OAKLAND, Calif. – Rajon Rondo, who has been sidelined all season while recovering from knee surgery, said he plans to make his debut before the 2014 All-Star Break, but he said he has not targeted any date for a potential return between now and then.
The Celtics’ final game before the break is Feb. 12, when they host the San Antonio Spurs at TD Garden. So it is reasonable to expect that the All-Star point guard will make his much-anticipated return at some point before that game.
“It may be this month, next month. It’ll be before All-Star Break,” Rondo said Friday morning before the Celtics’ morning shootaround in San Francisco, hours before they faced the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena here.
A Yahoo Sports! report, citing unnamed sources, stated that Rondo had targeted Jan. 17, when the Celtics host the Lakers at TD Garden, as a possible return date.
Rondo adamantly denied the report, adding, “I’m not sure where that came from.” When asked if he had any targeted return date at all, Rondo said, “Honestly, I don’t.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said talk of any potential return date for Rondo was news to him. “I have not heard that from him or from anybody who would have that information,” Stevens said.
Said Stevens, “We never talked about a specific date. I haven’t heard from our organization that a date was targeted.”
Rondo suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in January 2013. He had a surgery a month later, performed by Dr. James Andrews, and has been rehabbing since.
“I haven’t had any swelling,” Rondo said. “I’m wearing my brace. At times when I play, it doesn’t feel like I have it on. No setbacks. It’s just, I’m taking my time.”
At this point, conditioning remains a key hurdle.
“I’m just trying to get back into shape,” he said. “I haven’t played ball in 12 months. You can do all the cardio, treadmill, running you want, it’s still different from basketball shape.”
Given the Celtics hectic schedule, it’s hard to find time to practice and thus scrimmage. “I might go to some YMCA’s and play,” Rondo joked.
Rondo originally raised the possibility that he’ll as early as this week he’d play with the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics’ NBA’s Development League affiliate.
“I just changed my mind. I just didn’t want to do it. I had a bad dream,” he said, half-joking. “I don’t know. I might go practice with (the Red Claws) when I get back. I’m still not sure yet.”
Since he was first cleared to participate in full-contact practice in December, Rondo said, he has made considerable progress.
“I feel 10 times better,” he said. “I feel more confident, stronger, more explosive. What I’m doing in the weight room, it’s productive.”
He also said he’s getting more comfortable with his teammates, many of whom haven’t played with him before.
“I’m getting a feel for them, they’re getting a feel for me,” he said. “I’m hitting a couple guys in the face or the chest, not knowing the ball is coming. The biggest thing is, I’m just telling guys: Always be ready. Even though it may not seem like the ball’s coming to you, you never know when I’m on the court.”
In practice, Stevens said Rondo “looks awfully comfortable to me.” Stevens also said that when the team has had 5-on-5 scrimmages, Rondo “has really, really done well.”
Stevens stressed that there is no rush on their part.
“This is one heck of a player,” Stevens said. “And we want to make sure he’s ready before he comes back. And there’s a lot of factors in being ready, but the most important thing is, he feels good about it.”
While the decision on when to return rests largely with Rondo, there are medical hurdles that he must clear and Stevens said he wasn’t sure if all of them have been cleared.
Still, Rondo said hardest part for Rondo is “just not playing.”
“I don’t even like to watch the game anymore,” he said. “It’s frustrating. It’s like being a coach. You see things on the floor that you just can’t help, no matter what you do from a vocal standpoint on the sidelines.”
Asked what it will take for him to know he’s ready to return, Rondo said, “It’s just a feeling. I’ll probably just wake up that morning and play.”