Rondo ‘caught up in winning,’ not starting

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LAS VEGAS — Expecting the Los Angeles Lakers “to win now” with LeBron James, Rajon Rondo said he is not concerned about starting and is excited to help second-year point guard Lonzo Ball.

“They have me here to help win games, any way possible, whatever situation I might be in. That will be a big part of why we’re trying to get this thing done this year,” Rondo said Friday during a conference call with reporters after signing a one-year, $9 million deal with the Lakers. “They have plans, obviously me being here, along with other guys they’ve [brought] in, along with this great young core that we have.

“So I’m not so much caught up in the starting [job] and things like that. I’m just caught up in winning the championship.”

One year after drafting Ball with the second overall pick and declaring him the franchise point guard, the Lakers have added Rondo, a fiercely competitive and championship-experienced point guard who has started 697 of his 779 career games.

Ball hasn’t been able to work on the basketball court as much as he would like to this summer due to a torn meniscus in his left knee. Ball has sought different options, like a platelet-rich-plasma injection and rest to treat the knee, but surgery could be a potential option if the knee doesn’t improve the way the Lakers hope it will.

Adding Rondo provides the Lakers with another option at point guard, more depth at the position and a stubborn competitor to push Ball.

Rondo averaged 8.3 points and 8.2 assists per game in the regular season and excelled in the playoffs with 10.3 points and 12.2 assists per game with the New Orleans Pelicans last season. He said he is looking forward to working with Ball.

“From what I’ve seen, I’m excited to get a player that age and try to help him as much as I can, as far as understanding the game and getting his game up to speed as far as at a high level,” Rondo said. “Especially with the amount of pressure now that the organization has on him.

“Every night we’re going to get guys [the] best shots, and as far as understanding that night in and night out, that’s what separates the good players from the great players.”

Rondo, who spent his first five seasons with the Boston Celtics and played a key role in the Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals clashes in 2008 and 2010, said it isn’t weird now being in purple and gold.

“Does it feel strange? Um, no, I think my battles with the Lakers were over a decade ago, so it doesn’t feel strange,” Rondo said. “And none of the players I was battling with are on the same roster.”

Rondo mentioned the championship a few times as the bar for the Lakers, who also announced the re-signing of guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year, $12 million deal.

“You put any team, any group of players around LeBron James, as he has done [eight] straight times, he went to the Finals. So my expectations are the exact same thing,” Rondo said. “Even with the Warriors adding [DeMarcus Cousins] and the Rockets being who they are, I think we fit right up there in the mix.

“It is early, obviously, and I am not promising anything. But at the end of the day I expect to win. Nothing else.”

The Lakers still could make a few more moves to finalize their roster. As as it stands now, the Lakers have added a surplus of versatile playmakers and defenders like James, Rondo and Lance Stephenson, and still can use more perimeter shooters.

Rondo — who has spoken to Lakers coach Luke Walton a few times already and plans on leaning on team president Magic Johnson and former Lakers star Kobe Bryant — sees the crowd of ball handlers as a positive.

“Just our length and that we might have a roster where there’s five ball handlers on the court at one time,” Rondo said. “… It will be very versatile, and I don’t think you’ll be able to scout and stick to one game plan as far as being able to stop a certain player.

“I think the unselfishness that a lot of these guys already have in their DNA, as far as myself, LeBron, Ball, guys that get off the ball. We might dominate the ball at certain parts of the game, but for the most part we all are trying to find the open man. I think that’s what’s going to help us a lot and what’s gonna make us work.

“I think guys like LeBron or myself, I haven’t played with a lot of guys that make plays for me, so it’s going to be exciting to be able to just get up, get a couple easy looks, be able to push the pace in the open court and … look for one another.”

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