Rajon Rondo

Western Notes: Lakers, Looney, Ball, Nuggets

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel told reporters on Wednesday that Alex Caruso and Danny Green are listed as probable for Thursday’s Western Conference Finals Game 4 against the Nuggets, per Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

According to Vogel, Caruso is dealing with soreness in his right wrist and is getting a precautionary MRI. Green has an injured left ring finger. The 26-year-old Caruso only scored two points in 25 minutes off the bench in the Lakers’ Game 3 loss, while Green had four points in 20 minutes.

If Caruso or Green cannot play on Thursday, the Lakers may need to increase point guard Rajon Rondo‘s minutes.

Here’s more from across the Western Conference:

  • According to John Dickinson of 95.7 The Game (Twitter link), Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday that center Kevon Looney is healthy and was a full participant at the team’s practice. Kerr added that Klay Thompson and Eric Paschall didn’t practice, as they were going through the NBA’s COVID testing protocol.
  • William Guillory of The Athletic takes a look at the pros and cons of the Pelicans keeping Lonzo Ball. Earlier this week, Ball announced that he signed with Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. The 22-year-old point guard had a solid first season with New Orleans, averaging 11.8 PPG, 7.0 APG, and 6.1 RPG. Furthermore, Guillory explores what a potential extension could like for Ball after next season.
  • Ethan Strauss of The Athletic writes about the similarities between the 2013 Warriors and this season’s Nuggets team. For starters, Strauss points out how current Denver head coach Mike Malone was under then-head coach Mark Jackson in Golden State. He also explores how both teams built their rosters in the age of free agency and feature an unlikely superstar player.

Lakers Notes: Howard, James, Rondo, Davis

Dwight Howard barely played against the small-ball Rockets in the Lakers‘ last series, but he may be in the starting lineup for Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Howard’s impact in Game 1 has coach Frank Vogel considering a change. During seven minutes in the second quarter, the veteran center had two blocks, two steals, and drew five fouls. He also boosted L.A.’s energy and physicality, Slater notes.

Howard started the second half in place of JaVale McGee and got Nuggets center Nikola Jokic to commit an important fourth foul, stifling Denver’s comeback hopes. Howard finished with 13 points in 16 minutes and was plus-14 for the game. Vogel won’t announce his Game 2 starters until the league requirement of 30 minutes before tipoff, tweets Mike Trudell of Spectrum.

“I had a chance to get there once and always promised myself if I had a chance to get back there, I’d give my teammates everything I got and lay it all out on the line,” Howard told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, referring to his loss with the Magic in 2009 in his only NBA Finals appearance.

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Vogel said LeBron James should be ready for Game 2 despite hurting his ankle Friday night, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. James rolled the ankle when he stepped on Jerami Grant‘s foot.
  • Rajon Rondo put up seven points, nine assists and two steals in 22 minutes in Game 1, but the attitude he brings to the court is more important than his numbers, observes Helene Elliott of The Los Angeles Times“His impact’s always measured in swag with our team,” Vogel said. “He elevates the group’s confidence every time he’s on the floor.” Rondo, who has a reputation for raising his game in the postseason, passed Michael Jordan on the career playoff assists list Friday night and is closing in on Kobe Bryant. He has been a difference maker since returning from a fractured right thumb that caused him to miss all the Lakers’ seeding games and the first-round series with Portland.
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report talks to several anonymous team executives about whether Anthony Davis is the best teammate James has ever had. Davis is in his prime at age 27 and has been a perfect complement to James since being acquired from the Pelicans last summer.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Playoff Edition

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. With the playoffs ongoing at the Orlando campus, it’s time to examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors.

Rajon Rondo, Lakers, 34, PG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $5.2MM deal in 2019

Just when it seems that Rondo’s career is winding down, he reinforces how effective he can be when he’s healthy. Rondo was an afterthought when play resumes, as he was still recovering from a busted right hand. Coach Frank Vogel didn’t hesitate to give Rondo a large role once he was ready to play again in the conference semifinals. Rondo piled up 10 points, nine assists and five steals in the Lakers’ Game 2 win over Houston and 21 points and nine assists in Game 3. He came up two assists shy of a triple-double in Game 4. Rondo has a $2.62MM player option for next season. He’s given himself the flexibility of opting out and getting a better offer in free agency.

