The Los Angeles Lakers have only just arrived in Orlando, Florida, but they have already been dealt a big blow with the news that Rajon Rondo suffered a broken thumb and will be out for six to eight weeks.
Though Rondo’s play has been extremely inconsistent this season, he has had his moments and did provide backcourt depth as one of the best playmakers on the team. Not to mention the idea of ‘Playoff Rondo’ is something that has long been in the minds of Lakers fans.
Regardless, the next question now is whether the Lakers can replace Rondo on the roster while in Orlando?
The short, medium and long answer to that question is a big NO.
The NBA’s rules for this are pretty cut and dry. The only replacement players allowed are for a COVID related illness, or if a player chooses to leave the bubble for personal reasons. Because Avery Bradley chose not to enter the bubble, the Lakers were allowed to replace him with JR Smith.
Injury replacements are not allowed in Orlando. And there is no getting around this rule.
Even if the Lakers were to waive or release Rondo, it would not open up a spot on their roster to add another player. Likewise, if Bradley were to change his mind and decide that he wanted to now join the Lakers in Orlando, that would not be allowed as he has already been replaced and that can not be rescinded after the fact.
As such, the Lakers will have to replace Rondo with their in-house options. Rondo was one of seven Lakers players to average at least 20 minutes and he was second on the team in assists per game at 5.0. With Bradley already gone, the Lakers’ depth will be tested.
Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were already likely to see an increase in minutes with Bradley out, and now players such as Quinn Cook, Dion Waiters, Smith, and perhaps even rookie Talen Horton-Tucker could get an opportunity to contribute to this run.
Frank Vogel impressed with Dion Waiters’ shooting
The most likely option to play the biggest role in Rondo’s absence is Waiters, who signed with the Lakers before the season was shut down in March. He hasn’t had the chance to play in a game yet, but head coach Frank Vogel has been impressed with Waiters so far.
“He shot the heck out of the ball [last Sunday]. That was an encouraging thing. He’s working extremely hard and looks really good. Like JR, both of these guys haven’t played a lot of full-contact basketball in some time; even prior to the hiatus,” Vogel said.
“So conditioning will be a concern, but the talent is obvious when you watch him work out, handle the ball, create shots. He’s one of the more talented guys in this league. He’s looked really good. If we can get these guys brought along at the right pace from a conditioning standpoint, I feel like both of them are going to help us.”
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