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 a specific date.
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 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.
Rondo adamantly denied the report, adding, “I’m not sure where that came from.” When asked if he had any targeted 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 YMCAs and play,” Rondo joked.
Rondo had raised the possibility that 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.”
MarShon Brooks didn’t play much for the Celtics before he was sent to the Red Claws.
And now that Brooks is back with the Celtics, having rejoined the team here Friday, his role remains just as unclear.
Brooks, who has played 61 total minutes in nine games with the Celtics, said he needed his D-League stint to help shake off the rust.
“I wasn’t in as good of shape as I thought I was,” said Brooks, who averaged 27.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists over 35 minutes per game in five outings with the Red Claws. “I caught myself being a little tired at times, especially playing against some of those guys that have been physical with me. But I think it was exactly what I needed.”
Brooks said he got over the initial shock of being sent down to the D-League in about 15 minutes.
“I just swallowed my pride and went down there and handled my business,” he said.
Now that he’s back, Brooks said that he has no expectations with the Celtics, but he added, “If my name is called, I’m a lot more ready than I was before I went down for five games.”
Blake Griffin’s high-flying dunk over the top of Kris Humphries during the Los Angeles Clippers’ win Wednesday over the Celtics will be replayed on the highlight reels for some time.
Humphries didn’t shy away from how impressive it was, but he did defend himself, noting that Griffin threw the ball in more than he actually dunked it.
“We’re still debating if that’s actually a dunk if you don’t touch the rim at all,’’ Humphries said. “Is that a dunk really?’’