WALTHAM — Rajon Rondo participated in a full-contact practice Saturday for the first time since undergoing knee surgery nearly 11 months ago, meaning the Celtics’ All-Star point guard is one step closer to returning.
But Rondo will not make his season debut this month — and January isn’t a guarantee, either, said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
“I don’t know a timetable,” Ainge said. “None of us do and none of us can. As we can recall from every one of these incidents that have happened from the past few years, it’s all just guessing. So it’s sort of silly to speculate.
“We’ll just take it week by week. He’s stepped it up — and after a few good practices, we’ll see if he can step it up more. But we’ll just take it week by week from here on out.
Ainge added, “I don’t anticipate him playing in any games this month, for sure. I also don’t know if there’s a time in January or a time in February. I really don’t know the answer. A lot of it is going to depend on how he responds to this next phase.”
Rondo was cleared for full contact Friday after he traveled that morning with team physician Brian McKeon to meet with operating surgeon James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.
“[Rondo] went through some tests and both doctors met,” Ainge said. “They met with Rondo and they met together. They felt like everything was good and he needed to step it up a little bit, and this is the next progression.”
With the approval of Andrews, Ainge said “the baton has been passed” to the Celtics, specifically to Dr. McKeon, Celtics head athletic trainer and physical therapist Ed Lacerte, and the team’s head strength and conditioning coach, Bryan Doo.
“Dr. Andrews was satisfied with how Rondo is coming along and his progress, and I think Rondo feels good about how things are going,” Ainge said. “Now it’s sort of in the hands of the medical staff of the Celtics and in Rondo’s court.”
Rondo, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last January, participated in a 45-minute session Saturday. How did he look?
“Pretty good,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said with a smile.
Celtics forward Brandon Bass said Rondo looked “good” and “solid.”
If and when Rondo returns, it will shake up the Celtics lineup, but Stevens said he hasn’t thought about that much “because it really hasn’t presented itself and it still isn’t going to present itself in the very, very near future.”
He added, “Certainly, you’re thinking about how you’re going to, not only get him into it, [and] ease him into it, but how you’re going to manage everything around that. Because there’s a lot of good players that are playing at a high level, and the key is to continue those guys playing really well and add in another very good player.”
Like Ainge, Stevens was hesitant to put a timetable on Rondo.
“He won’t play in games, is what I’ve been told, until after the first of the year,” Stevens said. “I don’t know when that means. It could mean a month from now, it could mean six weeks from now. There’s a lot of different variables that have to be met for him to be cleared for games.”