Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led role players who took star turns for Lakers
The Lakers emptied the closet to get Anthony Davis in a deal, but it was worth the price - adding the game's best tall man to a team with LeBron James made Los Angeles instant title contenders.
The question was always whether there would be enough for these two top talents. Could the Lakers get a third star?
It turned out the Lakers didn't need a man as a third star. They compiled a list of veterans who would make star changes if necessary, if the matchups preferred them. That was enough for a team with LeBron and Davis (plus an elite defense).
"The IQ of the group, Rondo, Danny Green, JaVale McGee who was there, the talent level of the other guys, other guys who are ready to play their roles," said Laker trainer Frank Vogel about his role-players. "Only we had a strong belief in this group."
In Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the third star the Lakers needed was Rajon Rondo - 19 points on the 8-of-11 and even blown a few times by a dead Jimmy Butler to get in the paint. He finished 5 out of 6 shots on the edge and hit three out of four from a distance, given years of unpredictable shots that led to the “let Rondo shoot” defense strategy. Rondo shot 40% of three in the playoffs (he was a career 29% of three prior to this season), he apparently liked depth perception better in the smaller venues.
"To be able to come back and repay myself and play a big part in this championship is definitely a damn good feeling and something I will remember for the rest of my life," Rondo said, referencing the 2008 title he had won with the Celts. It had been a long way between titles.
Find out more about the Lakers who won the title
Magic Johnson resigns as Lakers President of Basketball Operations
How will Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and the rest of the young Lakers fit into LeBro ...
D'Angelo Russell says Kobe Bryant is "mentally on another level & ...
Rajon Rondo was a locker room operator on this Lakers team along with LeBron and Davis - it was Rondo who spoke to a team meeting on a day off between games five and six and said that if they won, it would be defense. It was Rondo who handled the ball and took the offensive when LeBron went on the bench.
In Game 4 of the Finals, it was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who showed up - a guy Lakers fans turned on for his fights last season, and a guy some Lakers fans wanted to be traded, a guy a lot of in the league thought he was on the roster because he had the right agent (Rich Paul and Klutch Sports, who also represent LeBron and Davis).
Pope had 15 points in Game 4 and hit a couple of threes in the clutch corner. He's also done a good job chasing Duncan Robinson out of the picks and keeping the sniper off his feet.
“I'm just proud of my defense. My defense gets my offensive going, ”said Caldwell-Pope. "I've been playing like this since college. Just try to get defensive stops, get out on transition, easy layups, either to get to the free-throw line or switch at three, open my game. I'm trying to start on the defensive and to get my energy going. "
In the previous series against Denver, it was Dwight Howard who started the Lakers with his physical defense against Nikola Jokic. Howard wasn't even supposed to be on the team, he was just the best tall man available when DeMarcus Cousins went down.
It was like this for the Lakers all year. Some days Kyle Kuzma was her third star for one night, another night it was Danny Green, next time it was Alex Caruso (who started Game 6 for Los Angeles). There was always someone there.
None of that was the original plan. In the summer of 2019, Lakers GM Rob Pelinka tried to add a third star in Kawhi Leonard after taking over Davis. When Leonard finally decided to go down the hall to join this team, Pelinka was seen from the outside as a crawling animal to round out the Lakers list, and he tossed many challenging personalities together - Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus cousins (and when he was him, Howard was injured)), McGee and others. Pelinka said it wasn't, the Lakers had a plan.
“In the free agency last year we obviously tried to find a maximum free agent, but we had a counter, we had a backup plan and I knew we had a chance with the other players that we could to build a team, ”said Pelinka. "It worked. It obviously worked well."
It worked out because Pelinka got big but athletic - something he could afford to do LeBron and Davis (two big guys) at heart. It also worked because LeBron had a strong lead in the dressing room - no one got out of line, the big personalities didn't create big distractions (despite a little weirdness from Dwight Howard in the bubble). The Lakers were focused on the task at hand, they were one of the two mentally toughest teams in the bubble.
And of these teams, they were the most talented. Not just the stars, but the guys around them who could show up as needed.
The latest news on the 2020 NBA draft
Teams can start face-to-face interviews, workouts with design perspectives.
One thing everyone agrees on with the 2020 NBA draft: Nobody agrees ...
LaMelo Ball doesn't worry about where it's being drafted: “Everywhere is ...
NBA draft date
Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, led role-players who starred for Lakers
You should check here to buy the best price guaranteed products.
Youngkin demands resignations from Loudoun County School Board in wake of bombshell email
Jason Spezza with a Goal vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Match Highlights: Juventude vs. Ceará
Tens of thousands of Brazilians and Venezuelans illegally cross US-Mexico border
Outrage grows after conservative host’s remarks on reporter’s Asian features
Arch Manning breaks 68-yard TD run in front of Georgia’s Kirby Smart