Run it back: playing time may be scarce, but there’s always room for culture setters like Rajon Rondo

The lasting image of Rajon Rondo’s first stint with the Los Angeles Lakers is an all-timer. There he is, delirious, stretched out in a pile of confetti, celebrating with his son Pierre, basking in the glory of becoming the first player in nearly 60 years to win championships with both the Lakers and Boston Celtics.

After securing the bag in Atlanta, being traded to the Clippers, and then again to Memphis before being bought out, Rondo is back in the purple and gold.

The goal? To run it back and recreate a similar scene in his pending return to the Lakers.

Virtually everyone the Lakers have signed this summer is either an old Laker or just plain old.

Rondo, like Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza before him, is a double threat. He will be the fifth former Lakers player to rejoin the franchise this offseason and their sixth older than 35.

Reflecting on Rondo’s previous tenure with the Lakers, it should be emphasized that he provided much more than a meme to that magical Lakers title run inside the Disney bubble. He meaningfully contributed throughout the playoffs.

His title run included a 21-point outburst in his second game back against Houston and a double-double in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. He shot 40 percent on an assertive (for him) 3.1 3-point attempts per game. It was the resurrection of Playoff Rondo.

It’s natural the Lakers would want to recapture those moments and that Rondo would be eager to reunite with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Rondo was perfect for the Lakers and vise versa.

But that was then and this is now. Is the role the same? Are there enough minutes to go around to keep everyone fed and happy?

Rondo is joining an extremely deep, some would say 12 deep, roster including James, Davis and Westbrook who will play 35 minutes a night and likely 40 plus come playoff time. That leaves limited minutes for a crowded playmaking/backcourt crew.

Rondo now joins Talen Horton Tucker, Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn, and Kent Bazemore as players who play in the backcourt. With the way the team is constructed with limited wing play, I assume Bazemore slides to the wing, along with THT or Monk. They’ll be undersized but the athleticism they poses will allow them to hold their own.

And while Rondo’s arrival will give the Lakers six of the 11 oldest players in the NBA, his standout bubble performances were less than a year ago. It’s not like he stepped out of the bubble and off a production cliff.

Regular season Rondo hasn’t been a thing since Boston, maybe New Orleans. So don’t look at those numbers. Just remember what he does in the playoffs year after year to understand why he is back with the Lakers who have a deep but some unproven players.

Rondo gives them an experienced playmaker who is proven to elevate his play under the brightest of lights.

But let’s not fool ourselves into believing his greatest contribution will be as anything other than an intellectual equal for LeBron.

It may not be a coincidence that Rondo’s arrival will come on the heels of James jumping on Twitter to bemoan the retirement of Jared Dudley, who wanted to return to the Lakers as their back-of-the-bench mentor before accepting a coaching gig with Jason Kidd in Dallas.

If James was as frustrated by Dudley’s departure as his social media suggested, replacing the beloved “Dudz” with another of James’ favorite teammates would be a smart move by Rob Pelinka.

Unlike Dudley, whose days as a contributor were behind him, Rondo still offers a serviceable skill set.

Despite some of the hand-wringing over the Lakers’ willingness to let Dudley go, it seems the Lakers deemed that this roster, with its century and a half of collective experience (seriously, their 13 players have played a whopping 149 combined seasons) has enough leadership.

Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza and Wayne Ellington have been around the block and are perfectly capable of regulating themselves.

It will be fascinating to see what kind of dynamic he develops with Westbrook, a fellow alpha.

Remember when Rondo’s brother got kicked out in Orlando for antagonizing Westbrook? Yeah, Westbrook does too.

That delicious (and manageable) wrinkle aside, Rondo slides in as an easy cultural fit.

Culture, maybe more than anything, has been the emphasis of this Lakers offseason. Pelinka has surrounded James with his peers; players similar to him in experience and stature — in as much as anyone is in James’ orbit when it comes to gravitas around the basketball world.

LeBron has been handed a roster with close friends, past championship-winning teammates and future Hall of Famers.

It is not clear how all of it is going to fit together, or how much better Rondo even makes the Lakers, but the franchise has clearly chosen a lane this summer and stuck to it.

And within that blueprint, Rondo is a perfect fit.

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