With LeBron James, Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo out, the Los Angeles Lakers have missed the team’s best primary creators, leaving Brandon Ingram to carry those responsibilities with inconsistent results. Rondo seems to be on the verge of coming back, which pushes Ingram back to a role he’s more comfortable with.
First, on Rondo’s availability for Thursday night’s home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves: It’s not quite as much a sure thing he’ll play as fans might hope. (quote via the Lakers)
“I’ve been feeling like I’m good to play for the last couple of weeks but I’m still taking it day by day and I’ll see how I feel in the morning when I wake up ... It’s a decision I’ll probably have to make closer to the game.”
Fair warning: If it turns out Lance Stephenson cost the Lakers Rondo’s return by hacking in a practice that should have been as conservative as humanly possible, he absolutely should be waived for Carmelo Anthony on principle alone — even if he doesn’t help in any way whatsoever. You forced my hand here, Lance.
As Rondo has missed so much time this season, his wind probably won’t be what it needs to be to maintain his typical minutes allocation. As Luke Walton has avoided playing Alex Caruso like the plague, that likely means Ingram will have to spend some time carrying the offense whenever Rondo isn’t playing. Walton has also struggled this season to work out how to stagger minutes properly, so get ready for some Lance Stephenson-point guard minutes.
“Everyone’s role and responsibilities has grown because of the injuries that we’re dealing with right now. So whenever (Rondo) starts playing again... We’ll see how his conditioning and all that will play into effect, but everyone needs to continue to step up — which I think our guys have done a really good job of throughout all these injuries.”
Of the 48 games the Lakers have played this year, Rondo has only participated in 14. Fortunately, because both his injuries have been to his hand, he’s still been able to run and maintain some of that conditioning, but it’s also likely meant he hasn’t been able to shoot for good chunks of this season. There’s quite a bit of rust to overcome here, and the Lakers will be asking for quite a bit when Rondo does return.
“A point guard’s responsibility — and leaders, captains of teams — it’s your job to to make the game easier for your teammates. To get them going... to get them rhythm shots. And Rondo’s been one of the best in the league at that his entire career. LeBron’s one of the best at that, so whenever we can get them back ... that part of our game will get better.”
As most of this season has shown, Ingram works best against as a secondary creator or scorer as defenses rotate to him, even if the Lakers wish he could serve as a primary option. Kyle Kuzma typically needs plays created for him, as does the rest of the Lakers roster. So it makes sense the team’s offensive rhythm would suffer while James, Rondo and Ball are out.
Fortunately, it seems like help might be on the way. Here’s hoping Rondo wakes up Thursday morning ready to help in that evening’s game.
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