Jae Crowder, Heat, 30, SF (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $35MM deal in 2015

Crowder has played a major role in the Heat’s surprising run to the Eastern Conference semifinals. His defense against Giannis Antetokounmpo and 3-point shooting were instrumental as Miami knocked off the top seed. He averaged 15.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 2.2 APG in 33.6 MPG and made 43.2% of his shots during the conference semifinals. When Miami acquired Crowder from the Grizzlies before the trade deadline, it was assumed Andre Iguodala would make the biggest impact. Instead, Crowder has re-established his value. He’ll attract plenty of attention on the free agent market and could get a full mid-level from a playoff contender.

Mason Plumlee, Nuggets, 30, C (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $41MM deal in 2017

Plumlee got steady playing time as Nikola Jokic’s backup during the regular season, averaging 7.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG and 2.5 APG in 17.3 MPG. As the playoffs have progressed, Plumlee’s minutes have plummeted and so has his confidence. Even with his six-point outing in Game 5 against the Clippers on Friday, the big man is averaging more fouls (2.2) than points (1.6) in 10.3 MPG uring the postseason. That, plus the fact Plumlee doesn’t stretch defenses, complicates his ability to find a home in unrestricted free agency this offseason. Plumlee will probably be staring at veteran’s minimum offers, a far cry from what he received three years ago.

Stanley Johnson, Raptors, 24, SF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $7.4MM deal in 2019

Johnson’s representatives did their client a big favor by securing a player option on the second year of his contract. It would be foolhardy for Johnson to pass up the guaranteed $3.8MM and test the free agent waters, considering he’s spent most of the season at the end of Toronto’s bench. Johnson’s postseason minutes have consisted of three late-game appearances in blowouts. He wasn’t in the rotation throughout the regular season, either. Johnson was the eighth pick of the 2015 draft and his first team, Detroit, is still lamenting the fact it picked him instead of Devin Booker, Myles Turner or Justise Winslow.

Brad Wanamaker, Celtics, 31, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1.44MM deal in 2019

Coaches often shorten their rotations during the postseason but Wanamaker has continued to receive steady bench minutes from coach Brad Stevens. He’s averaged 5.8 PPG and 1.7 APG in 17.8 MPG and made the most of his limited 3-point opportunities (52.6%). Wanamaker, who spent most of his career overseas, re-signed with the Celtics last season on a minimum deal. He’s a restricted free agent but his qualifying offer of $1.82MM is peanuts by NBA standards. He’s improved his chances of the Celtics extending that offer, unless they have their eyes on another free agent point guard to back up Kemba Walker.

Lakers Notes: Rondo, McGee, Waiters, LeBron

Rajon Rondo turned in an up-and-down performance in Game 1 of the Lakers‘ second-round series against Houston, but head coach Frank Vogel expressed confidence after that game that Rondo would be an important contributor for L.A. in the series. On Sunday, the veteran point guard proved Vogel right.

As ESPN’s Dave McMenamin details, Rondo contributed 10 points, nine assists, and five steals in the Lakers’ Game 2 win, with the team outscoring the Rockets by 28 points during his 29 minutes. While Rondo is on a minimum-salary contract and ranked eighth on the team this season in minutes per game, he’s viewed as a leader on and off the court for the Lakers.

“He has such an impact,” Vogel said of Rondo. “His impact on our team is measured in swag and just the confidence that he brings to our group.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Lakers center JaVale McGee left Sunday’s game due to left ankle pain and didn’t return, per McMenamin. Vogel said after the game that McGee would be undergoing an MRI on his sore ankle.
  • Within the same story, McMenamin notes that shooting guard Dion Waiters also left the game with an injury and didn’t play the rest of the night. Waiters was diagnosed with a strained groin, and his status going forward remains up in the air.
  • Within a notebook piece on the Lakers/Rockets series, Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register explores how the two clubs have been using “scout teams” in practices to try to prepare for their opponent’s star players.
  • Asked on Sunday why his children haven’t joined him in the NBA’s bubble, Lakers star LeBron James explained that – despite being located within Walt Disney World – the campus isn’t especially kid-friendly. “My kids are too adventurous and they love to do so much stuff,” James said, according to Mark Medina of USA Today. “There’s nothing for them to do here. Go outside, come back in, go outside, come back in. They can stay in L.A. They’re great.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo Questionable For Game 4

With the season on the line Sunday, the Bucks may not have their MVP on the court. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been listed as questionable for Game 4 against Miami with an ankle issue, tweets Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press, who adds that Antetokounmpo had a “very noticeable limp” today.

