Rajon Rondo, 12 years after Celtics title, on cusp of history with Lakers

The 2008 Celtics had three future Hall of Famers in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
And a young point guard named Rajon Rondo.
In only his sophomore year, Rondo was seen as the weak link in hopes for a championship in Boston. He was talented but raw. At best it was a wild card.
So just before the playoffs, Boston signed Sam Cassell as a backup. Cassell won titles in his first two NBA seasons with the Rockets in 1994 and 1995. In the years since, he has never returned to the NBA Finals, but has become a trusted veteran. He was pretty excited for his opportunity with the Celtics.
"I won championships so early in the first two years of my career and I thought, 'That's how it will be," said Cassell. "Let me tell you something. If you miss it and miss it and miss it year after year ... "
Cassell - with the help of Rondo and the Big Three - got his satisfaction and won a third title 14 years after his first.
Now, 12 years later, Rondo sounds a lot like Cassell.
Rondos Lakers are 3-1 in the heat in the final. In Game 5 tonight, he won his first championship since 2008.
"I definitely appreciate it more," said Rondo. "... I think you will come back over and over and that just doesn't happen ..."
If Los Angeles wins, Rondo will have been 12 years between his first and last titles - one of the longest such reigns in NBA history.
Here are the players who walked the longest between their first and last championships, the number of years marked:
Championships won by players on the map:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 1971 MIL, 1980 LAL, 1982 LAL, 1985 LAL, 1987 LAL, 1988 LAL
Robert Parish: 1981 BOS, 1984 BOS, 1986 BOS, 1997 CHI
Tim Duncan: 1999 SAS, 2003 SAS, 2005 SAS, 2007 SAS, 2014 SAS
Sam Cassell: 1994 HOU, 1995 HOU, 2008 BOS
Robert Horry: 1994 HOU, 1995 HOU, 2000 LAL, 2001 LAL, 2002 LAL, 2005 SAS, 2007 SAS
A. C. Green: 1987 LAL, 1988 LAL, 2000 LAL
John Havlicek: 1963 BOS, 1964 BOS, 1965 BOS, 1966 BOS, 1968 BOS, 1969 BOS, 1974 BOS, 1976 BOS
Rondo district: 2008 BOS
Bill Russell: 1957 BOS, 1959 BOS, 1960 BOS, 1961 BOS, 1962 BOS, 1963 BOS, 1964 BOS, 1965 BOS, 1966 BOS, 1968 BOS, 1969 BOS
Tony Parker: 2003 SAS, 2005 SAS, 2007 SAS, 2014 SAS
John Salley: 1989 DET, 1990 DET, 1996 CHI, 2000 LAL
Earl Cureton: 1983 PHI, 1994 HOU
Kobe Bryant: 2000 LAL, 2001 LAL, 2002 LAL, 2009 LAL, 2010 LAL
Derek Fisher: 2000 LAL, 2001 LAL, 2002 LAL, 2009 LAL, 2010 LAL
Horace Grant: 1991 CHI, 1992 CHI, 1993 CHI, 2001 LAL
Don Nelson: 1966 BOS, 1968 BOS, 1969 BOS, 1974 BOS, 1976 BOS
Sam Jones: 1959 BOS, 1960 BOS, 1961 BOS, 1962 BOS, 1963 BOS, 1964 BOS, 1965 BOS, 1966 BOS, 1968 BOS, 1969 BOS
Clyde Lovellette: 1954 MNL, 1963 BOS, 1964 BOS
Obviously, Rondo's career is not as impressive as that of other listed players. Unlike players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan and Bill Russell, Rondo was never a superstar who made his team a championship fight annually. In that group, only Rondo and Earl Cureton (a deep reserve of the 1983 76 and 1994 missiles) won less than three championships.
In many ways, Rondo's achievement is a product of circumstance. Rondo had no influence on starting his career at Boston, which earned him No. 21 in a 2006 draft day trade. He happened to join a team that already had Pierce and was only a year away from trading for Allen and Garnett.
But Rondo deserves credit for how quickly he was up to date. Few second year players, even those who have made a name for themselves, can get that deep into the playoffs. Rondo was advanced.
A passerby and accomplished defender and rebounder, he became an expert at reading the floor. Rondo has become firmly embedded in the discussions of the league's smartest players.
Rondo had some ugly stints with the Mavericks, Kings, and Bulls later in his career. In his first season in Los Angeles, he looked like a terrible fit on LeBron James. Tom Haberstroh:
The real reason the Lakers died
??? pic.twitter.com/TyzegdaveZ
- Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh), March 7, 2019
But the Lakers still re-signed Rondo this past off-season - and you can draw a line between Rondo's Boston title and that decision.
The Celtics defeated the Lakers in the 2008 final and lost to the Lakers in the 2010 final. In these battles, Rondo earned the respect of Kobe Bryant. Years later, Bryant Rondo recruited hard to Los Angeles. Do you think this resonated with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, Bryant's friend and former agent?
Back at the Lakers, Rondo improved his chemistry with LeBron. Rondo played important minutes in these playoffs and usually justified Frank Vogel's belief. Behind the scenes, Rondo continues to help young Los Angeles players develop.
Yes, it is a coincidence that Rondo is the likely champion. He could easily have spent the season with a different team, maybe even a very good one that came up short. But he's smart and determined enough to keep moving forward. He gives himself opportunities.
Another title 12 years after his first title would be a fitting ode to his quick and enduring ability to contribute to victory at the highest level.
Rajon Rondo, 12 years after the Celtics title, originally appeared on NBCSports.com

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