NEWPORT, R.I. — The Wednesday morning practice ended. Most of the Celtics remained in the gym to stretch or shoot or just hang out for a short while after. Then, the majority hopped aboard the bus that would shuttle them to the team hotel.
“Let’s go!” Phil Lynch, the Celtics’ director of security, hollered a few times at the stragglers, and so they hustled out the door, leaving one lone guard on the far end of the court here at Salve Regina University, the site of Celtics training camp.
The lone guard did not budge when practice ended during the second day of camp, nor did he move when the last call was ordered.
And as the bus departed into the sunshine, Rajon Rondo remained in the gym, still running through drills, still getting up shots, still soaking an already saturated forest green sleeveless shirt, until he was the very last soul left on the court.
For most of his workout, Celtics assistant Ron Adams fed Rondo passes and tips as the All-Star point guard fired 3-pointers, mid-range jump shots, free throws, you name it, while a small group of media observed.
Rondo had completed light shooting drills in front of the media in late April, two months after he had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
But he hadn’t had such a public workout since then, until Wednesday morning.
Though the Celtics don’t expect him to be available for their regular-season opener, Rondo, who wore a small brace on his right knee, showed few lingering effects from the injury.
His 3-point shot was effective and he moved fluidly overall, whether going through drills alone or participating in non-contact drills with teammates.
That’s not to say the Celtics’ best player, who declined to comment upon finally leaving the court, is anywhere close to being ready.
“I’ve seen him every day, so it’s harder for me to tell than maybe you to tell because you haven’t seen him on the court for a while,” coach Brad Stevens said. “He looks good to me. That being said, he still has a ways to go.”
Guard Avery Bradley, who will most likely fill in for Rondo at point guard in the interim, said it’s not rare for Rondo to be the last one on the court.
“It’s really not [rare],” Bradley said. “I know he’s excited and anxious to come back. I’m just excited to see him working out and [his after-practice work] lets me know he’s close to coming back and being on the court with us.”
Bradley added, “He works on his shot every day. He’s been working hard. Preparing to come back. And we can’t wait to have him.”
Aside from working out during one of the two training camp practices per day, Rondo can only be a voice of leadership to a team filled with so many new players.
The Celtics are preparing for Rondo’s absence by having an offense that, it appears, may be more point guard by committee than before.
“We’re preparing all of these guys to be able to play major minutes at the point,” Stevens said. “Whoever starts, that works itself out. I would say Avery, certainly, with his background, with the fact that he’s had good success here, the fact that he can change a game defensively, certainly he’s got a great opportunity to do that.”
Other candidates include Jordan Crawford and Phil Pressey.
The 5-foot-11-inch Pressey is the only true healthy point guard on the Celtics’ roster.
“He’s done as good a job of anybody this far of directing the ball on offense,” Stevens said. “He’s got a good pulse on it.”
The rookie has a chip on his shoulder from going undrafted out of Missouri and, Stevens said, “an extensive NBA background because he lived in a house of an NBA assistant coach his whole life,” a reference to former Celtics assistant Paul Pressey.
Crawford is a shooting guard but could play the point because of his ability to score, pass, and run the pick-and-roll. “That’s three real positives right there,” Stevens said. “Whether he’s at the point or wherever, he’s going to have opportunities.”
The idea of having a point guard by committee offense at the moment plays into the Celtics’ strengths, Stevens said.
“Certainly when you’ve got a guy like Rondo, you can tweak that a little bit,” Stevens added. “I still think even Rajon, if we can get him a reversal into a pick-and-roll, it puts more pressure on the defense, whether that be in transition or in the half court, just because everybody is lower [on the court], and the lower you get, the more likely you are to get in the lane.”
The idea of inserting Rondo into the game plan remains a distant goal for the Celtics.
Though no specific time table has been given, there have been hints that Rondo could be out until December.
And while the Celtics move forward, Rondo stays behind, preparing, even if it means being the last soul left on the court.