In some part due to Lonzo Ball missing 30 games during his rookie season, the Los Angeles Lakers signed Rajon Rondo to a one-year, $9 million contract in free agency this year.
Alex Caruso and Tyler Ennis were the team’s primary backup point guards until the Isaiah Thomas trade. In Rondo, the Lakers have someone with a similar skill set to Ball.
With Ball undergoing left knee surgery during the offseason, he has not been cleared for five-on-five scrimmages when training camp opens this week.
Although the Lakers will not rush Ball’s return, Rondo has high expectations for him and the young core heading into the 2018-19 season, according to Mike Trudell:
“We’re going to have to ride the young guys throughout the regular season, even in the playoffs. They’re going to play big for us. My expectations are really high for the young guys. They’ll be where they need to be. Myself, LeBron, Lance, Mike, we’re all going to be vets that’s trying to instill greatness in these young guys. We’re going to push the (stuff) out of them. I’m sure they’ll rise to the occasion. That’s what they seem like so far. They’ve been in here working their butts off since I’ve been here in early August, so I look forward to getting them to the level they need to play at for us to be contenders.”
For the young core, the narrative has somewhat changed since LeBron James signed a four-year, $154 million contract. From being competitive to now deemed inexperienced, there is a pressure — fair or not — to not only end the team’s five-year playoff drought but make a deep run.
To their credit, Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Har and Kyle Kuzma have all been praised for their work ethic during the offseason. Hart won the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League award, Kuzma has improved physically and is already learning from James and Rondo.