Rajon Rondo is sprinting up and down the court. He’s playing teammates in one-on-one before games. He’s participating here and there in Celtics practices.
These are all recent signs of progress after the All-Star point guard tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in January, after he had it repaired a month later by famed orthopedic surgeon James Andrews, and after he has been diligently rehabbing in the months since.
Fans, media, and others have taken these recent signs to mean that his return to the court could be imminent, perhaps just days away. It hasn’t helped that Rondo’s own teammates have publicly commented that, from the looks of it, Rondo should be close to suiting up.
Yet no timetable for his return exists, and Rondo is not as close as it might seem — or as close as some might want it to seem.
The Celtics view Rondo, who has never before had a major knee injury, as the future of the franchise, so they have been extremely cautious. He, too, has been cautious, and neither party is about to change their approach.
The next step in his long road back is to head to Florida in the next 10-14 days to meet with Andrews.
“It has nothing to do with Rondo’s health and it’s not like a final straw or anything,” said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. “It’s just a checkup that they’ve scheduled for the beginning of December. It’s been on the calendar for a while.”
Celtics team doctor Brian McKeon also will make the trip, and he and Andrews will likely determine the next step for Rondo, Ainge said.
And steps remain before he will play. First he must be cleared to participate in full-contact practice.
“He’s playing one-on-one and two-on-two, that type of thing, but he hasn’t been cleared to do much more than that,” Ainge said.
It’s unclear what the timeline will be, but it figures that Rondo could still be several weeks — perhaps longer — away from playing.
Worst yet first
With an 8-12 record, the Celtics are in first place in the Atlantic Division.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that ties them for the NBA’s worst mark for a division leader through 20 games with the 2006-07 Nets, who finished second in the division.
For perspective, the combined record of the teams in the division the Celtics are leading is 29-61. Also, just two of the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference have a winning record: Miami and Indiana.
Compare that with the Western Conference, where just three of the 15 teams have a losing record: Minnesota, Utah, and Sacramento.
For more perspective, the Celtics were 7-13 through 20 games in 2006-07. They lost a franchise-record 18 straight games that season, finishing with a 24-58 record.
Jordan Crawford’s 15-point fourth-quarter performance in Tuesday’s win over Milwaukee left coach Brad Stevens gushing about his shooting guard.
“He’s not scared of the moment,” Stevens said.
Stevens recalled watching a 2010 NCAA Tournament game in which Crawford, then playing at Xavier (Ohio), faced Kansas State. Stevens called the game “one of the all-time great shootouts I’ve seen in person to the point where you’re getting ready for whoever wins and you’re sick to your stomach.”
Crawford scored a career-high 32 points in a double-overtime loss and also made an incredible 3-pointer from 35 feet that sent the game to that second overtime.
“The magnitude of that shot, I could not forget,” Stevens said. “He has the ability to knock those shots down.’’
After Tuesday’s game, in which he scored a season-high 25 points, Crawford was asked whether he has ever been afraid of the moment.
“I mean, it’s a little more easy to focus,” Crawford said. “Big shots, when you’ve got to shoot it, I think it’s kind of easier to shoot them than just a shot in the first quarter or something.”
Jeff Green had high praise for his teammate’s play late in close games.
“He’s cold-blooded,” Green said. “He’s been doing it his whole career. He did it when he was with the Wizards. I remember off the top of my head a shot he made in Portland to win the game. He’s fearless. He’s not afraid to take the big shot.”
Echoed Avery Bradley: “Jordan is a very good player. I knew once he got some confidence and learned how to play with everybody on our team, everything would work itself out and it has.
“Jordan’s come a long way and I love playing with him. I know everybody else does.”
Chances are . . .
According to ESPN.com’s playoff odds, which are based on a formula designed by former ESPN writer and current Grizzlies executive John Hollinger, the Celtics have a 50.8 percent chance to reach the postseason. The formula uses a combination of factors, such as how a team has performed so far and its upcoming schedule, and also runs 5,000 computer simulations to determine the possible record at the end of the season. The formula had the Celtics finishing at 35-47, in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.Baxter Holmes can be reached at email@example.com Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.