Rajon Rondo vs Derrick Rose: Veteran guards set for fascinating battle as Los

Let’s do the time warp again! It’s just a jump back 13 years, and then a step forward in tii-ii-ime.

As Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose get set to face off on Sunday evening, they now do so as vocal leaders on their respective teams – important role players who lead by example coming off the bench.

But that is where most similarities end.

They are totally different types of point guard. They have achieved different accolades in their careers. But what unites them is, that in an era when the NBA has transformed massively, they have managed to stay relevant without skipping a beat.

Their careers so have certain parallels. They’ve both bounced around the league a bit playing for a multitude of teams, they’re both multiple All-Stars. And they have also both been traded before this year’s deadline to potential contenders.

But there are also some very marked differences, Rose is a former MVP – the youngest-ever, in fact – and prodigiously talented scorer who has had to remould his game considerably after knee injuries threatened to decimate his career.

Rondo has never won an MVP award, but can boast two NBA championship medals and, unlike Rose, he made his name as a facilitator and defensive pest.

The first clash between these two NBA greats was on Hallowe’en 2008. Rondo’s Boston Celtics won 96-80 over then-rookie Rose’s Chicago Bulls.

Rondo hit 14 points, with six assists and three rebounds. Rose outscored the man three years his senior with 18 points, plus four rebounds and one assist, in what was only his second-ever NBA game, as the pair tallied similar minutes.

It’s been quite the journey since then, but here we are approaching the 2021 NBA playoffs and both men are gearing up for what they will be hoping is a deep run in the postseason.

Let’s have a look at why Rondo and Rose could prove key to their teams’ chances of that happening, and where both of their heads are at, ahead of a fascinating encounter on Sunday.


Live NBA: New York @ LA Clippers 09.05


Sunday 9th May 8:30pm


Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo won his second NBA title with Los Angeles Lakers last year – his first came in 2008, before Rose was even drafted, with the Celtics – as their organiser and team general coming off the bench.

Now, following a trade from the Atlanta Hawks, he’s aiming to do the same thing with the team from the other side of Staples Center.

The 35-year-old is 14 games in with the Clippers and brings 121 games of NBA playoff experience as the Clips try to get over the hump.

He admits he sees it very much as a title-or-bust situation, but reckons with Kawhi Leonard, who led the Raptors to the title in 2019, and coach Tyronn Lue, who has won the title as both a player and head coach, they have enough championship pedigree in their armoury to get it done.

Rondo said: “I only came here to win a championship. And if we don’t do that, then you know, we’re back to where we started, at zero. So my expectation is to win. And we all know that in the locker room.”

“It’s the unselfish organisation (which bodes well in terms of winning a championship). It starts with the GM, the President, triggers down to coach Tyronn Lue, and then the players.

“I love this organisation. Since day one, they’ve been treating me as royalty and it’s only right that I give it back and give 110 per cent, so we definitely have the DNA.

“I feel like personally, I have the blueprint and a lot of us have the blueprint in this locker room. Tyronn Lue is a multi-time champion himself. Kawhi Leonard, Serge (Ibaka, who was also part of the victorious Raptors team). So we have the DNA and the talent to do it. It just got a matter of coming together, gelling and believing in one another.”

Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose returned to Madison Square Garden for a second time when the New York Knicks acquired him from the Detroit Pistons for Dennis Smith Jr and a second-round pick in early February.

It was interesting because Rose’s last stint at the Garden was not a happy one. In 2016-17, he featured 64 times for a forgettable 31-51 Knicks team.

When reacting to the trade a few months back on social media, Rose wrote: “Other hoopers always used to tell me that if I ever had the chance to play in the MECCA go for it. I’m getting a second chance… Got to make this one count. But I’m built for it.”

And he’s been proved absolutely right. In 29 games so far in his second spell in New York, the D-Rose/Knicks experience has been completely different. For one thing, he is playing with a smile on his face, as team-mate Taj Gibson pointed out to media recently, rather than grumbling his way though games, as he did for the most part four years ago.

He’s also very quickly become an integral part of the best Knicks team in a nearly a decade, which has achieved its first winning season since 2013.

He’s also playing under his favourite coach in Tom Thibodeau, and there is one value between the pair which makes the partnership work so well.

“The only thing I can think of is trust,” said Rose, when asked about the key to their success together.

“He knows how hard I fought to get back. He knows I’m a gym rat. He knows I’m a student of the game. He knows where my heart is at, and it’s vice versa. I know how much work he puts into his craft. I know how he preps before the game, and you’re seeing the results of it.”

Mo excited for the showdown

It certainly promises to be quite the showdown on Sunday evening and we haven’t even mentioned some of the other stars on show like Leonard, Paul George or Julius Randle, who is having such an impressive career year for the Knicks.

Sky Sports NBA analyst Mo Mooncey is buzzing to see the Rondo and Rose square off and admits to feeling a tinge of nostalgia ahead of Sunday evening’s game.

He said: “(Earlier this week), it was 10 years since D-Rose became the youngest MVP in NBA history. (Against the Grizzlies), he came off the bench and dropped a season-high 25 points that were crucial down the stretch to help the Knicks win. Ever since he has been traded to the New York Knicks, he’s been absolutely huge for them.

“So you know, we’ve got D-Rose, but we’re also looking at the Clippers – they’ve added another veteran guard in Rajon Rondo, who has got a whole lot of experience as well. I remember being a kid and watching these young guys come in, now they’re old heads in the league.

“I’m interested in the point guard battle, we’re talking about Rondo versus D-Rose. I remember being back in 2010 getting excited about this match-up. So now we’re here in 2021 and I’m just as excited. It’s fantastic to see!”

And you can watch as well, live on Sky Sports Arena, from 8.30pm. You should probably watch because time is fleeting, in terms of catching this pair in action.

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