Rajon Rondo was unable to explain how he exactly broke his right thumb during Lakers practice on Sunday in Orlando, Fla. And neither Lakers coach Frank Vogel or Rondo’s teammates had any inkling when the injury took place during the workout at the Walt Disney World Resort.
But what Vogel and the rest of the Lakers are assured of is that having Rondo out for six to eight weeks is a big loss to their NBA title aspirations.
Rondo essentially is the Lakers backup point guard, another coach on the floor who replaces LeBron James as the team’s orchestrator.
Rondo was the catalyst of the Lakers’ second team, averaging 7.1 points, five assists and three rebounds in 20.5 minutes.
“Losing Rajon is a huge loss for our team,” Vogel said on a videoconference call with reporters on Monday. “But we expect Rajon to be a part of our playoff run. Looking at six to eight weeks puts us somewhere around the first, second round of playoffs. We’re very confident that he’ll be able to get back and be a major factor for us in our playoff run. So having the seeding games, the way they’ve set up this sort of schedule benefits us in this situation for sure.”
The Lakers don’t play their first regular season in the NBA’s restart of the 2019-20 season until July 30, against the Clippers.
The first round of the playoffs isn’t scheduled to begin until Aug. 17 and the conference semifinals don’t start until Aug.31.
Vogel said Rondo will leave the bubble in Orlando to have the surgery and will do “at least the preliminary part of his rehab outside the bubble.”
With Rondo out and Avery Bradley opting not to play because of his son’s health, the Lakers are short in the backcourt, but Vogel said he could envision big men Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma helping to initiate some of the offense with Rondo out.
Alex Caruso and Quinn Cook could also have added ball handling responsibilities. The Lakers also added guards Dion Waiters, who was signed just before the NBA was shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak, and JR Smith, who was signed when Bradley decided not to play.
Waiters, known for his ability to create off the dribble, and Smith, known for his sometimes inconsistent long-range shooting, could become factors now for the Lakers.
“We’ve got two really good basketball players that we added late in our season that do different things,” Vogel said. “But equally as important is JR being able to shoot from the perimeter, being a big-time catch-and-shoot player and Dion’s ability to make plays off the bounce. Losing Rondo put more of the meat on Dion’s skill set, so I look forward to seeing what he can do more as we get into games. But all of those guys will pick up slack.”
The starting backcourt will be Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who replaces Bradley.
Green missed Saturday’s practice because of a glitch in the coronavirus testing process. His teammate, Dwight Howard, missed practice on the same day because he had to pass one more test before clearing quarantine.
Both practiced Sunday.
“I was not wondering about my results,” Green said on a videoconference call Monday. “I’ve been negative before we left [Los Angeles] plenty of times. I was negative when we left, negative when we got here. I think there was just an error, I think, in me and Dwight’s tests, maybe because. … I don’t think they got a good swab on maybe the nostrils. They don’t do as deep up the nose swab. They did a quick one this time around. So now I have to make sure that they get a good nose swab when I go, and throat swab, so there is no errors when it comes back for the results.”