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Lakers hopeful Rajon Rondo will make season debut against Raptors on Sunday

Lakers guard Rajon Rondo on the court against the Brooklyn Nets.
Lakers guard Rajon Rondo has missed eight games to start the season because of a mild calf strain.
(Zhong Zhi / Getty Images)

Rajon Rondo went through a full-court, five-on-five drill Saturday as part of the final progression in his rehabilitation from a mild calf strain. The Lakers did not have an official practice, but Rondo worked with a combination of teammates and assistant coaches.

Although there is hope that he will play Sunday when the Lakers face the Toronto Raptors, it will depend on how his body reacts to Saturday’s workout.

Rondo has missed the first eight games of the Lakers’ season with the injury. Rondo had an MRI two weeks ago that confirmed the Lakers’ suspicions that he had suffered a mild calf strain.

In Rondo’s absence, the Lakers have been using a combination of guards to run their offense. LeBron James functions as the point guard in their starting lineup, playing alongside guards Danny Green and Avery Bradley, center JaVale McGee and power forward Anthony Davis.

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The Lakers also use Quinn Cook and Alex Caruso to run the point at times.

LeBron James scores 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers extend their winning streak to seven games in 95-80 victory over the Heat.

Once Rondo does return, the Lakers hope he will alleviate the burden placed on James to run the offense and thus limit the amount of wear and tear on him. Coach Frank Vogel has said in the past that he plans to start Rondo a fair amount during the season.

“He’ll be a huge help,” Vogel said Oct. 24. “He’s a huge part of what we hope to be this year. I’ve always wanted to coach him specifically, but I’ve always asked for guys like him, I always ask my point guards to really quarterback the action out there on the floor and be a coach on the floor, and he’s one of the best ever to do it. He’s going to give us a big lift.”

Rondo is in his second season with the Lakers. Last season he played in only 46 games because of injuries, starting 29 of them. He averaged 9.2 points, eight assists and 5.3 rebounds.

Defense excels

Friday night’s game against the Miami Heat was another low-scoring affair and perhaps the Lakers’ best defensive performance of the season.

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They held the Heat to 80 points, in part because Miami made only six of 35 three-point attempts. Miami is typically one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league, making 37.8% from long range.

“We want to be a good defense team,” Davis said. “That team scores 115, I think, or something like that, a game. We knew they were coming off a back-to-back. We just wanted to make them make shots. They had some good looks they missed, but for the most part we wanted to run them off the line.”

Frank Vogel has done what many NBA coaches have struggled to do in guiding the Lakers to a fast start amid sky-high expectations.

The Lakers have been strong defensively throughout the season and have the league’s best rating. But some numbers even surprised Vogel.

“Our analytics guy sent us a report that we contested 88% of their shots throughout the game,” Vogel said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of that. It was just a really exceptional defensive effort on the defensive end for our guys.”

Cheese too

James had a quippy response when asked what he attributes his success to as his 35th birthday approaches.

“Wine,” James said.

To the reporter’s confusion, James elaborated.

“Yeah, you know what they say about great wine, right?” James said.

Another reporter finished the thought for James that wine ages well.

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“Ages well,” James said. “There ya go, there ya go.”

UP NEXT

VS. TORONTO

When: 6:30 p.m., Sunday.

On the Air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330.

Update: The Raptors’ 6-2 start took a turn for the worse Friday when point guard Kyle Lowry and power forward Pascal Siakam were injured during a 122-104 victory over the Pelicans in New Orleans. Lowry fractured his left thumb and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. Ibaka sprained his right ankle and will undergo more testing while the team is in L.A. Lowry is averaging 21.8 points and 6.5 assists. Ibaka is averaging 14.0 points and 6.5 rebounds.


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