WALTHAM — As soon as the Celtics wrapped up a light session Friday at the team’s practice facility, Rajon Rondo started looking around for volunteers.
He wanted to get a run in, a quick pickup game to test out his right knee, the one he’s spent the past 10 months nursing, and to get the basketball juices flowing.
Jared Sullinger was more than willing.
“I volunteered right then and there,” Sullinger said.
By and large, so did everyone else. From Courtney Lee and Gerald Wallace to assistant coach Walter McCarty, the Celtics ran a 5-on-5 game for their All-Star point guard.
Sullinger admitted he could use the run.
“I knew, one, it would help my conditioning,” the big man said.
But he knew it was more important for Rondo, whom the Celtics hope to have back next month.
“It would help his confidence, getting up and down the court,” Sullinger said. “So I was all for it.”
Rondo ran the floor, quarterbacked the offense, played the pest on defense, and passed on talking to reporters. Even though he’s shaking some cobwebs off his skill set, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said just his presence on the floor is a boost.
“He’s so smart, he can come and run our plays on all three guard positions right now,” Stevens said. “It’s really been a positive the last couple months because you can throw him into a drill or into a 5-on-0 drill if you needed to, even before he was cleared to play 5-on-5.”
If Rondo was wearing a “Handle With Care” label, his teammates ignored it.
He hit the floor hard twice — one time crashing into a defender at the top of the arc and again trying to squeeze down the baseline. After both thuds, he dusted himself off and moved on to the next play.
In a way, Sullinger said, it was good to see him take the knocks.
“Once you’re on the court, you’re fair game,” Sullinger said. “I don’t care who you are. You’re fair game. I think it’s good that he experienced those bumps.
“He fell on the floor. He did a couple crossovers, just to feel his knee out and break that mental [barrier] that when you fall you can get back up. I think that was real helpful for him today.”
Some of the instinctive parts of the game that used to be second nature to Rondo are still coming along, but Wallace said those things will take time.
“He looks pretty good,” Wallace said. “His timing’s off. I think he’s just so used to doing a lot of the things that he did in the past that it’s not all back yet. But he looks comfortable, especially guarding screen-and-rolls.
“He’s an All-Star. He’s a professional. Regardless of what injury you have, basketball is going to be the same when you come back, it’s just trusting yourself and your body. I think the main thing for him is just getting out on the court, playing in a rhythm, and understanding his body.”
Working the pick and roll with Rondo, however, Wallace instantly noticed the next-level court vision that landed Rondo among the league leaders in assists for four straight seasons before the last.
“He makes passes that you’re not even looking for,” Wallace said. “That’s one of the things about playing with him that you’ve got to get used to is that he’s going to always pass the ball. If you’re open — even if he thinks you’re open — he’s going to throw the ball.”
As eager as the Celtics are to see Rondo flash his skills in an actual game, Sullinger said they’ll wait to make sure he’s completely ready, and opportunities like Friday help that process along.
“I want to make sure he’s 100 percent himself,” Sullinger said. “I want to make sure he’s confident, make sure that he understands that he can play this game again, and make sure that he’s 100 percent so there’s no minor setbacks.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.