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Lakers’ Rondo, out since March, to play Game 1

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Los Angeles Lakers guard Rajon Rondo will come off the bench in Friday’s Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets and log his first NBA action since March, L.A. head coach Frank Vogel said before the game.

“He was ready to return in the Portland series and his back just locked up,” Vogel said of Rondo. “So once that calmed down, it was a matter of getting a few more practices under his belt, which he did this week. Looked really good, and that was the process.”

It has been a week and a half since Rondo was a late scratch against the Trail Blazers because of back spasms — and nearly eight weeks since the team discovered he had a fractured right thumb in just their second practice once they arrived in Orlando.

Rondo, 34, has not appeared in a game for the Lakers since before the NBA hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rondo averaged 7.1 points, five assists and three rebounds before the season was paused, appearing in 48 games for Los Angeles and starting in three.

The 14-year veteran averaged 20.5 minutes per game during the regular season, but Vogel hinted that Rondo’s workload could be lessened in his return on Friday.

“We don’t have a hard-line minutes restriction on him, but we’ll be intelligent. It’ll be sort of a rehab start for him, get his feet wet,” Vogel said. “Obviously, he hasn’t played a game in a long time. We want to be cautious.”

Vogel declined to reveal any other lineup changes for the series opener against the small ball-centric Rockets. L.A. started JaVale McGee at center in all but two of their games this season; the most recent exception was in the seeding round, when McGee did not play and Anthony Davis slid to the 5.

Vogel also said the Lakers will be without assistant coach Jason Kidd on the bench on Friday because Kidd is experiencing “severe” back spasms.

“He just has a great feel for reading games, and all of our assistant coaches are invaluable to our process, the preparation process, as well as in-game adjustments, rotations and all those things,” Vogel said of Kidd. “So, he will be missed, but next man up and we’ll be ready to go.”

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