Teammates will defend each other to the bitter end — especially teammates on rosters as close and successful as the Los Angeles Lakers have been this season. Still, blind support is almost never a good idea, and we might have found the prime example of its downside.
Jared Dudley made an appearance on the “Inside the Green Room” podcast with Danny Green and was asked about Rajon Rondo. What he said was, um, interesting — but also what you’d expect:
“I would say the thing about Rondo is that he’s so smart, so intelligent,” Dudley said. “What he has to realize… is hey, the game has changed, we need you to score more to open it up for others… Your threat of shooting, I don’t care if you go 1-4 from three, if you’re open you have to shoot it… And then yes, he’s our second-best playmaker.”
So far, so good-ish.
“If he shoots the ball more, it opens up more of a natural playmaking. We don’t want to be overdribbling, holding the ball and he’s had that freedom his whole career, it’s just different… How I look at it is let it be through the flow of the offense.”
Okay… Might want to stop while you’re ahead.
“And the thing about Rondo is his defense is so good when he’s locked in that it opens up us getting out in transition, and once we’re out in transition, we’re almost unguardable.”
“So we need Rondo to win the championship, we need him to play at a high level… We already know what LeBron and AD are gonna do. It’s our role players and certain things, and I always say ‘don’t do more, do exactly what you’re supposed to do.’”
Dudley made the classic mistake of getting on a roll and then making one or two too many points. I’ve been there, Jared. (Editor’s Note: Yes he has, many times) We all have.
If Dudley’s point is that the Lakers need Rondo to play at a certain level to win a championship, then okay, maybe that’s fair. I’d argue his minutes could still go elsewhere and be more productive with those players, but that’s the closest to a valid point you’ll get when making the argument for Rondo to maintain his current role.
Where Dudley completely loses me is if the version of the point he’s making is that it has to be Rondo specifically who fulfills that role. Plenty has been written about Alex Caruso so there’s no need to rehash it, but he could very easily provide vastly more production if given the same opportunity and leash as Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel has given Rondo.
Now, expecting Dudley to speak negatively not just about Rondo but also about his coach in this context (remember, he’s talking to fellow teammate Green in this podcast) is setting yourself up for disappointment. That was never going to happen. Hell, if he did, he’d probably deserve to be criticized for rocking the boat when it didn’t have to be.
Caruso has earned Rondo’s role on his own production this year. If he’s ever given that opportunity consistently, it won’t be because Jared Dudley asked for it on a podcast with Danny Green.
But to the point Dudley was hopefully making, based on how reluctant Vogel has been to move away from Rondo in the rotation, the Lakers do need him to step up — maybe even in ways he’s incapable of consistently. That’s the risk you run when you rely on washed former superstars, but Dudley isn’t wrong that if Rondo is going to continue to play, the Lakers will need him to play better than he has. It’s just open to debate whether or not the Lakers really need Rondo to play at all.