When the Los Angeles Lakers brought back Rajon Rondo this offseason, there were some questions about what his role would be with the team. Head coach Frank Vogel provided some clarity on that before the season, however, noting that he didn’t expect Rondo to play too much and that his leadership and imparting the things he sees would be his primary role.
But before the season could start, the Lakers already began to be hit by the injury bug. Trevor Ariza is out for at least two months, Talen Horton-Tucker for at least one, and Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn and Wayne Ellington are all dealing with minor injuries which kept the latter two out of the Lakers’ season opener against the Golden State Warriors.
As such, Rondo played 20 minutes off the bench, the second-most of any Lakers reserve, finishing with three points, five assists and two steals. But with Ellington and Nunn hopefully returning soon, and Avery Bradley already showing his ability to contribute, Vogel isn’t sure what Rondo’s role will be moving forward, but he made it clear that he trusts the veteran on the court.
“We’ll see,” Vogel said following the contest. “We’re depleted at the perimeter spot right now with Talen [Horton-Tucker], [Malik] Monk and [Wayne] Ellington. All those guys being out. We just signed Avery [Bradley], so we’ll see where he fits. Rondo is just somebody that I trust on the floor to execute our system and to play a smart game. He was really good tonight.”
The injuries on the perimeter forced Vogel to use some unideal lineup combinations that likely would not be seen with a healthy roster. Some of those, pairing Rondo with players such as Russell Westbrook and Monk, struggled mightily, especially defensively.
Bradley looked every bit of a solid contributor in his few minutes late in the game and the returns of Nunn and Ellington could push Rondo further down the Lakers’ depth chart. Vogel envisioned Rondo being more coach than player before the season and that could soon be the reality if the Lakers can get healthy.
Vogel disappointed with Lakers’ second-half defense vs. Warriors
Some of those lineups Vogel turned to on opening night could not keep up on the defensive end against the Warriors and it cost the Lakers in the end. Vogel was unhappy with the team’s defensive effort, especially in the second half.
“We didn’t finish quarters well at all tonight,” Vogel said after the game. “I think they closed the gap at the end of the third and then obviously we gave up a 38-point fourth quarter, so you do that and you’re going to lose most nights.
“Defense is just not on a string yet. We did a good job being up on Steph [Curry], but that side was much better in the first half than the second half.”
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