The injury occurred early in the first quarter of Game 3 and Antetokounmpo was seen grimacing in pain throughout the night, according to Eric Woodyard of ESPN. He still managed to put up 21 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists and said afterward that the ankle felt “great” and “it wasn’t bothering me at all.”

Antetokounmpo was named Defensive Player of the Year earlier this week and is expected to be named MVP for the second straight season. The Bucks are 5-5 in games he has missed this year, according to StatMuse.

In other injury news around the league:

  • Rockets forward Danuel House left Friday’s game early, but the team explained it was for precautionary reasons and he won’t have to enter the concussion protocol, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Coach Mike D’Antoni said House was fine after the game.
  • LeBron James has a sore right groin, Anthony Davis has a sprained left finger and Rajon Rondo is suffering back spasms, but the Lakers list all three as probable for Sunday, according to Feigen (Twitter link).
  • The Heat are listing Kelly Olynyk as questionable for Game 4 with the right knee issue that caused him to miss Friday’s game, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.
  • Point guard Tremont Waters will be available for today’s Game 4, the Celtics announced. He had been sidelined with a sprained knee.

Frank Vogel: Rondo Is “Going To Help Us”

In his first game back since joining the Lakers inside the Orlando campus, Rajon Rondo had an inconsistent showing in Friday’s Game 1 Western Conference semifinals blowout loss to the Rockets.

The former All-Star totaled eight points, four assists, and three rebounds, but the Lakers seemed overmatched with him on the court. Coming off a thumb fracture in July, it’s fair to expect some rust from Rondo, but the timing is far from ideal, as the Lakers face a seven-game postseason series against a dangerous Houston squad.

Yet, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel feels the NBA-champion point guard will be a factor for L.A. throughout the series, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin writes.

“Rajon is one of the smartest players in the league, and obviously our guys’ IQ raises when he’s on the court, so he’s definitely going to help us this series,” Vogel said.

Rondo’s inclusion is just one of several roster crunches to watch as the small-ball Rockets lineup wreaked havoc on the bigger Lakers team, which has prompted reports of Anthony Davis increasing willingness to play center.

Pacific Notes: Clippers, MPJ, Rondo, Kings, Warriors

With the Nuggets and Clippers facing one another in the second round of the postseason, Michael Porter Jr. is getting an opportunity to play against a team he feels played a major role in his slide in the 2018 draft. As Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details, the Clippers’ team doctor was pessimistic in his assessment of Porter’s back injury and L.A. passed on the forward twice in the lottery before he was selected by Denver at No. 14.

“Their doctor was the one that wrote the report on me,” Porter said of the Clippers. “I think he wrote some stuff like he thought that I would never play basketball again, so I didn’t think they’d pick me.”

While Doc Rivers acknowledged that Porter’s health was a concern for the Clippers, he said that the decision to pass on him with the No. 13 pick after trading up for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at No. 11 was a tough one, according to Youngmisuk. The team opted instead for Boston College guard Jerome Robinson.

“We got the one guy we wanted in (Gilgeous-Alexander),” the Clippers’ head coach said. “And the second pick, when (Porter) was on the board, it was a brutal pass because everyone in the room knew his talent but it was more the injury concern. That was the only other concern.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo is listed as probable for Game 1 of the Lakers’ second-round series vs. Houston on Friday, per the league’s official injury report. Assuming Rondo sees action, it will be the first time he has played since March 10 — a broken thumb and back spasms have sidelined him all summer.
  • The Kings recently furloughed some employees in their basketball operations department, as Sam Amick of The Athletic relays (via Twitter). According to Amick, essential personnel in the front office and analytics/scouting departments weren’t affected, but G League employees were. The hope is to bring the staffers back in November, depending on when the 2020/21 season gets underway.
  • James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area makes a case that Villanova forward Saddiq Bey is an ideal fit for the Kings with the No. 12 pick in this year’s draft.
  • Count the Warriors among the teams keeping a close eye on the Bucks’ fate in their second-round series against Miami, according to Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. While the Heat and Raptors may be viewed as the strongest threats to lure Giannis Antetokounmpo out of Milwaukee, Golden State would also make every effort to do so if the opportunity arises.

Western Notes: Beverley, Rondo, Barea, Mavericks

The Clippers have officially listed starting point guard Patrick Beverley as questionable for Thursday’s Western Conference semifinals Game 1 against the Nuggets, per Mark Medina of USA TODAY (Twitter link).

