The former Celtics villain could be the future savior for Lakers. Rajon Rondo puts on an impressive debut

Lakers guard Rajon Rondo drives to the basket against Trail Blazers guard Nik Stauskas in the fourth quarter.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Rajon Rondo’s night was done with 16.3 seconds left, the Lakers point guard getting his final foul when he tried to take a charge from Damian Lillard that led to two free throws for the Portland point guard.

Rondo untucked his jersey from his shorts and slowly walked to the Lakers bench after a solid performance Thursday night during a 128-119 loss to the Trail Blazers in both teams’ season openers at the Moda Center.

He recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 assists. He was six for 13 from the field, one for two from three-point range, and was a plus-seven in the plus-minus category.


“Once I watch the film, I’ll be able to look back and figure what we can do to get better,” Rondo said.

“For me, never too high, never too low,” Rondo said. “Keep our guys poised. It’s a game of runs. That’s how we approach it whether LeBron is on the court or not.”

He played 32 minutes and had been the leader the Lakers figured him to be entering his 13th season in the NBA.

“He’s been great,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said of Rondo. “All preseason I’ve been talking about him. He’s an unbelievable leader. His intelligence of the game and how what he sees is as good as anyone that I’ve ever been around. It’s nice having him as well as LeBron [James] out there to do some of that.”

The Lakers seem to run much better with Rondo starting at point guard instead of Lonzo Ball, who been called the face of the franchise when he was selected second overall by the Laker last season out of UCLA.

The Lakers signed Rondo to a one-year, $9-million deal during the summer to be a mentor to Ball, to be a sage for a young pupil.

New Lakers superstar LeBron James, who finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, talks about the 128-119 loss to the Trail Blazers

The two were going to compete for the starting job, but Rondo easily earned the spot, helped along because Ball was recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in July.

But Rondo took the control from the start of training camp and has not let go.

He helped keep the Lakers settled in the third quarter when James went to the bench with 3:13 left in the third.

The Trail Blazers had just gotten a three-pointer from Maurice Harkless to give them a six-point lead late in the third.

But Rondo answered that shot, drilling a three-pointer to pull the Lakers to within three points and to keep them within striking distance.

His play in the first half was stellar. He decision making was typical of Rondo, always seeming to be on point.

Rondo had 10 points, six assists and three rebounds in the first 24 minutes. He was five for eight from the field. He was a plus-13 in the plus-minus category in the first 24 minutes.

But even during a loss, Walton liked what he saw from Rondo.

And, Walton said, he’s not afraid to let Rondo run the show during games.

“If Rondo wants to take control and start calling plays during a stretch,” Walton said. “I got all the trust that he’ll get us some good shots.”

Twitter: @BA_Turner