When the Clippers acquired Rondo before last week’s trade deadline from the Atlanta Hawks for Lou Williams, the reasons went beyond Rondo’s on-court savviness with his playmaking. With 1½ months left before the playoffs start, the Clippers also wanted a proven player that had the credibility to give unfiltered feedback both to the team’s stars and role players after winning two NBA championship with the league’s most respected franchises in the Boston Celtics (2008) and Los Angeles Lakers (2020). As Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. said, “he’s going to be big factor in us trying to hang that banner.”
The Clippers sorely needed things to be said last season as they showed inconsistent chemistry due to numerous injuries and complacency. Or when the Clippers squandered a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals to the Denver Nuggets. Upon reflecting on those unpleasant memories, did George feel the Clippers lacked a locker-room leader that could speak truth to power? The answer became obvious through George’s long pause and pivot.
The Clippers have not completely escaped those challenges this season. They have missed a combined 79 games due to injuries, fielded 17 different starting lineups and are currently without Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka. All NBA teams have faced limited practice time because of the league’s health and safety protocols regarding the coronavirus pandemic. The Clippers (33-18) have the Western Conference’s third-best record after playing with either brilliance or maddening inconsistency.
“He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s got a great lens on what’s happening with our group and has a great B.S. meter. He’ll call it out with guys to make sure guys are going about their business the right way, whether it’s on the court, off the court or whatever. So he’s a champion for a reason, and he should help the Clippers.”