On Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers practiced for the first time since returning from their longest road trip of the season so far, a four-game jaunt that saw them lose their last two games in a row amidst fatigue and the absences of Rajon Rondo (broken hand), JaVale McGee (flu-like symptoms) and Brandon Ingram (ankle sprain).
McGee still couldn’t practice on Thursday, which is a genuine blow for a team that has sorely missed him as a rim protector and vertical threat, but the Lakers still had to be a bit heartened by the sight of Rondo and a newly headband-toting Ingram back on the floor.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton sounded thrilled to have two key pieces of his rotation on the cusp of return (via the Lakers’ official Twitter account):
“We’ve missed them... It was good in the film session, it was good on the practice court, they both looked healthy, they both looked good. So depending on how they feel tomorrow, we’re hopeful that they should be able to play some ball.”
But while Rondo noted the swelling in his hand had gone down and that he was frustrated he couldn’t be around his teammates over the last few games — he and Ingram didn’t travel with the team to reduce the risk of further inflammation of their injuries — Rondo also wasn’t exactly committing to play against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday while speaking with reporters:
“(My hand) felt fine. Still taking it a day at a time. I’ll see how it reacts when I wake up in the morning... I’m still undecided (on if I’ll play against Pelicans).”
Ingram sounded a bit more optimistic when addressing the media after practice, although he also wasn’t sure if he’d play Friday:
“I feel really good today, we’ll see how it responds when I come back tonight and try to treat it and get back in here. (My ankle) felt really, really good while I was practicing today... My goal would be to play. I’ll see how it feels in the morning.”
If Ingram does return, it isn’t a guarantee he’ll be returning to the starting lineup. While Josh Hart didn’t exactly set the world on fire individually and wouldn’t seem to have done enough to knock Ingram out of the lineup while the latter was injured, Walton wouldn’t commit to a starting lineup for Friday when pressed on if Ingram would get the nod:
“We’ll decide that tomorrow, we’ll see what we have, if JaVale is playing, if JaVale’s not... We’ll have scenarios planned out for all of it.”
The Pelicans are pretty banged up themselves, but if McGee can’t go, the Lakers will need whatever help they can get. Even if McGee can play, Ingram and Rondo would be a boon for a Lakers’ rotation that’s seen it’s depth get depleted while waging a war against the injury bug. That’s not to say the Lakers should rush them back if they’re not totally healthy, but the team should definitely be hoping they’re totally healthy.
We’ll see what happens tomorrow, but if Ingram and Rondo can’t go and the Pelicans get key players back, L.A. will be at risk of tying it’s longest losing streak of the season, and losing for three times in a row for the first time since their first three games. To paraphrase LeBron James, in the Wild, Wild West, that doesn’t bode well.
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