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Rajon Rondo buyout latest in staggering Grizzlies pattern of helping LeBron James, Lakers

Rajon Rondo Lakers LeBron James Ja Morant Grizzlies

Los Angeles Lakers fans are forever indebted to the Memphis Grizzlies for one historic trade that altered their franchise.

The Lakers’ acquisition of Pau Gasol still stands as one of the most impactful trades in NBA history. Yes, the exchange included future Hall of Famer Marc Gasol in the deal, but it was seen by many at the time as an outright coup in favor of LA.

The deal netted Kobe Bryant his superstar running-mate during the second act of his career, en route to two titles, which in turn kept the Mamba happy in purple and gold for the rest of his career.

But it appears as though the Grizzlies’ fealty to Los Angeles didn’t just end there. The Rajon Rondo buyout and expected move back to LA sparked an intriguing deep-dive from Lakers beat reporter Harrison Faigen, who uncovered a pattern of recent indirect acquisitions the Lakers have made courtesy of their Western Conference rivals.

Aside from Rondo, the Grizzlies have let go of Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, and Dion Waiters since the 2019-20 season. All four of those players ended up on the Lakers soon after.

Via Silver Screen and Roll:

The stats, when put into context, are fairly staggering. Of the 31 players on guaranteed deals to play for the Lakers over the 2019-20 and 20-21 seasons, as well as the upcoming 21-22 season, four were paid to go away by the Grizzlies, a fairly significant 12.9% of the Lakers’ rosters over that time period. Between Bradley, Howard, Waiters and Rondo, the Grizzlies paid approximately $34.5 million to four players to go join the Lakers for an estimated $10.4 million in total salary.

It could merely be a coincidence with Memphis simply trying to shed unwanted salary from their books, but Faigen’s piece makes an interesting point in that they could have just simply waived Rondo and allowed other teams to pick him, and his contract, up on the waiver wire. Instead, they chose the buyout route, enabling Rajon Rondo an unencumbered path to his desired destination.

Perhaps they’re simply trying to curry favor with another franchise to be able to ask the same of them down the line? Given all that the Grizzlies have done for the Lakers, they’ve definitely saved up enough cache for something pretty huge.