The veteran point guard has missed five straight games for Los Angeles with a nagging left calf injury. In his absence, the Clippers turned to second-year combo guard Landry Shamet, who started in four games against the Mavericks in their first-round series. As a starter, the former Wichita State standout averaged 11.5 PPG and shot 50 percent from three-point range.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was asked about Beverely’s potential return on Wednesday. “You’ll see him for sure (in the series),” he said (h/t Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN). “I’m pretty sure tomorrow (for Game 1), but I can’t guarantee that.” Los Angeles will be hoping that the defensive-minded point guard can slow down Denver’s dynamic point guard Jamal Murray.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said on Monday that point guard Rajon Rondo practiced and should be available in the second round. Rondo has not played a single game in the bubble due to a broken thumb, which he suffered in July.
  • Eddie Sefko of Mavericks.com looked at three keys areas in which Dallas needs to improve at in the offseason. Sefko suggested that the Mavericks need an enforcer like Marcus Morris of the Clippers, who was a factor on the boards and gave Dallas fits in the first round. While they showed improvement from last season in the rebounding department, the Mavs were outrebounded by three rebounds per game in their first-round series versus Los Angeles, Sefko notes.
  • Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea could possibly be playing overseas next season, according to Christian Santaella, who is a close friend of the 36-year-old. Santaella told elnuevodia.com that three teams from Liga ACB are interested in Barea’s services. The veteran point guard did not see significant playing time this season for Dallas, only averaging 15.5 MPG in 29 games.

Injury Notes: AD, Rondo, Lillard, Westbrook, Lowry, More

Although he left Game 4 on Monday due to back spasms, Lakers star Anthony Davis is expected to be good to go on Wednesday and is being listed as probable on the injury report. However, point guard Rajon Rondo is still “banged up” and likely won’t play, per head coach Frank Vogel (Twitter links via Dave McMenamin of ESPN). Rondo is being listed as doubtful for Game 5.

Meanwhile, Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, who has already been ruled out for Game 5 due to a right knee sprain, is unlikely to return this series even if Portland can extend it by a game or two, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. According to Haynes, Lillard is currently unable to extend his right leg.

Here are more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said today that he still thinks Russell Westbrook could return in the first round, but it won’t happen on Wednesday, as the team has listed Westbrook as out for Game 5 vs. Oklahoma City (Twitter links via Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle).
  • Raptors guard Kyle Lowry didn’t participate in practice on Tuesday and is considered day-to-day for the time being, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, who tweets that Lowry’s status for Game 1 vs. Boston on Thursday remains uncertain.
  • Nuggets guard Gary Harris (hip), who was previously listed as questionable for Game 5 against Utah tonight, has been downgraded to out, the team announced (via Twitter). With Denver trailing 3-1 in the series, it’s possible Harris won’t return this season.
  • Heat wing Jimmy Butler has been battling a left shoulder strain but doesn’t expect the issue to limit him going forward, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. Head coach Erik Spoelstra, who referred to it as a “soft-tissue” injury, said no MRI is scheduled for now.
  • Magic forward Aaron Gordon (hamstring) appears unlikely to be ready for Game 5 on Wednesday, according to head coach Steve Clifford, who says that Gordon is still unable to sprint up and down the court and the team doesn’t want to risk him suffering a more serious injury (Twitter links via Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel).

Western Notes: Porzingis, Lakers, Warriors, Eliyahu

Mavericks star forward Kristaps Porzingis was a late scratch for Game 4 of the first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. He’s listed as questionable for Tuesday’s pivotal Game 5 and will likely be a game-time decision, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. An MRI revealed no structural damage to Porzingis’ knee.

“Look, a lot of this is going to be hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute type stuff, probably into the later stages of tomorrow,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Lakers’ guard rotation is still in flux, Anthony Slater of The Athletic notes. J.R. Smith hasn’t shown much while getting playing time the last two playoff games. A longer look at Dion Waiters may be warranted, according to Slater, at least until Rajon Rondo returns. Rondo was supposed to play in Game 3 on Saturday but was a late scratch due to back spasms.
  • The Warriors saved some money by getting the No. 2 pick in the draft lottery rather than the top spot. They’ll save approximately $4MM toward the luxury tax for next season, if the rookie scale remains the same, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets.
  • The Warriors hold the rights to Israeli forward Lior Eliyahu but he’s retiring, Sportando’s Alessandro Maggi relays. He won several championships overseas during his career and played most recently of Maccabi Ashdod. Eliyahu, 34, was drafted in the second round by Magic in 2006 and his rights were traded numerous times.