CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There is no word when Rajon Rondo will return to Celtics practice after Feb. 13 surgery to repair a partially torn right anterior cruciate ligament, yet indications are that he is getting close to being cleared for five-on-five workouts and coach Brad Stevens has been planning for his presence.
Rondo played one-on-one with teammate MarShon Brooks before the Celtics’ 96-86 win over the Bobcats on Monday, making hard, aggressive moves on the right leg as he streaked for layups. Rondo has been a fixture on road trips and his participation in drills has increased over the past few weeks.
The Celtics have had little practice time because of a hectic November schedule that includes 18 games, including 10 on the road. Boston has just three December road games, giving the team plenty of practice time and a considerable stretch for Rondo to work out and prepare for his on-court return.
Stevens said he has been placing Rondo in five-on-zero drills during shootarounds.
“I’ve had him on one of the two teams in practice for the last month, so that he’s ready when the time comes,” Stevens said. “It’s really all you can do right now. He’s gotta be sharp in what we’re doing so that we can pick it up and go full steam ahead. We’re doing some things that fit him better than anybody else.”
Rondo is nine months moved from surgery. Atlanta’s Lou Williams underwent ACL surgery one week before Rondo and returned to the Hawks Nov. 15. Rondo would not give any timetable on his return, except to say he likely wouldn’t return to practice before the end of the month.
The Celtics have a two-day break after Saturday’s game at Milwaukee, then another two days off playing the Bucks Dec. 3 at TD Garden.
Vitor Faverani will be relied upon for increased minutes with Kelly Olynyk out with a sprained ankle. Faverani’s first month in the NBA has been filled with inconsistency. He scored 25 points in his first two games, and then struggled before being replaced in the starting lineup by Olynyk.
Faverani’s minutes have been spotty but he did contribute 11 points and five rebounds in Saturday’s win over Atlanta after going scoreless the previous two games. He had 5 points in 13 foul-plagued minutes on Monday.
Faverani said he is still getting accustomed to playing four or five games per week as opposed to the two-game-per-week schedule in Europe.
“Coach Stevens makes the best decision for the team,” Faverani said of his playing time. “And sometimes he decides I play a lot and sometimes not. I respect him and when I play a lot, I try to play good. The three, four, or five games a week [is tough] and [in Europe] we play two games in a week and that’s the biggest physical difference. It’s different now, it’s not bad for me but when we started the season, the first three games, it was my legs. I am working a lot before the games [to get ready].”
“A lot of us have to get used to [the schedule],” Stevens said. “That may be a little of his inconsistency but I think also his inconsistency is due to I haven’t played him consistently either. So hopefully we can build on Saturday.”
Lee on target
Courtney Lee’s scoring average is nearly identical to last season, yet he is playing seven fewer minutes per game coming off the bench. His production is a byproduct of his soaring shooting percentage. Lee entered Monday’s game shooting 51.1 percent from the field and 47.6 percent from the 3-point line, compared with 46.4 and 37.2 in his first season with the Celtics.
Lee said he worked feverishly on his shooting during the summer and found a glitch in his mechanics.
“I’m still trying to get back to that [high] level of play because I’m not content right now,” he said. “A lot of it is confidence and the other half is hard work. The most consistent you are with working and knowing when you’re going [into the game], it also helps too with everything because you can get your mind right.”
Bruise for Sullinger
Jared Sullinger played Monday with his left hand wrapped. He said he experienced swelling after Saturday’s win at Atlanta. Sullinger said he will not need an MRI. “It’s just a bruise,” he said . . . Gerald Wallace, who played seven seasons for the Bobcats, was given a nice round of applause when he entered the game in the first quarter. Wallace is the franchise’s leader in games played . . . Keith Bogans remained in Boston with an illness and his return is uncertain. He has played in just two games this season . . . The Bobcats had multiple 20-point scorers (Kemba Walker 28, Gerald Henderson 20) for the first time this season . . . Phil Pressey contributed a career-best eight assists and three steals . . . Jordan Crawford (21 points) scored in double figures for the fourth consecutive game and 12th time this season.Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @gwashNBAGlobe.