Despite having not played in a game since March, Rajon Rondo received 25 minutes in the Game 1 loss to the Houston Rockets. Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel explained that was in large part due to Alex Caruso being in foul trouble.
Rondo was a mixed bag in his bubble debut, something that Vogel assumed would happen given his almost seven-month hiatus. Rondo was just 3-for-9 from the field and 2-of-5 behind the arc. He finished with eight points, three rebounds and four assists to go along with four turnovers.
It was far from Rondo’s best game, but the Lakers remain optimistic he’ll get back into the flow of things in time to make a positive impact. “It is a challenge working in a new player into your rotation at this stage in the playoffs, but Rajon is one of the smartest players in the league,” Vogel said.
“Our guys’ IQ raises when he’s on the court. He’s definitely going to help us this series, but it’s always a little bit different when you work somebody in at this stage.”
Anthony Davis also had positive things to say about what the team is capable of with Rondo back on the court. “He’s a great player and a great cerebral player. He knows the game very well, so I don’t think it’s going to take that much time to get him acclimated with the team,” Davis explained.
“He made some shots, made some good plays for us. It’s more so his wind. He said he was fine, but playing in a game and getting that game conditioning is tough when you haven’t played and your first game is in the Western Semis. Just getting him back acclimated with the team, trying to play from there, make some adjustments and get ready for Game 2.”
Alex Caruso — who likely sacrificed some minutes to Rondo — saw some good things from the veteran. “I thought he looked about his normal self,” Caruso began.
“Maybe he missed a layup or a shot that he normally makes, and maybe that’s a little timing and just getting used to playing a game again, but Rondo is a guy that’s mentally locked in whenever he steps on the court. I thought he looked pretty good conditioning-wise, he had good hands, good communication, he was pretty much his normal self outside of a finish or two.”
With everyone on the team certain that Rondo will provide some help, it’s likely he’ll play the same role in Game 2 as he did in the series opener.
Vogel looked forward to Rondo helping LeBron James facilitate
One of the perceived benefits of Rondo is that he eases pressure on LeBron James by taking some of his ball handling and distributing duties. That’s the biggest reason Vogel was ready to have Rondo make his return to action.
“We’re doing that now, but definitely with another ball handler out there you run that action more, whether it’s Rondo or Alex,” Vogel recently explained.
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