When last we saw Rajon Rondo in a Lakers uniform, it was March 10, the day before the spread of the novel coronavirus trickled into the NBA and forced a postponement of the season. Rondo has been an active participant with the Lakers during the league’s restart in Orlando but has yet to appear in a game.
That could—or, even, should—change tonight in Game 1 of the conference semifinals against the Rockets. Rondo, dealing with a back issue for more than a week now, has been upgraded from questionable to probable for the start of the Houston series.
Coach Frank Vogel said that he is hoping to have Rondo, “in uniform and in the rotation on Friday.”
Frank Vogel on Rajon Rondo: "We're hoping to have him in uniform and in the rotation on Friday." #Lakeshow
— Laurantine (@LoJoMedia) September 2, 2020
Before the onset of the pandemic, Rondo had averaged 7.1 points and 5.0 assists in 48 games. He was playing 20.5 minutes per game.
Rajon Rondo Suffered Thumb & Back Injuries
Rondo was on the NBA campus to open training camp but suffered a broken thumb. He left Orlando to have surgery on his thumb in mid-July. The timeline for the original injury was 6-8 weeks, but Rondo returned to practice after about four weeks and would have been back slightly ahead of schedule in the Lakers’ first-round series against Portland. He was slated to make his return in Game 3.
But just ahead of his return, Rondo then injured his back. He has been out with the back injury since.
Rondo’s numbers have not been stellar in this, his first year with the Lakers. He has had his lowest scoring average since his rookie year, and has put up just 41.8% shooting. That does not make him an ideal solution to the Lakers’ problems at guard, where Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso have struggled to shoot.
Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith, the team’s free-agent signings, have combined to play 82 minutes in five games.
Rajon Rondo Gives Lakers Added Ballhandling
But Rondo can directly address one glaring Lakers need: additional ballhandling, which the team desperately needs with guard Avery Bradley having opted out of the league’s restart. One big issue for the Lakers has been that when LeBron James is not on the floor, the team has no one who can run the offense.
“He’s been good. He’s been communicating a lot, which he always does,” said fellow guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, according to the Los Angeles Times. “He’s a great leader besides the other two leaders we have. I like … just being on the court with him he gets everybody in their positions. He’s the floor general when he’s out there, he’s always talking trying to put people in position. Just being out here and having him in here is great for us.”
Rondo does have the advantage of a long history in the playoffs. He ranks 21st among active players in the NBA with 105 postseason appearances and is behind only James and Danny Green when it comes to playoff experience.
Over the years, the notion of, “Playoff Rondo,” has been a theme with Rondo’s teams. He has a history of upping his game during the playoffs—he averages 14.3 points, 9.3 assists, and 6.1 rebounds in the postseason, up from 10.2 points, 8.3 assists, and 4.7 rebounds in the regular season.
The Lakers’ bench, which has struggled, could use a boost like that from Rondo.