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Lakers guard Rajon Rondo questionable for Game 1 vs. Rockets

Lakers guard Rajon Rondo drives for a layup against Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during a game earlier this season.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Rajon Rondo ran up and down the court with his teammates during a scrimmage as LeBron James shot free throws on a different court.

For the last few weeks, Rondo has been reintegrating himself into the Lakers’ day-to-day operations, and he is close to a return. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he hopes to have Rondo available in Friday’s game against the Rockets, and that he has participated in both of the Lakers’ mandatory practices this week.

“He’s been good. He’s been communicating a lot, which he always does,” said fellow guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. “He’s a great leader besides the other two leaders we have. I like … just being on the court with him he gets everybody in their positions. He’s the floor general when he’s out there, he’s always talking trying to put people in position. Just being out here and having him in here is great for us.”

Rondo has not played for the Lakers in the NBA’s restart. The team discovered that he had a broken thumb on July 12 and Rondo left the Disney World campus shortly thereafter for surgery. He returned a month later.

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The Lakers have a good idea of Rondo’s rehabilitation process as he works toward getting back to full speed since he’s been through several injuries during his two seasons in L.A.

“This is the part, you can do so much in practice as far as like just scrimmaging, but it’s different than the game,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I feel like he’s going to get there. Probably just one or two games, maybe. But he’s showing signs of what he — he’s just picking up everything that we’ve had since he’s been gone and he’s learning quickly.”

Long gap

The team that wins Game 7 between the Rockets and Thunder will only have one day to prepare for a second-round series against the Lakers.

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The Lakers, though, will have had six days between games to mentally reset and move on from their first-round series win over Portland.

“We have an older crew, a veteran crew,” guard Danny Green said. “I think it only helps us. But at the same time, I think we want to keep rhythm, keep playing. I think teams want to keep playing, want to stay in rhythm.

“But for older groups, I think it benefits them more than any to actually get some days of rest, be able to relax a bit, take a break, especially in this type of circumstances where there isn’t many escapes.”

Pizza is a rare luxury inside the NBA’s bubble, so the Lakers took Sunday night to treat their traveling party to some.

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Caldwell-Pope believes the key to remaining sharp through the long break is staying in the film room.

“We haven’t played in almost a week, just going into the film room, looking at little keys to get better, what we can do better, and also what we need to fix,” Caldwell-Pope said. “So it’s a lot that goes into the film room and just transfer it to practice.”

Saving for the playoffs

As the Lakers continued their wait to find out who their opponent would be, Vogel didn’t take any solace in the team’s seeding games against the Houston Rockets or the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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Both teams beat the Lakers in the bubble during their seeding games.

“We learned that either one of those teams can beat us,” Vogel said. “That’s the No. 1 lesson.”

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But Vogel also admitted that the Lakers held back in those games.

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“We were still competing to win those games,” Vogel said. “But obviously, when you get into a seven-game playoff series there’s so many more things you can be creative with on both sides of the ball that you wouldn’t see in a game like that, a regular-season game or a seeding game. So for the most part, we played them pretty straight up and the creativity comes now.”

That’s a standard procedure especially for teams who have the comfort to know their playoff status isn’t in doubt.

“We’ve had more meetings about those things than actually working on them in practice,” Vogel said. “There’s definitely things that — for instance, in the Portland series, there are definitely things we didn’t do in the regular season that we did in all the Portland practices leading up to that. But we haven’t done any of that the last couple practices, just been focusing on ourselves.”


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