The threadbare Lakers lineup will get some reinforcement Thursday in the form of Rajon Rondo, but LeBron James’ return remains unclear, coach Luke Walton said late Monday.
“I think Rondo will play Thursday as long as he continues to move with no setbacks until then, but that will be something that we’ll keep pushing him and we’ll re-evaluate each morning,” Walton told reporters (via ESPN.com) after the Lakers’ 130-111 loss to the Warriors.
Rondo, 32, has missed 14 games after surgery to repair a ligament in his right ring finger. James, meanwhile, also has missed 14 games since straining his left groin Dec. 25.
He is making progress, but appears to have more rehab work to do. “I haven’t seen him do contact yet, so I don’t feel as confident,” Walton said when asked if James would play Thursday against the Timberwolves. “But I know you know how serious he is about his rehab. So he’s doing everything possible and we’ve talked. I know he’s dying to get back on the basketball court, but he also knows that getting healthy is the top priority. So whenever that day comes, he’ll be back out there, but I would say right now I feel more confident about Rondo being ready for Thursday.”
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The Lakers (25-23) have gone 5-9 since Christmas Day, when both James and Rondo were injured, and have fallen from fourth in the Western Conference to ninth.
With Rondo and Ball out Monday, Brandon Ingram started at point guard and had three assists but also two turnovers in the blowout.
Afterward, Ingram clearly was eager to envision Rondo’s impact — beyond his 8.4 points, 6.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds in only 14 of the Lakers’ 48 games this season. “It gives us a leader, a leader on the basketball floor,” Ingram said of Rondo. “Puts us in our spots on the offensive end. Pushes the pace, he can score the basketball. And it just makes our team better.”
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