Rajon Rondo has cleared quarantine and rejoined the Los Angeles Lakers at practice on Monday. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel revealed that he has also been cleared to play, although he said it’s “unlikely” that Rondo suits up tomorrow for the Lakers’ first game of the first round of the playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers.
“There’s definitely a temptation to throw him in there tomorrow night but we’re going to be intelligent,” Vogel said.” We don’t need to rush him back and put him at risk. We definitely need him but like I said, we’ll bring him back at the right speed, at the right time.
“It would have been great if he hadn’t gotten injured and we’ve had him this whole time and he was ready to go, but that’s not the case. So, like anybody that’s injured, we’ll bring them back when they’re ready, not before.”
Rondo last practiced with the Lakers on July 12, when he suffered a fractured right thumb. In Rondo’s first practice back, Vogel said he changed the energy of the team in a positive way.
“Well the juice was different in the gym, that’s for sure,” Vogel said. “That’s what Rondo brings. I always joke that his impact is measured in swag, and you see that in the film sessions. We’ve felt that, in all of our coaches meetings, he’s been like an assistant coach for us for the last four, five or six weeks. But to have him back around his teammates in film sessions and in the gym today, it just gave everybody a lift.”
The Lakers are running half court work with Rajon Rondo with JR, Duds and the young guys. pic.twitter.com/bRU96BAS8M— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) August 17, 2020
The Lakers enjoyed some success with their new-look guard rotation during their seeding games and a lot of that had to do with the fact that the guards that helped fill Rondo’s role in the second unit, Dion Waiters and Quinn Cook, proved to bigger scoring threats than Rondo is. Those attributes have made it easier for Vogel to mix-and-match them with different units — arguably a little too easy.
Rondo’s absence has also opened up opportunities for other players like Kyle Kuzma to take on more ball-handling responsibilities. Kuzma in particular has seen an uptick in production as a result of his new role in the second unit. However, there were stretches where the Lakers looked discombobulated because there wasn’t a lead guard like Rondo on the floor. The hope was that Alex Caruso could blossom into that, but he hasn’t thus far.
Ideally, Rondo’s role with the team going forward would be to fill those gaps, as opposed to taking those minutes away from Waiters and Cook. But considering how well-respected he is the locker room — especially when it comes to his playoff experience — it wouldn’t be surprising to see him resume the role he had before the season was suspended.
Here’s to hoping playoff Rondo is still a thing, and that Vogel has enough sense about him to allocate the minutes elsewhere if it’s not.