Veteran Lakers guard Rajon Rondo has been dealing with a nagging calf strain to start the season. Once expected to only miss a game or two, Rondo has instead missed the first six games of the season. His presence off the bench has been sorely missed and despite a strong 5-1 start from the Lakers, they’ve shown plenty of weak spots where Rondo’s return could help.
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Rajon Rondo Injury Update: Latest on Lakers Guard’s Status
According to LA Times reporter Tania Ganguli, Rondo has been ruled out for a seventh consecutive game and still seems to be a little ways away from being back into game shape. Still only working out in 3 on 3 settings, it seems that Rondo has yet to get back to playing full five on five basketball.
Though it seems unlikely given where he is at in practice, there is still an outside shot Rondo could suit up as soon as this Friday against the undefeated Heat or against the reigning champion Raptors on Sunday.
Rajon Rondo’s Impact on the Los Angeles Lakers
Rondo’s absence has had a major impact on the Lakers so far, specifically on their second unit. Though the Lakers have thrived offensively with James on the court acting as the full-time point guard, they’ve struggled mightily when he sits. The team lacks ball movement and becomes dependent on one or two players going to work and creating looks for themselves. This is a massive waste of talent as the Laker bench is filled to the brim with shooters and capable off-ball scorers – an area of untapped talent that Rondo can hopefully help to unlock.
With inconsistent play from nearly every single one of the scorers on the second unit so far, Dwight Howard has been the only consistent threat off the bench. That said, Howard has created the bulk of the damage he has done for himself by protecting the rim, dominating the boards, or by taking advantage of overzealous defenders to put himself in position for easy uncontested dunks. Given Rondo’s playmaking ability, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to see Howard take another step forward in terms of his offensive production when Rondo returns.
Despite grading out as the worst defender in the NBA according to FiveThirtyEight’s DRAYMOND rating, Rajon Rondo still brings plenty of value defensively that advanced metrics don’t quantify. Capable of functioning as an on-court coach, much of Rondo’s defensive value comes from his ability to elevate other players rather than simply clamp up the man in front of him. Filled with strong defenders up and down the roster, Rondo’s defensive skill set looks to be a much stronger fit on the Lakers compared to his stops since leaving Boston.
The combination of high IQ and playmaking ability should be a warm welcome to the second unit – especially with Kyle Kuzma entering the fold as a hungry mouth to feed and likely sixth man. The Lakers, more than ever, need someone to help facilitate offense on the second unit and help put Kuzma in easy positions to score and get his rhythm back.