LOS ANGELES — Rajon Rondo says it’s been neither especially “hectic” nor “epic,” his new of assignment as the Clippers’ proverbial missing piece. It’s been basically a matter of doing his homework.
“I’ve spent a lot of hours on the court, going through plays with (assistant coach) Chauncey Billups, with Coach (Tyronn) Lue as well, Coach (Larry) Drew, just trying to catch me up to speed with the playbook,” Rondo said after he made his Clippers debut in the team’s nationally televised 104-86 victory Sunday against the Lakers, with whom he won the second NBA title of his career last season.
Rondo contributed two points, three assists, two steals and a rebound to victory at Staples Center, where he also showed some not-unexpected rust, with four turnovers and four fouls in 13 minutes.
“For the most part, I’ve been in the training room a lot,” added the 6-foot-1 former Kentucky standout, who missed his first three games with the Clippers as he recovered from an adductor strain. “Training room, weight room. It’s been a balance. Spending as much time in the gym as possible — we test seven times a day, so we have no choice but to be in the gym — and just trying to slice it up a lot of different ways: body, core and mental focus, as well.”
Lue has acknowledged that it will take some time for the Rondo to reestablish a rhythm, and for he and the Clippers to mesh. But once they do, Lue expects the partnership will help improve the team’s pace substantially.
“You can just tell, his pace brings a different something to our team,” Lue said. “And offensively, when he gets an outlet close to halfcourt, before the first pass is made, that generates pace for us. And we need that. It’s going to be good for us in the long run, just good to see him out there just trying to get acclimated to what we are trying to do.”
With Rondo taking on that responsibility, it means neither Kawhi Leonard nor Paul George will have to do it as often, a notion that George described as something as a relief.
“I thought it just made the game easier, giving it up to him, let him push the ball and let him initiate instead of a lot of times instead of myself or Kawhi doing it,” George said. “We got a guy that can do it, so it’s just gonna make the game easier for us.”
Marcus Morris Sr. said his experience alongside Rondo has so far aligned with everything he’s heard about the 6-foot-1 veteran, a spitfire on the court who has a reputation as a dependable teammate in the locker room.
“I’ve never heard anything bad about Rondo as far as a teammate and a guy that plays the game,” said Morris, noting that his twin, Markieff, played with Rondo last season on the Lakers. “My brother had nothing but good things to say about him as a teammate, so we’re just excited to get him and I think he’s really going to be a big factor in us trying to hang that banner.”
Since his arrival, Rondo’s acclimation process has included getting to know not just the plays — but the players around him. That includes Patrick Beverley, another hyper-competitive guard who’s never afraid to say voice his thoughts.
“Funny story,” Rondo said. “When I first got to the team, the first night we played, I was a little quiet at first on the bench, and then I just heard a lot of talking on the other end.
“And I had a laugh, a little chuckle at myself, with the fact that I have someone on the same team as me that’s going to talk just as much — maybe even more trash. I’m looking forward to getting out there and competing with him, I know he has my back and vice-versa. I’m looking forward to the challenge and making it hard on other teams.”
To making it hectic, one might say. And if it goes the way the Clippers envision, epically so.