Rajon Rondo has missed the Lakers first 9 games of the season with a strained calf. Several reports have had him nearing return for a little over a week, but the Lakers have exercised caution with him to ensure he’s fully healed. It seems that is nearing, if not here, however, with coach Frank Vogel stating he thinks Rondo could make his season debut Tuesday night vs. the Suns:
Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet adds that Rondo will play vs. Phoenix, barring a setback after today’s shootaround. So, while Rondo will likely still be listed as questionable heading up to the game, this is about as definitive as gets that Rondo will play.
Over at Silver Screen & Roll, I wrote about Rondo’s imminent return — how he can help, where he can hurt, and how the coaches defining a right sized role + Rondo making some small but important tweaks to his approach could make a difference. For my full thoughts on Rondo, I suggest you read that piece, but the gist is that Rondo can help the Lakers as a pick and roll ball handler who will not be fazed by ball pressure, that his creativity as a passer should help re-establish the connection he had with Anthony Davis in New Orleans — particularly in transition, and that he can ultimately bring more structure and organization to units when LeBron is out of the game.
This does, of course, come with costs. Rondo’s defense, particularly, will need to be watched closely and he will need to raise his effort level on that side of the ball in order to live up to the standard the Lakers have been playing to as one of the league’s best on that side of the ball. Rondo’s shooting will also come under a microscope, especially as defenses make him prove he can hit shots at a rate and frequency that impacts the extra attention they’ll want to give Davis and Kyle Kuzma (though to a lesser extent).
Again, then, Vogel will have decisions to make on Rondo — how to deploy him, how much rope to give him, and what personnel groupings he should play with. There’s a version of this that goes poorly and Vogel will need to be trusted to recognize this or the results will reinforce it for him.
That said, Rondo has the ability to help the Lakers when he returns and he should be given a chance to prove he will rather than have assumptions he won’t prevail before he gets a chance.