Rajon Rondo was sidelined with a calf injury when the Los Angeles Lakers took on the LA Clippers in their regular season opener, but he could return to the court as soon as Friday, according to head coach Frank Vogel.
After practice on Thursday, Vogel said that Rondo looked “fresh” and had a “bounce in his step” in his first full-speed workout in over a week. Vogel also talked about how having Rondo back would help the Lakers bounce back from their season-opening loss.
“It will be a huge help. He’s a huge part of what we hope to be this year. I’ve always wanted to coach him specifically but I’ve always asked for guys like him in regards to my point guards — guys that can really quarterback the action out there on the floor and be a coach on the floor, and he’s one of the best to ever do it. He’s going to give us a big lift and add a dynamic that we missed a little bit the other night. We’re eager to get him back,” Vogel said.
However, the training staff is going to wait and see how Rondo responds to his increased workload tomorrow before determining whether or not he’ll suit up against the Utah Jazz.
Once Rondo is cleared to play, Vogel expects the 13-year veteran guard to play a big role with the Lakers. Not only does he plan on playing Rondo 25 to 30 minutes per game, but he thinks Rondo will be the team’s starting point guard on some nights.
“I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think he’ll be in the starting lineup a lot,” Vogel said. “I think there’s potentially two ways we can go with that positions — sometimes bringing Avery [Bradley] off the bench, sometimes bringing Rondo off the bench. We have good depth at that position and a lot of it can be dictated by matchups and just the flow of our game, but I definitely envision a lot of games where he’s our starting point guard.”
Rondo started 29 of the 46 games he was available for last season, but that was mostly out of necessity after Lonzo Ball was shut down for the season with an ankle injury. In the 30 games Rondo played with the only two returning starters from last season — LeBron James and JaVale McGee — the three-man lineup posted a net rating of -4.8 and allowed 113.3 points per 100 possessions. Additionally, the two-man lineup of James and Rondo posted a -5.4.
The optimism with Rondo’s fit on this year’s team stems from the success he had playing alongside Anthony Davis during the 2017-18 season. In the 59 games they played together on the New Orleans Pelicans, the two-man lineup of Rondo and Davis posted a net rating of +3.9. While there’s no data available for how they performed together in the preseason, the eye-test suggested the chemistry is still there.
If Vogel’s plan is to play Rondo exclusively with Davis, that might not be such a bad idea — especially considering how badly the Lakers needed a secondary ball-handler against the LA Clippers on Tuesday. With Davis off the floor, though, it would be hard for Vogel to justify giving Rondo playing time over the likes of Avery Bradley and Alex Caruso, who are both better defenders and 3-point shooters.
We’ll see how Rondo looks once he returns to the floor, but there’s plenty of room for skepticism right now.