Slowly but surely, the Los Angeles Lakers' veterans are starting to get back into the mix.
Veteran guard Rajon Rondo has been cleared to resume full-contact practices, the Lakers announced today. Rondo had missed the last 12 games after suffering a Grade 3 sprain to his right ring finger in a Christmas Day win against Golden State. He had surgery three days after that and was slated to miss four to five weeks with the injury.
Lakers say Rajon Rondo has been cleared to return to full contact practices. Welcome news. He has missed last 12 games since getting injured the same night as LeBron.— Bill Oram (@billoram) January 18, 2019
Rajon Rondo has been cleared to return to full contact practice, the Lakers say.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) January 18, 2019
In that same game, star forward LeBron James suffered a groin strain that has kept him out of the lineup since. James will miss the Lakers' two-game road trip, but the team announced earlier this week that he has been cleared to return to practice next week.
Rondo is averaging 8.4 points, 6.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds while providing solid leadership in his first season with the Lakers, who signed him as a free agent in July.
But the veteran has appeared in only 14 games because of a three-game suspension for fighting and a 17-game absence after breaking a bone in his right hand, an injury that also required surgery.
He only returned from his broken hand Dec. 21, playing in three games in five days before getting hurt again.
The Lakers have not yet ruled out James for their rematch with the Warriors on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday (10:30 ET, TNT). Coach Luke Walton said he was "encouraged" by James' level of play during practice on Tuesday.
"He didn't do the up-and-down stuff, he did the half-court shooting and passing," Walton said after shootaround. "I just know he seems to be in good spirits. He's got another test tomorrow to get some more information on it.
"I think we'll get good news back."
The injury has proven to be one of the most significant of James' career. If you include this week's games against the Thunder and Rockets, James will have missed 13 games because of the injury. Prior to this stretch, James had never missed more than 13 games in a row during his 15-year NBA career.
The Lakers and James, who turned 34 last month, are being prudent with this injury to a star famous for playing through all types of physical ailments, both major and minor. He has never missed a playoff game despite innumerable minor knocks, and he played in all 82 games for the Cavs last season while leading the NBA in minutes played in both the regular season and the postseason.
James is the NBA’s sixth-leading scorer with 27.3 points per game along with 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists. The Lakers, who are 25-21 after last night's overtime win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, hold the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.