Rajon Rondo Lays it up

Rajon Rondo Sustains Fractured Thumb

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

During Sunday night’s practice in Orlando, Lakers backup point guard Rajon Rondo suffered a fracture to his right thumb.

Rondo will leave the bubble to undergo surgery this week, and afterwards begin a rehabilitation that’s expected to last six to eight weeks before he can resume full basketball activities.

Rondo also missed a month last season after breaking the same hand, and another month due to a finger sprain.

This season, Rondo is averaging 7.1 points on 41.8 percent shooting and 32.8 percent from three with 5.0 assists in 48 games, while his net rating of 1.4 ranked 12th on the roster. Rondo’s role has been as the primary ballhandler with the second unit when LeBron James was on the bench, or to give LeBron some time off the ball when they played together.

“He’s definitely one of our floor generals, on and off the court,” said Danny Green. “It’s a blow, but not as big of a blow because of how much he helps us on the sideline and coaching wise.”

It’s the secondary playmaking that the Lakers will need to pick up the most in Rondo’s absence, especially considering that Avery Bradley is also not playing in Orlando.

“More will be needed in that regard from Alex (Caruso) and from Quinn Cook,” said Vogel. “We have the ability to use our bigs with (Kyle) Kuzma and AD (Anthony Davis), in having the ability to bring it up and handle, and initiate offense. But I also like the prospect of seeing what Dion Waiters can do.”

Vogel did mention that the timeline for the injury gives him confidence that Rondo will be able to get back and “be a major factor for us in our playoff run,” citing the eight seeding games that go through August 13, and Round 1 of the postseason starting on August 16. In theory, the first round would be over right around the range in which Rondo could return, but of course, they’ll wait and see how everything goes.

Rondo was unlikely to fill in for Bradley as a starter, a spot that will most likely go to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who helped the Lakers go 17-3 when starting for Bradley in the regular season.

“Kentavious did a phenomenal job when Avery was injured earlier in the season,” said Vogel. “That’s really where I’m at in terms of what the starting lineup will look like, with him being in that slot, but obviously we’ll see how things go throughout practice, and other guys will have opportunities.”

Caruso averaged 17.8 minutes in 58 games, and will definitely see an uptick in minutes and usage, while Cook played in 38 games, averaging 10.8 minutes. Cook did show himself capable of filling in for bigger minutes when Steph Curry missed time for Golden State over the past two seasons. Waiters appeared in only three games for Miami this season, but has shown the ability to create offense for himself, which could be needed at times off the bench. Vogel also has rookie Talen Horton-Tucker, who played well for the South Bay Lakers, as an option.

Ultimately, the 2019-20 season has been about every player alongside LeBron and AD doing what’s most needed to win games, and that’s what Vogel’s looking for as practice has resumed.

“The first two practices have gone really well, aside from losing Rajon” said Vogel. “We’ve gotten a lot of teaching or re-implementing our habits and a lot of drill work … we were doing some really good things (that) our guys picked back up really quickly, and gave me more reason to be optimistic and hopeful about what we can accomplish this year.

“We’re tough to score on, and when you have two elite offensive players and a great supporting cast, if you add a dominant defense to that, you have a chance to do something special.”

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