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Rajon Rondo likely won’t play in Lakers’ playoff opener vs. Trail Blazers

Lakers guard Rajon Rondo handles the ball during a game against the Warriors this season.
(John Hefti / Associated Press)

An excited Rajon Rondo texted a picture Sunday to his Lakers teammates of his outfit he was going to wear at Monday’s practice.

On Monday, Rondo joined his teammates at practice for the first time since he broke his right thumb July 12 during the Lakers’ second day of practice for the NBA’s restart to the season.

Though Frank Vogel said Rondo has been “medically cleared to play,” the Lakers coach said it was “unlikely” his backup point guard would play in Game 1 of the best-of-seven, first-round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, there was joy within the Lakers’ group to see Rondo working out with the team on the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla.

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“He sent a picture to us on the group text [Sunday] night. He laid out his practice gear on his bed, [like] it was the first day of school,” teammate Alex Caruso said in a videoconference call with reporters Monday. “Yeah, he’s obviously excited, especially for a guy, like I said, really competitive, loves the game. He’s not a guy that likes to sit around. He’s constantly either working out or playing basketball, so for him to be back and then be in the mix with his teammates and everybody, we’ve been missing him too. It was nice to have him back.”

Rondo had the surgery on his fractured thumb July 15 and was expected to be out six to eight weeks.

He returned to Orlando and began working out this month with Kurt Rambis, the Lakers’ senior basketball advisor, before entering the bubble Thursday.

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After quarantining for four days, Rondo got back on the court for practice.

“We’re going to see how he responds to his work today,” Vogel said in a video conference call with reporters Monday. “I think it’s unlikely that he plays tomorrow. Don’t know yet if he’ll be active. But he’s medically cleared to play. It’s just a matter of this is the first time he has played basketball with anyone other than himself for a few weeks now since he injured his hand. We’ll take it day to day, see how he continues to progress with his conditioning, rhythm and timing and how his hand is responding to the added work.”

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Vogel mentioned how the “juice was different in the gym” with Rondo there and how the guard’s impact has always been “measured in swag.”

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Vogel said the Lakers are not in a rush to bring Rondo back, though, even if they are facing one of the most lethal backcourts in the NBA in Portland’s Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

“It’s definitely a temptation to throw him in there tomorrow night, but we’re going to be intelligent,” Vogel said. “We don’t need to rush him back and put him at risk. We definitely need him, but like I said, we’ll bring him back at the right speed, at the right time. It would have been great if he hadn’t gotten injured this whole time and been ready to go, but that’s not the case. So, like anybody that’s injured, we’ll bring them back when they’re ready, not before.”


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