A voice at Kings practices constantly gives directions.
It doesn’t belong to coach George Karl. It belongs to Rajon Rondo.
Even on a day at training camp when he sat out because of an injury, Rondo couldn’t be still or keep quiet. He walked around the court at UC San Diego’s Rimac Arena, pointing out spots on the floor where David Stockton might be able to better execute a play.
After Saturday’s practice, Rondo asked assistant coaches to help him show teammates how to run a set properly.
The Kings signed the four-time All-Star to a one-year deal to help them solidify the point guard spot and boost an offense short on players adept at passing.
Rondo already has taken the reins as a vocal leader, something the Kings have lacked for years.
“He’s a guy who just talks, talks, talks and tries to make the team better,” said forward Rudy Gay, who has known Rondo since high school. “That’s what you need out of your point guard.”
Rondo believes communication is vital to the Kings’ chances for success. He also thinks his talkative ways can be contagious. Ideally, Rondo’s voice won’t be the only one heard on the court.
“No doubt,” Rondo said. “I’m talking to Cuz (DeMarcus Cousins) every day to try to get him to open up.”
The Kings don’t need talking just for the sake of talking. If all the players want to be heard, that can be a problem, too.
“You’ve got to know a little bit about the game,” Rondo said. “You just don’t want guys out there saying anything. It’s also learning the game, continuing to teach the game to these young guys but getting them to talk.”
Karl welcomes Rondo’s approach, not just his constant chatter but his overall attitude toward the game. Over the last few seasons, the Kings’ locker room did not foster an environment rife with professionalism. Players talked more about getting their shots than winning.
Karl wanted more leaders, and many of the young players who dominated the locker room culture have been swapped out for the likes of Rondo.
“He’s been a strong leader,” Karl said. “There’s no question he’s a very veteran, no-nonsense, do-it-the-right-way guy. And this team probably needed some of those guys.”
Asked if being talkative was always his nature, Rondo said, “I guess I would say that.”
Being vocal, however, became a necessity early in his career in Boston. Rondo was the young point guard surrounded by perennial All-Stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. That’s when he picked up the importance of communication.
“I think I’ve talked more playing with the team I played with in Boston,” Rondo said. “The first thing that stood out to me about KG was he was loud; he was vocal. I know me as a point guard, that was big. It helped me.”
The Rondo-Garnett relationship was a big reason Boston became one of the league’s best defensive teams. Defense is a concern for Karl. It’s also why Rondo is trying to get Cousins to be more vocal.
There’s no question he’s a very veteran, no-nonsense, do-it-the-right-way guy.
Kings coach George Karl on Rajon Rondo
“Playing with bigs that didn’t talk as much, you’re out there at halfcourt and you don’t know what’s going on behind you,” Rondo said. “When you have a big who can organize the defense and let guys know where to be on the floor, it helps a lot.”
And if the Kings’ big men aren’t doing their part communicating, Rondo will make sure they hear about it, as will everyone else.