17 Aug

Lakers blend in Dion Waiters as Rajon Rondo’s rehab progresses

first_imgLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Just 62 minutes into his Lakers tenure, Dion Waiters has already scored 30 points.That part of the game has always come naturally to Waiters, a career double-digit scorer who has sometimes been on the outs with his teams, but he has always possessed an offensive toolbox. While his 3-point jumper hasn’t been quite as hot (he’s just 3 for 14), Waiters has never been one to lack confidence in his shot. And down two guards, the Lakers need a player like him in the rotation.“Situation like that, you just try to take full advantage of it,” he said, “til Rondo get back and things like that.”Dion Waiters #18 of the Los Angeles passes the ball against Marc Gasol #33 of the Toronto Raptors during the second half of an NBA basketball game at The Arena in the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 1, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Ashley Landis – Pool/Getty Images)About that: Rajon Rondo, who has been out since mid-July with a fractured right thumb, is starting to make his way back, coach Frank Vogel said Tuesday. Rondo is expected to travel to Florida on Wednesday, then spend some time outside of the Disney campus before going through the quarantine process and rejoining the Lakers. Rondo is about three weeks into his recovery, which the Lakers predicted early on would take between six to eight weeks. Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers The other aspect for Waiters is conditioning. Before playing in the bubble, Waiters had only played in three games for a total of 42 minutes this season. He’s feeling the ache of having a regular rotation spot again, he said, but in his latest stint with the Lakers, it just makes him feel fortunate.“I ain’t going to lie: I be sore,” he said. “But it’s a good sore. Just being able to compete. Just being able to get your juices going again and your competitive edge, that spirit. But most importantly, just having fun. You have an opportunity to come out here and do what you love to do every day.”Vogel doesn’t plan to bench rest startersThe Lakers are about to have their first bubble back-to-back, and like most games in the restart, they’re tough. After Oklahoma City (1-1 in the bubble) on Wednesday, they’ll face the Rockets (won first two games in the bubble).The Lakers, now the confirmed No. 1 seed in the West, don’t have many stakes in winning either of those games. But even so, Vogel said he’ll likely play his starters in both games, including LeBron James and Anthony Davis.“The plan right now is to play those guys,” Vogel said. “We still have a lot of areas to continue to improve before we feel like we’re ready to win games in the playoffs and to be at the level that we want to reach. So for us, we’re still in habit-building mode and continuing to just iron some things out.”While Davis has had two games of 34-plus points, the starting lineup has looked rusty, being outscored by 21 points in just 34 minutes. In the last two games alone, the Lakers have given up runs of 13-0, 7-0 and 8-0 to start halves.Related Articles Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersIn a way, Rondo has never left: He’s been virtually plugged into the Lakers, and even taken part in coaches’ meetings. The 34-year-old has playoff experience that the franchise deems valuable once the bubble postseason begins.Waiters isn’t the play creator and floor general that Rondo is, but he’s helped power the bench and has kept a plus-rating in each of the first three games. Four turnovers in Monday’s game against the Jazz exposed some of his limitations and how he’s still learning to communicate with teammates. He’s also struggled defensively, which Vogel acknowledged after Tuesday’s practice.“Those things still have a ways to go, but I think the ceiling is pretty high for what he can do for us,” he said. “But we’re excited about what he has done so far too.”The chemistry part has been easy for Waiters. He’s embedded in the Lakers’ social scene, which includes a 4-1 record in the team’s Madden video game tournament, he said proudly.Assistant coach Phil Handy, who coached Waiters in Cleveland, has been one of the staff members working to get him up to speed. He said he’s tried to get to his spots faster. But Waiters insisted it hasn’t been challenging for him to start getting accustomed to schemes. “Everybody pretty much run the same sets,” he said. “Just different names.” How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed One key Vogel wants to see is more urgency on offense. Before he starts resting starters more for the playoffs, he’d like to see them closer to where they were in March.“I think they are just struggling to get into a rhythm early,” Vogel said. “I’ve been challenging them to play with more offensive pace, and if we do that I think we can get better shots on the offensive end, get a chance to set our defense. That unit has been a really strong defensive unit for us throughout the year so I just think it’s a matter of time.”last_img read more