offseason, perhaps as much as $25 to $30 million, depending on whether or not they pick up Jordan Hill's $9 million option.

Why not look to sign one of the league's superstar big men, such as Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge or Kevin Love. Or a young, up-and-coming power forward like 22-year-old Tobias Harris of the Orlando Magic.

Pundits are mixed on Rondo as a Laker.

Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com wrote, "Only if they add other pieces around him, because that's the only way he thrives. If Rondo is the only major acquisition they make this summer, then they failed."

ESPN.com's Ramona Shelbourne feels the Lakers should go after Rondo in free agency, writing, "Yes. It's a risk, but at the right price I think it's worth it. Rondo might be hard to coach, but he's respected by players around the league and it's never a bad thing to have a pass-first point guard."

The Lakers have a point guard of the future in Jordan Clarkson. The 22-year-old rookie broke into the starting lineup against the world champion San Antonio Spurs in January and turned the rest of the league upside down with his performance over the second half of the season.

In 38 games as the starting guard, Clarkson averaged 16 points, five assists and four rebounds in 32 minutes. He averaged 19 points and seven assists in April, evidence that his game continued to improve.

Looking to the future, the Lakers may have an opportunity to grab one of the two top point guard prospects in D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State) or Emmanuel Mudiay (China). Clarkson has proven he can play either guard position. This plan is much cheaper than signing Rondo and has so much more potential.

Bringing Rajon Rondo to Los Angeles might only satisfy the whims of Bryant, who is in the last year of his contract. Bryant loves Rondo's competitiveness—or at least he thinks he does. The two may have similar on-court personalities, but that could be combustible.

What's puzzling is that the Lakers appear to be the only franchise willing to take a chance on Rondo this summer. Is there something Mitch Kupchak and Lakers Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss see that no one else does?

Per New York Post's Tim Bontemps:

So where will Rondo play? It seems like the only team willing to give him a contract this summer is the Lakers. It almost certainly would make Kobe Bryant happy: The two had breakfast together in Boston shortly before Rondo was traded, and Bryant has talked openly about how much he respects Rondo's game. At least until they inevitably begin butting heads after a few weeks together.

Rajon Rondo and the Lakers just don't feel like a fit. We'll all know soon enough.g

Howard Ruben has also written for UPI, L.A. Times, Los Angeles magazine, Adweek, and Advertising Age.

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