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A Laker once again, Rajon Rondo is eager to prove people wrong

Guard Rajon Rondo controls the ball during a Lakers game in February 2020.
Guard Rajon Rondo, shown in 2020, has re-signed with the Lakers.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Rajon Rondo said it’ll be because of experience. It’ll be because of wisdom. It’ll be because of their minds.

The thing everyone keeps pointing out as a weakness? It’s actually a strength.

That’s why the Lakers will win, Rondo said. That’s why he’ll finally get to celebrate a championship in Los Angeles.

It’s a message that’s been repeated as the Lakers have introduced (or in this case, re-introduced) their new players, the team bringing Rondo back for another stretch as a back-up guard and valued locker-room presence.

“Everybody wants to be wanted,” Rondo said Tuesday after signing with the team for the veteran’s minimum.

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It was clear the Clippers didn’t want him back, not with significant money left on his contract and his brutal 2021 postseason fresh in their minds. It’s why they bundled him in a deal to Memphis to get Eric Bledsoe two weeks ago.

Lakers players and coaches know Jared Dudley played a critical role, and it’s a big risk letting him leave as the team adds Russell Westbrook.

But Memphis didn’t want him either, preferring to buy him out of his contract and send him into free agency. The Lakers quickly snapped him back up, the memories from Rondo’s terrific play in the 2020 NBA bubble title still strong enough to convince them he can make a difference.

Back with the Lakers, though, and back entering a season with legitimate title hopes should have Rondo in the best possible position to rebound from one of the worst seasons of his 15-year career.

“I think I’m one of the most competitive guys in the league. And I love to win. Being put in a situation now where we have an opportunity to win a championship — it’s only a few teams, a handful of teams, that can say it at the beginning of training camp,” Rondo said. “And we’re one of them this year. And I look forward to, again, proving people wrong.”

The “people” have been the ones to look at the Lakers’ ever-increasing age, the team somehow figuring out a way to add a 35-year-old point guard to their bench and “get younger.”

“I’m most excited about not being the oldest guy on the team anymore. I’m actually probably bottom five now,” Rondo, actually the sixth-oldest member of the Lakers, said. “That’s a big step for me, going from two months ago being the oldest guy on the team. Now, I’m considered one of the young guys. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to the naysayers, saying about our age being a problem. But obviously, you don’t have longevity in this league without having discipline.”

Key matchups and more for the Clippers and Lakers after the NBA released the full schedule for the 2021-22 season Friday.

It’s a conversation he’s had with the team’s other veterans and with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, two players who he stayed in contact with despite playing last year for the Atlanta Hawks and Clippers. And in a meeting with coach Frank Vogel on Tuesday, Rondo heard that the Lakers missed his in-house leadership.

“You can’t pick and choose when you want to be a leader. You’ve got to show up every day. Guys are watching, young and old,” Rondo said. “And you’re being critiqued or judged regardless of the outcome of how you feel that morning. You try to show up and be consistent. No one likes a guy that just talks about it. You do it with your work; you do it with your discipline and consistency. For me, the most part, [it’s] understanding that I don’t know it all and that I’m a willing listener.”

The Lakers are expected to add one other player before the season begins, keeping a roster spot vacant to help the team’s flexibility.


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