Lakers' Luke Walton Doesn't Expect LeBron James, Rajon Rondo to Face Warriors

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2019

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20:  LeBron James #23 and Rajon Rondo #9 of the Los Angeles Lakers talk during a 124-115 loss to the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on October 20, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton said small forward LeBron James and point guard Rajon Rondo could go through a full practice with the team Sunday, but he doesn't expect either player to return from their injury for Monday night's clash with the Golden State Warriors.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN provided the update from Walton on Saturday ahead of L.A.'s game against the Houston Rockets.

James has been sidelined since the Lakers' Christmas Day victory over the Warriors because of a groin injury. Rondo last played in the same game before undergoing surgery on his right hand.

Los Angeles has posted a 4-7 record while the duo has been sidelined. It's dropped the team's overall mark to 25-21, which ranks eighth in the highly competitive Western Conference.

Although the Lakers' skid has led the renewed speculation about his future, power forward Kyle Kuzma came to his coach's defense Wednesday, per Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com.

"Anytime you're missing LeBron, you're going to struggle," Kuzma said. "Cleveland had [Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love], and they struggled when LeBron was out. Obviously, it's not just us."

Meanwhile, Walton told Shelburne he doesn't mind the spotlight that comes with coaching one of the most storied franchises in American sports.

"It's the best job in the world, and I love the challenge that we have," he said. "It's challenging, it's hard, it's sleepless nights. But it's also awesome."

On the positive side, the Lakers' depth options have received ample opportunity to get more consistent playing time with the high-profile injuries. Six different players have led the squad in scoring during their 11-game absence. That balance should benefit the team once everyone is healthy.

If James and Rondo do miss Monday's game, their next chance to return will come Thursday when the Lakers battle the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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