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The Morning Column: August 30, 2021
There are certain players who become unlikely legends in Los Angeles. Maybe it's a game, a shot, a playoff series, a championship or an image that resonates. For Rajon Rondo, it was all of the above.
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1. 🏀 Rondo returning to the Lakers
There are certain players who become unlikely legends in Los Angeles.
Maybe it's a game, a shot, a playoff series, a championship or something as simple as a candid image that resonates with the city. For Rajon Rondo, it was all of the above.
There was no reason to think a player who spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Boston Celtics and was a key player on the Celtics teams that beat the Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals and nearly beat them again two years later would become a Lakers legend.
He originally came to Los Angeles three years ago on a one-year deal; signing the day after LeBron James announced he would be joining the Lakers. Rondo quickly began to win over the Laker faithful from his first home game when he was ejected and suspended for spitting and throwing multiple punches at Chris Paul. “Basketball reasons” wasn’t Paul’s fault but it’s impossible for Lakers fans not to dislike someone who turned around the Clippers and led them to six straight postseason appearances.
Rondo truly became a Laker when he hit a buzzer-beater to beat Celtics in Boston a few months later and celebrated with James and his teammates on the parquet floor as Celtics fans left heartbroken.
Within four months, Rondo had punched the greatest Clippers player ever and broken the Celtics’ hearts at the Garden. He probably could have run for mayor at that point.
But championships are the only currency that matter to Los Angeles sports fans. Regular season moments aren’t going to cut it if you want reach legendary status here. No one knows that better than “Playoff Rondo.” The Lakers saw firsthand how he got that nickname las year as he improved his numbers across the board in the Orlando bubble. Rondo was historically good off the bench for the Lakers during their championship run. He saved his best performance for the title-clinching win over the Miami Heat in Game 6 when he had 19 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds and went 3 for 4 from three-point range. Despite missing the first round with a broken hand, Rondo finished the playoff with 105 assists off the bench, which is the most NBA history. He also become just the second player and first since the Lakers left Minneapolis to win a championship with both the Lakers and Celtics.
As great as his postseason run was, the most indelible image of his time in the bubble came after the final game when he was celebrating with his son, Rajon Jr., on the court with confetti surrounding them. The picture immediately went viral and ended up on shirts and sweaters as if it was a best-selling album.
Rondo left the Lakers in the offseason to sign a two-year, $15 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks but did not stay there long. Over the next 10 months, the Clippers traded Lou Williams and two draft picks to Atlanta for him and then used his contract to complete a trade that sent Patrick Beverley and Daniel Oturu to the Memphis Grizzlies for Eric Bledsoe.
Rondo was a non-factor during his brief stint with the Clippers but the fact that he disrupted their roster only served to elevate his status among Lakers fans.
Rondo was waived by the Grizzlies on Saturday after negotiating a buyout and is expected to sign with the Lakers on Monday after clearing waivers. Rondo will return to the Lakers less than a year after helping them win the championship with his sights set on helping them surpass the Celtics by winning the franchise’s 18th championship.
It would be the final act of Rondo’s unlikely journey from Celtics great to Lakers legend.
2. ⚾️ Justin Turner on the mound
The Dodgers dropped two of three games to the Colorado Rockies this weekend but the highlight of the series unexpectedly came during yesterday’s 5-0 loss when third baseman Justin Turner took the mound for the first time in his career and threw a scoreless ninth inning. As Turner, who pitched while wearing sunglasses, walked off the mound, Dodgers broadcaster Joe Davis exclaimed, “There’s a new leader in Dodgers franchise history ERA – 0.00 – his name is Justin Turner!”
3. 🌪 Why are we still doing this?
As Hurricane Ida pummels New Orleans, I’m once again baffled that networks send out reporters, meteorologists and camera crews in the midst of what is being described by the National Hurricane Center as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm with winds up to 145 miles per hour. I don’t need to see Al Roker or anyone else getting hurt (or worse) to know the storm is bad. Put a fixed camera outside to capture the images of the devastation but no one needs to get injured for a news hit.
4. 🥊 Oscar De La Hoya prepares for comeback
The Morning Column senior photographer Cris Esqueda was at Oscar De La Hoya’s open workout at L.A. Live and shot these photos of De La Hoya as he prepares to take on Vitor Belfort on Sept. 11 at Staples Center.
5. 💵 Odds and Ends Powered by Bovada
Here are some odds on Bovada if you’re thinking about placing a wager today:
6. 📆 Aug. 30, 1997: Houston Comets win first-ever WNBA championship
Led by USC stars Cynthia Cooper and Tina Thompson, the Houston Comets won the first-ever WNBA championship on this date in 1997. The Comets would go on to win the league’s first four titles, amassing an incredible 114-26 (.814) mark in the regular season and postseason during that run. Sadly, the WNBA’s first dynasty was dissolved a decade later with the Comets players going to other teams in a dispersal draft after the 2008 season. The Comets’ home during their championship run (The Summit and later known as Compaq Center) is now the Lakewood Church.
Not only was the team disbanded but it’s hard to find any quality footage from the Comets’ championship run from 1997 to 2000 online so here’s Chick Hearn calling a game between the Los Angeles Sparks and Comets at the Great Western Forum in 1999.
7. 🎂 Happy Birthday Robert Parish
Happy birthday to Robert Parish, who turns 68 years old today. “The Chief” was a nine-time all-star and four-time NBA champion with the Boston Celtics. His battles in the paint against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the 1980s were legendary as the Lakers and Celtics combined to win eight championships during the decade. Parish’s last championship actually came in 1997 as a member of the Chicago Bulls.
8. 🎟 Ticket Time Powered by StubHub
Here are the “get in” prices for tickets if you’re thinking about going to a game today:
⚾️ Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers – $19
⚾️ New York Yankees at Los Angeles Angels – $6
9. 📺 On The Air
⚾️ 6:30 p.m. – New York Yankees at Los Angeles Angels – Bally Sports West
⚾️ 7 p.m. – Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers – SportsNet LA, ESPN
10. 📻 The Arash Markazi Show
On Friday’s show, we talked about players the Lakers could possibly sign to fill out the final three roster spots, including adding Rondo.
Listen to The Arash Markazi Show on The Mightier 1090 Monday-Friday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., following The Rich Eisen Show. The Mightier 1090 has the second strongest radio signal in North America and can be heard from “Baja to the Canadian Rockies.” You can also listen to the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.
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That’s it for today. Talk to you tomorrow!