After signing LeBron James in free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers filled out their roster with a different approach than previous teams he’s led. Rather than surround James with knockdown shooters, the Lakers opted for versatile playmakers who are also tough-minded defenders.
The strategy could be considered an early success, but it’s now one that will be tested as Rajon Rondo will be sidelined for at least four weeks because of a fractured right hand that required surgery.
“It will be a work in progress. Obviously, we can’t replace what Rondo does for our team and how important he is to our team,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said. “But we’re not going to make excuses. That’s not who we are as a group.
“We’re going to step up and guys are going to pick up the slack and add to their responsibility. As a group we’ll do our best to continue to play the way that we’ve started to play.”
A collective effort to fill the void left by Rondo will be distributed among the team’s ball-handlers, including Brandon Ingram. “He’ll get some point guard, absolutely,” Walton said.
“We have other guys like Lance, Svi who can play point guard, obviously LeBron can handle point responsibilities. We have multiple guys we’re comfortable with. B.I. will definitely be one of those main guys doing it.”
Injuries pressed Ingram into point guard duties last season. It was a role he took off with and led to positive results for the Lakers. “Last year he was great with it. Knowing that he can do that is something that I think will make it easier without Rondo this time around,” Walton said.
Over 12 games from Jan. 21, 2017 through Feb. 15, 2017, Ingram averaged 17.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists while filling in at point guard for the injured Ball. The Lakers had separate three- and four-game winning streaks during that stretch.
While Ball may spearhead the charge to make up for production lost with Rondo, he’s confident in the Lakers’ options throughout the roster, particularly Ingram. “I think we all saw B.I. is very comfortable playing point guard,” Ball said. “So there’s no stress there.
“One hundred percent confident in him.”