Earlier this summer, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo spoke with excitement about the upcoming campaign, telling the Globe his right knee felt almost as good as it did before he suffered an injury that hindered him last season.
“I’m feeling pretty confident,” the Louisville native said during an interview in his hometown. “It’s feeling stronger. A little more explosive. My first step, I think, is almost back.”
But now Rondo’s health has taken another step back after the team announced the four-time All-Star and team captain had surgery Friday morning to repair a broken bone in his left hand.
The 28-year-old suffered the injury — a left metacarpal fracture — during a fall in his home Thursday night, the team stated in a release.
Doctors estimate that Rondo could miss 6-8 weeks, meaning he will be sidelined for at least the start of the regular season, which the Celtics open Oct. 29 against Brooklyn at TD Garden. If Rondo is out eight weeks, he could miss nearly the first full month of the season.
Rondo, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens are all expected to address the injury at media day Monday. The Celtics are scheduled to open training camp Tuesday and preseason Oct. 6 against Philadelphia.
The injury to Rondo’s non-shooting hand marks another obstacle, as he played 30 games last season after returning from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Barring any moves, the Celtics have two point guard options: first-round pick Marcus Smart — their No. 6 overall selection in June’s NBA draft — and second-year guard Phil Pressey, who started 11 games last season.
Expectations were already low for a rebuilding team that didn’t improve much this offseason after posting a 25-57 mark last season, the third-worst record in franchise history. But Rondo’s temporary absence almost assures the team will stumble out of the gate.
Celtics owners, executives and coaches all said they expected this season to be the finest of Rondo’s career — that he looked great after an offseason of workouts and continued rehab.
When asked this summer about those expectations, Rondo smiled.
“Oh? No pressure,” he said with a laugh. “I think each year in the NBA, I’ve gotten better. That’s always the thing that I’ve continued to grow and I have a lot of room to grow to get better. This year, I put a lot of pressure on myself — not just from those guys — but I do want to succeed and have the best year of my career.”
Did he feel he had to prove to people he was back to his old self, prior to the knee injury?
“Nah,” he said. “Last year, I think I had glimpses of it. I think not playing for an entire year and then coming back, your cardio isn’t going to be [great]. There’s only so much you can do if you’re not playing a real NBA game. So my stamina will be a lot better [this season].
“I think not only will this be my best year, but I think a big reason why is probably my endurance,” Rondo continued. “I plan on being in the best shape of my life. I’m going to make adjustments in my game and I think where I can get better at my endurance on both ends of the floor, being able to go for a good 32-33 minutes a game and dominate the game in those minutes. I don’t need to play 48. I mean, I hope I don’t have to play 48. I’ll just try to dominate the game within the minutes that I play in and be the best that I can be at 100 percent.”
Trade speculation has long swirled around Rondo, but never more so than entering this season, the final year of his contract with the Celtics. The question both the Celtics and other teams hoped to have answered this season is how his knee held up, and now the same is true of his hand — factors that will no doubt play into his possible trade value.
Speculation will continue about whether the Celtics will move him, and, if so, at what point. Rondo will be an unrestricted free agent next summer and has stated he would like to stay in Boston but that he’s also intrigued by the prospects of being wooed during free agency.
Rondo was asked this summer if he might tour the country to be wined and dined by teams next summer, as Knicks star Carmelo Anthony did.
“It just depends,” Rondo said. “I don’t know if I’m going to do 10 teams. I may do a lot. I don’t know. It’s kind of like college all over again, with recruiting, only times 50 because they have a ton of money to throw at the guys and they don’t have any restrictions on what they can do. No [NCAA] rules.”
But the Celtics have maintained they plan to keep Rondo, the last remaining member of the 2008 championship team.
“It’s my goal to keep Rondo here,” Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said recently. “I think we all want that. And I actually honestly think — he should speak for himself — I think Rajon wants to stay, or would be very happy to stay.
“And we’ll see how this season goes, and how the negotiations go, but he’s proud to be a Celtic. I know that. He’s proud to wear that [2008 title] ring and he deserved it.”
Ainge, in addressing questions on the subject for the umpteenth time, recently asked, “Are you seriously asking me that again? Yes, we expect Rajon to be in Boston for the long term. Does that need to be asked any more by anybody ever again?”Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.