The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t have a single point guard that is normally in their rotation on their active roster when they hosted the Golden State Warriors on Monday and the final score reflected that. Luckily, they probably won’t have to do that again for a little while.
Following the game on Monday, head coach Luke Walton told reporters that he’s expecting Rajon Rondo to make his return against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday.
“I think Rondo will play Thursday as long as he continues to move with no setback until then,” Walton said. “We’ll keep pushing him and we’ll re-evaluate each morning.”
Rondo underwent surgery to repair a grade 3 sprain in his right ring finger on Dec. 28. He’s missed the last 14 games as a result of that injury, the same amount of games James has missed so far.
With both James and Rondo sidelined, the Lakers have struggled to find a vocal leader on the court. Upon making his return, Rondo will fill that role, which Brandon Ingram believes will help the team as they work their way back to full strength.
“It gives us a leader on the basketball floor who puts us in our spots on the offensive end and pushes the pace. He can score the basketball. It just makes our team better,” Ingram said.
Ivica Zubac was also excited to hear that Rondo will be returning to the court later this week.
”It will be great. He’s one of our leaders,” Zubac said. “With him being on the floor it’s much easier. Especially for me, as a big, I always know what to do and where to be and he’s going to help us a lot.”
However, as great as Rondo’s leadership and intangibles are, it’s important to remember that they aren’t the only things he brings to the table.
Prior to suffering his injury, Rondo was playing good basketball, averaging 8.4 points and 6.7 assists per game with a team-high 37.4 percent assist percentage. He’s also posted the second-highest box plus-minus (+2.2) on the team, trailing only James (+2.8). Granted, 14 games is a relatively small sample size, but the eye test backs up Rondo’s impact.
With Lonzo Ball sidelined for at least a month and James still recovering, the Lakers will rely on Rondo to orchestrate the offense. Fortunately for them, he’s more than capable of doing it, and making an impact beyond the box score.