WALTHAM — Though he has been cleared for full-contact practice, point guard Rajon Rondo won’t be suiting up for the Celtics this month, and a January return isn’t written in stone, either.
So whatever ripples his return will have on the rest of the Celtics, including how other players will have their roles/minutes shifted around in the lineup, is not yet known, and it won’t be for a while.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” coach Brad Stevens said after practice Sunday, a day before his Celtics (11-14) face Minnesota (12-12) at TD Garden.
But, in practice at least, the Celtics have noticed a difference.
“Now we have highlights,” said forward Jared Sullinger. “Before, we didn’t really have a lot of highlights. Other than Jeff [Green] dunking, or Jordan [Crawford’s] spin move.
“Now we have a little bit more highlights with the ball fake to the up-and-under layups, to the Hakeem shake. We got highlights now. It’s a lot of fun to do oohs and aahs in practice.”
Sullinger added that Rondo, who has been out since last season after recovering from knee surgery 11 months ago, looks a lot like his old self.
“He’s doing great,” Sullinger said. “I feel like he hasn’t missed a beat. He’s still competing just as hard, his eyes lit up, he has the eye of the tiger. He’s ready to get back out there, obviously. He’s just gotta do what’s best for him, though.”
Guard Avery Bradley also said that Rondo “has been good. He’s been moving well, and he’s just getting used to being out here with us.”
Rondo, who declined to speak to the media, has been participating in drills since October.
Stevens said he’s more focused on the other players who are playing in games, but Stevens added that Rondo looks good and has fit right into practice after being cleared for full-contact Friday.
“I will say that when he started in drills, even in October, doing shooting drills or catch-and-shoot drills, he makes a difference,” Stevens said. “And I would say that would be the case with any accomplished older player, just because they understand. But he certainly has made a difference in the drills.”
Speaking of shooting, Stevens has praised Rondo’s shooting form, one of the knocks against the guard earlier in his career.
“He shoots the ball pretty well and his work in his shooting has been good,” Stevens said. “That’s the one thing he’s been able to do, especially catch and shoot, for the last couple months. He’s put in a lot of time like these other guys have. I think he’ll make shots when he comes back.”
How the Celtics adjust to Rondo’s presence will play out in the coming weeks.
But, Stevens said, “Obviously, it’s not brain surgery.
“You want a guy like that to be in position where the floor is spaced and he can play off the pick and roll and you can utilize other people’s strengths around him. But I think floor spacing is a big part of it.“
The question, of course, is what will happen with the current point guard situation. After previously playing shooting guard, Jordan Crawford moved over to fill Rondo’s role and has flourished lately.
It goes without saying that Rondo, a four-time All-Star who has twice led the league in assists, will play point guard, but Stevens was wary of moving Crawford back to the shooting guard position.
“The best teams I’ve ever coached have always had multiple point guards on the floor at once, especially when it was in crunch time, so that’s something I’m really looking forward to,” Stevens said.
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Before the season started, Sullinger said his conditioning was his biggest issue after back surgery kept him sidelined for half of last season and unable to work out for much of the offseason.
But the second-year forward out of Ohio State said he’s made a lot of progress in that area, even in the past month and a half.
“I’m playing a lot more minutes, so it has to be better,” he said.
Sullinger is averaging 13.5 points and 6.9 rebounds in 26.4 minutes per game.
He’s listed at 260 pounds and has said that he wants to lose weight. He declined to say exactly how much he wanted to shed, but did say that he has dropped weight recently.
“If you look at media pictures [then] and of me now, it’s two different people,” Sullinger said.
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Forward Kris Humphries participated in practice after missing two games with the sore right knee that he recently had drained. Humphries will be available to play against Minnesota, Stevens said.