While the Los Angeles Lakers won a fourth game in a row and sixth in their last seven contests, they were dealt a significant blow as Rajon Rondo suffered a broken hand in the fourth quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Rondo underwent surgery, which is expected to sideline him at least four weeks. This marks a second time the Lakers will go without the veteran point guard, though the first instance was only while he served a three-game suspension.
That nonetheless created an opportunity for Lonzo Ball to start, a role he maintained even once Rondo returned. Naturally, more is expected to fall on Ball’s shoulders over the next month or so.
“I’ve just got to step up. Play some more minutes, distribute the ball, push the pace and start the defense,” Ball said when asked how the injury affects him. “It’s just next man up. If I’m out there, just do what I can to help the team out.”
“Trying to control the game better. When [Rondo] comes in, the pace goes however he wants it to go. He gets everybody in their spots, so that’s what I try to do.”
For Lakers head coach Luke Walton, offsetting the loss of Rondo is also a matter of players rising to the occasion. “Everyone has got to be ready for their opportunity. That’s why we say whether you’re in the rotation or not, your chance will come,” he said.
“When that chance comes, you’ve got to be in shape, you’ve got to know the plays, you’ve got to be ready to go. Those opportunities always aren’t the same for everybody. Our guys, whoever they are, whether it’s guys playing more minutes or a bigger rotation, they’ll be ready.”
Although the Lakers will not have Rondo on the court, the plan is for him to travel with the team once he’s medically cleared to do so. Walton believes Rondo’s voice and instruction will still be of value to his teammates.
Rondo was present at practice on Thursday, and with a splint on, assisted the second unit in 5-on-0 drills. “He’s a leader. Him and LeBron are the two leaders on this team, so obviously we’re going to miss him,” Ball said.
Hopefully he’ll have a speedy recovery and we’ll get him back on the court. His presence is still going to be felt. It’s just the person he is. I think he relates to everybody. He talks to everybody, one through 15, he’s like a coach on the floor.
“We use him all the time. In timeouts he’s talking, on the court obviously he’s talking, film sessions. He’s always helping people out.”