“I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think he’ll be in the starting lineup a lot,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of Rondo after practice Thursday. “I definitely envision a lot of games where he’ll be the starting point guard.”
Rondo missed the Lakers’ season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, sitting out with a sore calf, and the offense sputtered. The Lakers shot 43.5 percent from the floor and had 14 turnovers against 20 assists.
Rondo, who said he first experienced discomfort in his calf the day before the Lakers’ preseason finale in Golden State, went through Thursday’s practice at “full speed” and “didn’t look impaired at all,” according to Vogel, but his availability for Friday’s game against the Utah Jazz is to be determined.
“He looked really good,” Vogel said. “He looked fresher than everybody else. A little bounce in his step, which is good. But, you know, it’s not how he feels today, it’s how he feels after today’s workload. Right? So we’ll see how he responds to what he’s doing today and make that decision tomorrow.”
Bradley impressed the coaching staff with his fit with the starting unit, sources told ESPN, in the Lakers’ dominant 126-93 preseason win over the Warriors on Oct. 16, scoring 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting. With Rondo injured, the natural choice was to go back to that group for the opener, sources said.
James finished with 18 points on 7-for-19 shooting, 10 rebounds and 8 assists against the Clippers, but shot just 1-for-4 in the fourth quarter and committed three of his six turnovers in the final frame.
James spent much of the night targeting Davis with post feeds — something that worked for the offense, to be sure — but became less effective as the game wore on.
“I think if there’s one thing that stands out, is when they started bringing soft help in the post, we didn’t respond to that well enough in terms of our spacing,” Vogel said. “There’s simple counters, and if they’re going to sit in AD’s lap, with the shooters that we have out there, we should be shooting open 3s, if we’re spaced appropriately in those situations.”
Rondo, entering his 13th season, averaged 9.2 points on 40.5% shooting (35.9% from 3) with 8.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds last year, his first with the Lakers. He said that a starting role isn’t something he is pushing for, necessarily.
“My preference is what coach Vogel wants me to do,” he said. “I’ll be cool with that.”
Vogel said there still could be games where Rondo comes off the bench and Bradley starts, depending on matchups.
Rondo, a career 31.5 percent shooter from 3, all but admitted that he isn’t the typical guard that’s been paired with James in his career, but said he feels like he can ignite James in fast-break situations and also keep the offense flowing.
“The league is big on analytics now so I don’t know what the statistics are when LeBron and I are on the court at the same time, but that’s last year’s stats,” Rondo said. “This year is obviously a different team, different feel. So we’ll see how it goes. You can’t predetermine anything. You got to see how the game flows and go from there.”
Has he improved his 3 in the offseason?
“I’m always going to play my game,” Rondo said. “I think me at point is a pretty good (option). I’ve been pretty good in my career with me at point, as well. So, like I said, it’s all about sacrifice and figuring out what’s best for our team.”