Frank Vogel talked to reporters on Wednesday, ahead of tonight’s Rockets-Thunder Game 7 that will decide who the Lakers play in the second round starting Friday. Rajon Rondo has missed every game played in the bubble so far, being listed as doubtful in the last few games against the Trail Blazers due to back spasms as opposed to the fractured hand that initially kept him out of Orlando.
A few days ago, Vogel said he was “hopeful” that Rajon Rondo would be back for the second round series. He increased his optimism today, again saying he is “hopeful” that the Lakers would have Rondo for Game 1. That added optimism came from his additional hopefulness that he would even be a part of the rotation (reported by Dave McMenamin/ESPN). Kyle Goon of the OC Register added that Rondo has been able to practice both times this week, with it being apparent that his continued back spasms did not flare up this week, opening the door for his return this Friday.
The Los Angeles Lakers made pretty easy work of the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, giving them a few days before they have to play their first second-round game in eight years. That time off will give them an opportunity to rest some injuries and enter the next round mostly healthy.
Case in point, head coach Frank Vogel told the media that Rajon Rondo practiced on Monday and that the team is “hopeful” to have him back for the second round. The point guard has not played since before the season stoppage due to the Coronavirus pandemic; he fractured his hand in practice soon after arriving to the bubble. He was set to return last week before back spasms held him out for the rest of the series against the Blazers.
Incorporating Rondo back into the rotation will be a challenge for Vogel and the Lakers. They can use his floor general skills when LeBron James is on the bench but have to account for his lack of shooting and poor perimeter defense potentially being liabilities.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso have taken the bulk of the load at point guard (if you don’t count James as the true PG of the team) and performed well. KCP has lit it up from behind the arc while Caruso’s defense was a major key to slowing down Damian Lillard. It doesn’t seem like Rondo should eat into their minutes too much, but he could get the playing time that was given to J.R. Smith (about 13.5 minutes per game). Smith has not given the Lakers anything of note so far since signing with the team just before they traveled to Orlando.
There is a path for Rondo to be a decent producer for the Lakers in the second round against the Rockets or Thunder. But Vogel must be very careful in the kind of lineups he places the veteran in and be willing to have an extremely short leash for him, especially as he works his way back into game shape for the first time in over five months.