Lakers' Coach Frank Vogel Says Rajon Being Out Is 'A Huge Loss'

Melissa Rohlin

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said losing Rajon Rondo is a big blow for the Lakers, but added at least they'll have him back when they need him the most. 

Rondo sustained a fractured right thumb that requires surgery in the team's second practice in the NBA bubble in Orlando on Sunday. 

Rondo will leave the bubble to undergo surgery this week and is expected to return to full basketball activities in six to eight weeks, meaning between Aug. 23 and Sept. 6.

The first round of the playoffs begin Aug. 17 and the conference semifinals begin Aug. 31.

"Losing Rajon is a huge loss for our team, but we expect Rajon to be a part of our playoff run," Vogel said Monday in a conference call. "Looking at six-to-eight weeks puts us somewhere around the first, second round of playoffs. We’re very confident that he’ll be able to get back and be a major factor for us in our playoff run."

Vogel wasn't quite sure how Rondo got injured. But Danny Green had an idea. 

"Offensively I remember one play where he did attack, he did get by the defense, they didn’t see him and he was about to do one of his Rondo passes," Green said. "I think somebody got a piece of it, got a hand on the ball. That might have been the play, I don’t know. But he’s had a couple hand injuries over the last two years that have been devastating for himself and for us so we don’t know how it’s happened."

Rondo has had many issues with his right hand over his two seasons with the Lakers, including requiring two surgeries in 2018 that kept him sidelined for 31 games. Then in January, he strained his right ring finger, forcing him to miss another three games. 

Green said Rondo's playing style lends itself to that type of injury.  

"Rondo’s hands, man, being so big he gets his hands caught in a lot of places," Green said. "He reaches and gets his hands stuck in jerseys and on the ball a lot when he plays defense. And offensively, he just attacks."

Rondo was averaging 7.1 points, three rebounds and five assists in 20.5 minutes a game this season for the Lakers before the season was suspended March 11 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vogel said the Lakers have many options to fill that hole, including using backup guards Alex Caruso and Quinn Cook or sliding some bigs over into that position, such as Kyle Kuzma or Anthony Davis. Or the Lakers could turn to Dion Waiters and JR Smith. 

"All of those guys will pick up slack,” Vogel said. 

Vogel added that he has someone in mind to slide into the starting shooting guard spot after Avery Bradley opted out of the restart because of family reasons, though he said nothing is set in stone. 

"We’ll always have an open competition," Vogel said. "...But Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did a phenomenal job early when Avery was injured in the season. That’s really where I’m at in terms of what the starting lineup is gonna look like, with him being in that slot. But obviously, we’ll see how things go throughout practice, and other guys will have opportunities."

The Lakers have long talked about how important "Playoff Rondo" will be to the team. 

Rondo is 14-season veteran, a four-time All-Star and a one-time NBA champion with the Boston Celtics in 2008. 

And the Lakers are 14-1 when he scores 10 or more points in a game. 

"When he scores 10-plus points, you guys know the statistics, you know the record for us," Green said. "So we need him to come off the bench and give us a little spark. But I know he’ll be on the sideline for us, coaching his a** off, teaching us and letting the young guys know and also 'Bron, AD and myself...what he sees and what adjustments we need to make."