LOS ANGELES — In the penultimate game of the 2018-19 season for the Los Angeles Lakers, Rajon Rondo and Tyson Chandler sat on the bench in warmup sweats, uninjured and available to play, but never checked in. Head coach Luke Walton said there was a simple reason for that.
“Well Tyson hasn’t played in a month, so I’m gonna continue to not play him unless I need to. And Rondo I’m not going to play Tuesday night either unless we get into foul trouble, ejections, those type of things,” Walton said. “Those guys are available, but with one game left in the season we’re going to continue to give opportunities and reps to some of these younger players and see what they can do with that.”
What that means is that barring the circumstances Walton outlined, Chandler and Rondo could very well have played their last games in a Lakers uniform. Rondo had an up-and-down first season in L.A., only appearing in 46 games amidst an injury (and suspension)-riddled campaign. If this is it for Rondo, he will finish the season with averages of 9.2 points, 8 assists and 5.3 rebounds, but have made his biggest impact as a mentor to the young Lakers off the floor.
Chandler seemed to save the season when he signed after being bought out by the Phoenix Suns, helping the team turn their fortunes around before injuries and age sapped him of his effectiveness. The 36-year-old Los Angeles native will likely finish his first (and possibly only) season in his hometown by averaging 3.1 points and 5.6 rebounds for the Lakers.
And while some have speculated that the way this has ended might mean Chandler’s 17th year in the NBA could be his final one, Walton said he hasn’t heard that, and if he does, he would be happy to let Chandler play a bit more.
“I don’t think he’s planning on retiring,” Walton said. “If Tyson wants to come to me and talk about that then I’d put him in there. He is able to play now, it’s just been so long since he’s played. He got sick after being injured, but if he wants to get in there then that would be something me and him could talk about. But as of now I’m not planning on it.”
After one of Chandler’s final appearances for the Lakers a little over a month ago, he said retirement wasn’t something he would decide on until the offseason.
“You think about that all the time, how much how much more you want to go. I never want to be a player to ever cheat the game, so it’s really asking yourself how much you got left,” Chandler said. “I still feel like I got a lot left. I still want to play. We’ll see. We’ll see in the summertime, evaluate things and go from there.”
If he’s really done for the season, that evaluation process will start a little sooner.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.