NBA

The Lakers’ Championship Hopes Took a Devastating Blow Before the Season Even Restarted

The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the prolific favorites to win the 2020 NBA title, and for a good reason. LeBron James might still be the best player in the league, and he has the best teammate he’s ever had in big man Anthony Davis. The Lakers surrounded James with familiar faces and veteran names to gear up for a playoff run in Orlando, but the team just suffered a devastating blow to their championship hopes Sunday night.

Rajon Rondo suffered a fractured right thumb and will be out 6-8 weeks

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The NBA season hasn’t even gotten back underway yet, but the Lakers have already had some serious bad luck in the Orlando bubble. Veteran point guard Rajon Rondo suffered a “significant” hand injury during Sunday’s practice, and the results aren’t encouraging.

On Monday morning, it was revealed that Rondo fractured his right thumb and will require surgery to repair it. He won’t be able to return to the court for six-eight weeks.

This is devastating news for the Lakers considering the first round of the playoffs is set to begin in five weeks. It’s possible Rondo misses the first round and the entire Conference semifinals with his injury.

Even if Rondo returns ahead of schedule, there’s no telling how his thumb will react to game speed. He will probably be forced to play fewer minutes while he recovers. It also doesn’t help that the fracture occurred on his shooting hand.

Rajon Rondo is the Lakers’ only true point guard in 2020

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Rondo might be far away from his prime, but he’s still been a valuable asset for the Lakers at point guard all season. Besides LeBron James, Rondo is the only player who can confidently run the point and control the offense. He’s been a calming presence for the team all season when James goes to the bench.

Rondo is averaging 7.1 points and 5.0 assists per game this season. It might not seem impressive from the surface, but Rondo is playing a career-low 20.5 minutes per game for the Lakers.

Rondo offers much more than the stat sheet explains. He isn’t afraid to guard the opponents’ best player, and his leadership carries a ton of weight in that locker room. Some of the burden James was faced with on younger teams is quelled by Rondo’s leadership.

The Lakers need his veteran presence and playoff experience if they want to compete for a title.

The Lakers need Rondo for his playoff experience

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Rondo has played in three Conference championship series’ and two NBA Finals series’. His playoff acumen is exactly what a largely inexperienced Lakers team needs this season. Besides James, only Danny Green and J.R. Smith can boast extensive playoff experience.

Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma haven’t even sniffed the NBA Finals yet. They need more than just James to guide them along the way, and Rondo can provide that leadership.

Head coach Frank Vogel knows he can trust Rondo with the game on the line. He’s always going to make the right decision in crunch time. You can’t say the same for Quinn Cook, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, or really any other guard on the roster besides Green.

The Lakers need Rondo for a title run, so LA fans can’t be feeling as optimistic after Sunday’s news.

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference