Soon after the Clippers traded Lou Williams for Rajon Rondo, Lawrence Frank made the assertion – statistically viable, certainly – that “‘Playoff Rondo’ is a real thing.”
But with all due respect to the team’s president of basketball operations, the veteran point guard would rather it not be a thing.
In an appearance on ESPN’s “First Take” last October, Rondo suggested the moniker diminishes his full body of work through 14 NBA seasons: “I think if you look on the entirety of my career, I’ve always been able to perform at a high level.”
And now he’s saying it again with his play since joining the Clippers; he has a staggering positive net rating of 32, meaning that when he’s been on the court, the Clippers are 32 points better than their opponents over 100 possessions.
What’s more, the Clippers are 6-0 in games he’s played, improving to 39-18 – regular-season success that suggests Frank and his fellow front office members did the right thing bringing him aboard.
Rondo is facilitating winning by, well, facilitating.
He has a 35.4 assist percentage (the estimated percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted on while he was on the court) as a Clipper, which is higher than any player with the team since Chris Paul’s 44.4 assist percentage in 2016-17.
It’s hardly a coincidence, then, that the Clippers are averaging two more assists per game since Rondo joined the mix, 26.1 compared with 24.1 prior to his April 4 debut.
That’s taking into account Wednesday’s short-handed win in Detroit, when the Clippers were without five starters and notched a season-low 10 assists (on 37 field goals) – four of which came via Rondo, including a clever cross-court delivery to Nicolas Batum for a 3-pointer.
“Just continuing to talk to them and having them understand that my job and what I pride myself on is continuing to push the pace and the passes may come whenever, even when you may not expect it,” Rondo said after the Clippers’ April 8 victory over Phoenix.
“So when they’re on the floor at all times with me just expect a pass. I’m a pass-first point guard and just have your hands ready.”
That mindset opens up the offense in a new way, according to Coach Tyronn Lue.