The dramatic reshaping of the Los Angeles Lakers' roster will include Rajon Rondo joining the franchise on a one-year, $9 million agreement and the departure of forward Julius Randle, who was renounced and became an unrestricted free agent, league sources told ESPN.
The Lakers outbid the New Orleans Pelicans to snare Rondo and created more salary-cap flexibility by renouncing Randle, who quickly came to a two-year, $18 million deal with New Orleans, according to league sources. Sources said Pelicans star (and fellow Kentucky alum) Anthony Davis was key in recruiting Randle to agree on the deal that also features a player option for the second year.
Randle had been searching for an offer sheet as a restricted free agent, but the Lakers didn't want to match a sheet and commit long-term years and money as they pursue the possibility of star free agents in 2019, including Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs.
Sources told ESPN that Randle requested that the Lakers renounce him, sparing him what he believed would be a reduced role in a return to the team.
With Randle gone, the Lakers now have $5 million in cap room. That cap space could increase to $16 million if the team uses the waive-and-stretch provision on Luol Deng, which would stretch out the $36 million owed to him over five seasons.
Randle came into training camp last season in the best shape of his life. Despite being frustrated with not receiving a contract extension and coming off the bench early in the season, the forward responded with a career year. He averaged a career-high 16.1 points and 8.0 rebounds while being a key cog in coach Luke Walton's defense as a big man who could play against multiple positions.
In his one year with the Pelicans, Rondo averaged 8.3 points and 8.2 assists per game in the regular season, and excelled in the playoffs with 10.3 PPG and 12.2 APG. Rondo led the Pelicans to a first-round Western Conference playoffs sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers.
The moves come a day after LeBron James' agency announced he will join the Lakers on a four-year, $153.3 million deal. That announcement was quickly followed by agreements by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee to play for the Lakers, sources told ESPN's Chris Haynes.
A source told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that James has been consulted on all the team's recent moves.
Despite losing Randle's defensive abilities, the Lakers have managed to upgrade their defense in the past 48 hours. The Lakers added Rondo's quick hands and length, Stephenson's aggressive defense, McGee's length and shot-blocking ability and brought back one of their best defenders from last year in Caldwell-Pope. Add that to blossoming long defenders in Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, and with James orchestrating the defense as a free safety, Walton has a potentially formidable defense that finished 12th (105.6) in defensive rating last season.
The Lakers also added versatility with James, Rondo and Stephenson all triple-double threats on any given night. Rondo gives the Lakers experience at point guard, where the Lakers relied on Ball, and even Ingram when Ball was injured. Depth was a concern at the position.
Now Rondo could potentially serve as a terrific mentor for Ball, who averaged 10.2 points, 7.2 assists and 6.9 rebounds as a rookie, but shot just 36 percent overall and 30.5 percent from 3-point range.
With Rondo and Ball both being point guards, the Lakers told Rondo the team is trying to win now and the best man would play, a source told Shelburne.
During the NBA Finals, James frequently mentioned he felt it was necessary to play with high basketball IQ players in order to compete with teams like the two-time defending champion Warriors. Both Rondo and Ball are regarded as savvy, high basketball IQ players.
Rondo did have a memorable clash with another Lakers point guard when he and Isaiah Thomas got into a scuffle and were ejected, along with Walton, during a Valentine's Day meeting in New Orleans last season.
Information from ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk, Ramona Shelburne and Bobby Marks was used in this report.