While the Golden State Warriors have received a ton of attention for winning three championships over the last four seasons (and rightfully so), there is perhaps a more impressive NBA storyline that doesn’t get brought up as much.
LeBron James has been to the NBA Finals eight years in a row.
After guiding the Miami Heat to the Finals four-straight times (winning two titles), he shouldered the load and impressively willed the Cleveland Cavaliers to the next four Finals as well, winning one championship in 2016.
With nine Finals appearances under his belt in 15 NBA seasons, there’s no denying that any team he plays on has an exponentially-higher chance of reaching the deciding best-of-seven series.
Therefore, when he decided to join the Los Angeles Lakers last week, the stock of the blue and gold immediately skyrocketed.
He will presumably be surrounded by the young core of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and 2018 first-round pick Moritz Wagner, but the Lakers also made some moves to sign veterans like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo to round out the roster.
While the Kawhi Leonard situation is still evolving and the surrounding pieces are questionable fits alongside LeBron, Rondo made it clear that he expects to be in the Finals at the end of the upcoming season, even if the Warriors added DeMarcus Cousins and the Houston Rockets will most likely be in contention yet again.
Why? The answer is simple.
Faith in LeBron
“You put any team, any group of players around LeBron James, as he has done [eight] straight times, he goes to the Finals,” Rondo said Friday on a conference call with reporters, per Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times. “My expectations are the exact same thing. 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’s early, obviously, and I’m not promising anything, but at the end of the day, I expect to win. Nothing else.”
Even though Ball, the 2017 No. 2 pick, is a point guard, Rondo acknowledged that he’s simply glad to be a part of the team.
“I don’t think you have to pitch much to come play with LeBron James and [Kyle] Kuzma and Brandon Ingram; [they have] talent,” Rondo said. “I’m excited to be a part of this team.”
In fact, he claims that a possible starting point guard battle between him and Ball won’t be an issue.
“I’ve done a pretty good job in the last couple seasons, as far as just kind of going into that mentoring stage in my career and helping young guys develop, not necessarily on the court but also even more so off the court,” Rondo said. “How to become a young man, how to conduct business off the court, not necessarily as far as a father figure but also just a guy that’s been through a lot of things they’re going to go through.”
It appears as though winning another NBA title is on Rondo’s mind. Although the Warriors and Rockets should be outstanding once again, they don’t have LeBron suiting up for them. The Lakers do.
As he showed during the last eight seasons in the East (and once in his first stint in Cleveland), LeBron just needs the pieces around him to work in harmony and complement each other. Although sometimes it takes a lot of work to get to that point (like last season), in the end, he’s always in the mix, which is what Rondo seems to respect most about him.