In a wide-ranging conversation with Jemele Hill on her “Unbothered” podcast, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo discussed everything from his work with underprivileged children to that time he threw a Dasani bottle through a television screen. The enigmatic former All-Star was as forthright as he’s ever been, and his takes were hotter than a blowtorch.
It is worth a listen if only for the story about the time he boxed Ray Allen in the weight room, shortly after Paul Pierce vs. Patrick O’Bryant and Glen “Big Baby” Davis vs. Tony Allen served as the undercard. Rondo compared the chemistry and competition on his 2008 NBA champion Boston Celtics to his current Lakers team, which he “absolutely” believes should be expected to win the championship. But that is only the beginning of an hour-long trip inside the mind of a player whose career has made a wild journey that began with extraordinary genius on a perennial contender in Boston and rode the wave of an enigmatic journeyman before landing with his greatest rivals as the “old head” to another star-laden squad.
Rondo called Game 7 of the 2010 Finals “the most frustrating loss I’ve ever had,” adding: “S---, I would’ve been Finals MVP if we’d won it.” He believes the referees cheated the Celtics out of a victory against the Miami Heat when he posted 44 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds opposite LeBron James in Game 2 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals. Retirement is on his mind, maybe even after this season if the Lakers can take the title, and then he wants to pursue a career as a coach and/or general manager. In 14 seasons, he has seen halftime transform from a chance to focus on in-game adjustments to a branding opportunity, with the entire team on their phones, plus the evolution of defensive schemes, the 3-pointer and point guards whose green light to shoot 28 times a game makes it almost impossible for him to keep up with younger guys like Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry.
As far as player empowerment goes, Rondo supports it, with at least one exception: Kevin Durant.
“I’m not a big fan of stacking teams,” Rondo told Hill. “What dude did to join them, I don’t like that at all. That’s just the competitor I am.”
He conceded that his Celtics were pretty stacked with Pierce, Allen and Kevin Garnett (“the most unselfish teammate I’ve ever played with”), but does not think his Lakers fit that bill.
“It’s just LeBron and AD [Anthony Davis],” he added. “The rest of us, we’re role players.”
But enough about the current NBA landscape. Rondo was at his best when Hill steered the conversation into territory that he has almost never covered publicly, digging deep enough to discover that the uber-competitive point guard recently got suspended two games from coaching his son’s Mitey-Mite youth football team for cussing out a referee at the end of a game.
“He was stalling us,” Rondo told the former ESPN personality turned multimedia star. “They didn’t put the football down. They were taking their time to put the football down. Instead of getting the play off, they ran the clock out on us, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m back now, and we’ve got the playoffs on Oct. 26. I did my time. I’m ready to get back at it.”
Then came Rondo’s hottest takes:
Hill: Spades or Connect 4?
Hill: Paul Pierce or Dwyane Wade?
Rondo: “P squared. Absolutely.”
(Wade infamously dislocated Rondo’s elbow in Game 3 of the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinals, leading Rondo to call Wade a dirty player. Rondo says the two squashed their beef before teaming up on the Chicago Bulls, although they had their moments then, too.)
Hill: Would you rather have dinner with Rick Carlisle or Chris Paul?
Rondo: “Chris Paul. It is what it is. If you’re going to give me them two, I’m going to go with him and figure something out. Damn sure not [good] with Rick.”
(Again, Rondo has a longstanding beef with Paul that culminated in a physical altercation last season that may have begun with Rondo spitting in Paul’s face. So, for Rondo to put his feud with Paul below Carlisle — the Dallas Mavericks coach with whom he constantly butted heads before being benched in the playoffs — is really quite something.)
Hill: LeBron or Jordan?
Rondo: “LeBron. KG used to kill me, but I mean, to be honest, I didn’t really watch Jordan growing up. I didn’t really watch basketball at all growing up. With the expectations that came in with LeBron, he’s exceeded every expectation. He’s killed it, from every statistical category there is, and not too many people can do that. To have that kind of pressure on you from the age of 12 and still be the most elite in the world at 33.”
Hill: “Power” or “The Wire”?
Hill: Biggie or Pac?
If the coaching or GM thing does not work out for Rondo in retirement, these hot takes would serve him well as a commentator.
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