LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rajon Rondo is expected to have surgery this week on his broken right hand, and the Los Angeles Lakers plan to use a variety of strategies to replace the veteran point guard while he heals.
Los Angeles will be without Rondo for at least a few weeks after he was injured in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ fourth straight win, 126-117 over Portland on Wednesday night. Rondo apparently hurt his hand while making a steal, but he kept playing for several more minutes before coming out of the game.
Coach Luke Walton praised Rondo’s leadership and two-way contributions Thursday after the Lakers’ final practice before heading out on a three-game road trip. Although he has played only 11 games for LA, Rondo is already a key component of the revamped club.
“Obviously we can’t replace what Rondo does for our team and how important he is to our team, but we’re not going to make excuses,” Walton said. “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.”
Rondo is averaging 8.5 points, 6.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals in his first season with the Lakers. He has been the leader of Los Angeles’ second unit while also serving as a valuable coach on the floor with his younger, less-familiar teammates, according to Walton.
The injury comes at an inopportune time for the Lakers (8-6), who are off to their best 14-game start since the 2011-12 season. Their four-game winning streak is the NBA’s longest active run.
“As a group, we’ll do our best to continue to play the way that we’ve started to play,” Walton said.
The Lakers already spent three games without Rondo this season during his suspension for fighting with Chris Paul during LA’s home opener. They have even more options to fill in during this longer stretch without him.
Lonzo Ball, who took over as a starter during Rondo’s suspension and never left, is likely to play more minutes overall. Rondo has been a mentor to Ball, even studying film with the second-year playmaker.
“We’ll miss him, but his presence is still going to be felt,” said Ball, who is averaging 8.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists while playing his usual stellar defense. “When he 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.”
LeBron James and Brandon Ingram — who was suspended along with Rondo for that brawl with the Rockets — also will increase their playmaking responsibilities.
The gangly, 6-foot-9 Ingram was surprisingly effective as a point guard and offense initiator last season when Ball was out with an injury. Even rookie shooting guard Svi Mykhailiuk could get point guard minutes, Walton said.
James sat out of practice to rest Thursday. The Lakers’ road trip includes two games in Florida followed by James’ return to Cleveland on Wednesday.
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