Russell Westbrook vs Rajon Rondo: Will the history between the two impact the LA Lakers' chemistry?

Rajon Rondo starred for the LA Lakers in the 2020 NBA Finals.
Rajon Rondo starred for the LA Lakers in the 2020 NBA Finals.

The LA Lakers added to their roster of seasoned veterans when they signed Rajon Rondo on Monday as the team's third-choice point guard behind Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Nunn.

Rondo, 35, will compete for the Purple and Gold for the second time in his career after helping Frank Vogel's side win the 2020 NBA Championship. In that campaign, he was key in their success, playing an average of 24 minutes across 16 playoff fixtures, and putting up 8.9 points, 6.6 assists and 1.4 steals.

This year, though, could be different. While Rondo may still have a considerable role to play in the postseason (should the LA Lakers get there), he may not get the kind of minutes he received in the 2019-20 regular season (20.5 per game). Instead, Russell Westbrook is expected to play more than 30 minutes in each fixture, while Kendrick Nunn will be the first-choice backup.

Moreover, Rondo and Russell Westbrook haven't had the most amicable of relationships in the past year or so. On that note, here's a look at if that could affect the LA Lakers' chemistry on and off the court.

Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo's history

LA Lakers introduce Russell Westbrook to the media.
LA Lakers introduce Russell Westbrook to the media.

Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo are two of the greatest point guards to have played in the NBA. Between them, they have 13 All-Star appearances, two championship titles, one MVP award and six assist-champion trophies, to name a few of their accomplishments.

However, as successful as they both are, they are also players who are unlikely to back down from a confrontation, and they play with their hearts on their sleeves. That's where the worry for LA Lakers fans comes in.

Last year in the NBA bubble, Russell Westbrook got into a confrontation with Rajon Rondo's brother in a clash that saw the LA Lakers send the Houston Rockets packing from the playoffs. Both players addressed the issue afterwards, but disagreed on the severity of what was said.

Russell Westbrook wasn't happy that a member of the audience had gotten involved, while Rondo claimed all he had called the former Rockets guard was 'trash'.

It didn't take long for the beef to flair up between the two players again prior to their move to LA. In January this year, Russell Westbrook was ejected from a game against the Atlanta Hawks after pushing Rajon Rondo while competing for a rebound. It was his second technical foul of the game, which thoroughly pleased Rondo, who seemed to revel in the moment.

Both players are two of the most intense competitors in the game, and love to get involved in trash-talking. While Westbrook took the blame for the altercation, he did state that he had 'stooped' to Rondo's level by reacting to what was said.

Will Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo's history affect the LA Lakers' chemistry?

Russell Westbrook starred for the Washington Wizards this season.
Russell Westbrook starred for the Washington Wizards this season.

One of the biggest questions for all LA Lakers fans at the moment is whether Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo's past would adversely affect the team's chemistry.

Westbrook is not someone who likes to be rested, certainly not to be replaced on the floor by a player he has had previous beef with. In 11 of his 13 seasons in the league, Westbrook has averaged more than 34 minutes per game. Over the past seven years, that number has been 35.4 minutes.

If Westbrook is going to succeed with the LA Lakers, though, he is going to have to compromise. Likewise, he will have to become accustomed to Rajon Rondo taking his place or being alongside him on the floor, especially when it comes to the playoffs.

In his first press conference back with the LA Lakers, Rondo addressed his past issues with Russell Westbrook, and appeared ready to put them behind him. He said:

“We’ve had a lot of great battles with a lot of these guys that’s now teammates. I’m looking forward to putting everything in the past and putting it together for the greater good of the team and winning a championship here.”

Furthermore, the LA Lakers obviously believe the two can work together well, as LeBron James and Frank Vogel were both reportedly involved in recruiting Rondo back into the team.

The move made a lot of sense. The LA Lakers needed a third point guard and somebody who can contribute to keeping the ball out of LeBron James' hands. Rajon Rondo knows the team's system, and proved that during his last stint with the Lakers that he can still contribute when chasing a ring.

Should the LA Lakers go deep into the postseason next year, Rondo could be relied upon to provide significant contributions. While he has higher quality guards in front of him than in the 2019-20 campaign, he built a lot of trust after his past performances, and has the backing of LeBron James, whose opinion carries weight.

If Rondo and Westbrook can put their past behind them prior to the season, there shouldn't be any lingering issues when the campaign begins. There is no reason to suggest that they can't both have a meaningful impact both on and off the court for the LA Lakers this year. Rajon Rondo won't be expecting too much in his 16th season, and could prove more valuable to the team as another experienced head in the locker room.

Meanwhile, for Russell Westbrook, this is the first time since Kevin Durant's last season in Oklahoma that he has a shot at the NBA title. With the team not getting any younger and with many of them on one-year deals, the player shouldn't allow any childish quarrel to get in the way.

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Edited by Bhargav
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