The day before a Celtics-Lakers game, there was nary a mention of the opponent from the storied rivalry when the local outfit met the media. Part of that might be because the clubs are a combined 23 games below .500, but mostly the attention has been captured by the anticipated return of Rajon Rondo. Barring any missteps, the All-Star point guard will make his first court appearance since tearing his right ACL last Jan. 25 in Atlanta. Danny Ainge noted that Rondo looked good in Wednesday’s workout with the Celts’ D-League affiliate from Maine and that he appears physically and mentally ready to take this step. “I think conditioning right now is probably the biggest question,” said Ainge, “so his minutes will be limited to start, and I don’t know if that’s going to happen for weeks or months or what. He’ll probably be playing five minutes per quarter, approximately, and knowing Rondo, he’s going to be complaining about that, probably checking himself back into the game occasionally because that’s who he is. But that’s the game plan.” As far as the actual plan when Rondo’s on the floor, coach Brad Stevens is looking to see how his knowledge of the sets translates at game speed. “He knows them obviously, and what we’ll sit down and talk about is some of the things that . . . you know, he hasn’t called a game on the fly in a while, and one of the things that I’ll try to help him do is figure out what might be some of the best things just off the top of his mind that he can blow out,” Stevens said. “He’s already studied it enough. He’s a guy a lot like (Peyton) Manning and (Tom) Brady and all those guys. He can see things and audible on the fly, and that’s pretty good. So I want to talk to him about some of these things. And he has a lot of freedom to make reads.” As for what that will mean to the rest of the Celts, “I think obviously the difference in delivery — he gets the ball to people better than anybody around,” said Stevens. “The other part of it is I don’t think we can expect him to be Game 7 Rajon Rondo (tonight). This is part of this process of getting back to full go, and now the next step is to play a maximum number of minutes in a game.” Ainge expressed concern about the major step forward in the rehab process. “He hasn’t played for a year,” he said. “What I’ve seen throughout my professional basketball career is that the ACL injury is something that every player has to overcome and coming back mentally, not just physically. I anticipate some adjustments, and just getting used to playing and feeling confident and returning to the player that he was. And I think he will get there. I don’t know how long it will take, if that means a week or a month or what. He has to get back out on the court and he has to try it, and now is as good a time as any.” Both Ainge and Stevens sought to temper the external anticipation.
Rajon Rondo returns tonight versus Lakers
Boston Herald | Jan 17