While Rajon Rondo has been out the last three games due to his suspension, the Los Angeles Lakers have turned around and won two straight and forced the third game to overtime. Luke Walton and his coaching staff have a choice to make between Rondo and Lonzo Ball for the team’s starting point guard.
Ball only has one priority though, and is excited about what the Lakers get as Rondo comes back.
”It adds another playmaker,” he told reporters after the Lakers’ thrilling victory Thursday night. “Another point guard and hopefully we don’t miss no beats.”
Before Rondo’s suspension, Ball was stuck on a minutes restriction and down a spot in the rotation. Teammates never want to see each other out, but that doesn’t mean when opportunity arises, they don’t recognize that for what it could be.
Did Lonzo see an opportunity for himself in Rondo missing time?
”Most definitely,” Ball said. “I knew they would take the minutes restriction off because they had no choice. So that helped me a lot in getting back into the swing of things.”
Ball’s opportunity to convince Walton and the coaching staff that he’s the man for the job moving forward has now come to a close. Rondo will return to the lineup Saturday when the Lakers face off against the Spurs in San Antonio — though in what capacity remains to be seen.
Should Walton go back to the veteran point guard who began the year as the starter rather than sticking with the lead guard who’s played a major role in the team’s first two wins, Ball would take that in stride.
”It don’t really matter,” Ball explained. “As long as we win games, that’s all I care about. Whoever starts is whoever starts, but we’re both going to play.”
Walton has a tough choice ahead of him. Rondo earned the starting gig over the course of training camp and the preseason. Rondo’s actions against the Houston Rockets cost him three games, but should it also cost him his starting spot?
Ball has looked very good in a revamped starting group alongside LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee and Josh Hart. The team is winning. They could very easily have gone undefeated over this stretch if not for a couple missed free throws in overtime Monday night against San Antonio. On those grounds alone, Ball has a very solid case to start — and that’s before you take into account the role the organization hope he plays for the rest of his career.
The Lakers invested a second overall pick in Lonzo. Before LeBron signed this summer, he was seen as the face of the franchise. Yes, things change when James shows up and the team becomes a playoff contender and development becomes less of a priority, but Lonzo starting isn’t a move to ensure growth in his game. He’s the better player right now. He should start.
It’s great to hear Ball say all the right things, and he’s absolutely right to point out that there is plenty of opportunity for both him and Rondo, but this decision really isn’t all that difficult when you take all the context into account. Rondo acted immaturely by spitting in Chris Paul’s face and eventually throwing punches. He’s supposed to be a leader, and he let his team down.
In doing so, he opened the door for Ball to step into a larger role. Lonzo took advantage, and now it’s time for the team to make a decision that both point guards helped make seem rather straightforward.