fb-pixelRajon Rondo hasn’t ruled out playing in opener - The Boston Globe Skip to main content
CELTICS NOTEBOOK

Rajon Rondo hasn’t ruled out playing in opener

Conditioning isn’t a problem with Rajon Rondo — the issue is how much his hand can take.Mike Lawrie/Getty

WALTHAM — When Celtics coach Brad Stevens checked his texts Monday morning, the one from team trainer Ed Lacerte seemed pretty straightforward.

Lacerte simply gave Stevens a heads-up that everyone would be available for practice after the team had been given the weekend off.

Of course, “everyone” included point guard Rajon Rondo, who up until Friday had been limited to noncontact drills after breaking his left hand last month.

The injury was expected to keep Rondo off the floor for six to eight weeks, but two days ahead of the Celtics’ season opener against the Brooklyn Nets, Rondo was on the practice floor, with a black brace around his surgically repaired hand, participating in his second full-contact practice.

Advertisement



Whether Rondo will be healthy enough to play Wednesday is still up in the air.

Asked to give a percentage on his chances to play, Rondo pulled a number out of thin air.

“Probably 79 right now,” he said.

Before he can say for sure, Rondo will see doctors Tuesday and Wednesday.

“If he goes through the next couple of days without pain and he feels really good and the doctors give him clearance, then he’ll be good to go,” said Stevens. “But there’s a lot of ifs there. So I’d still say he’s somewhere in the realm of questionable, but all signs have been moving forward.”

But Rondo has doubts that he’d be ready in two days.

“I’m optimistic,” Rondo said. “I’m going to get probably another X-ray today and we’ll see how it goes in practice today. Just taking it one day at a time. I don’t think Wednesday is realistic, but a lot of rest and more treatment, you never know.”

Rondo didn’t get carried away about going through his first full practice Friday (“I’ve been back one day,” he said) but he said the hand didn’t give him many issues aside from getting it caught in a teammate’s jersey.

Advertisement



“It was OK,” Rondo said. “I felt fine. I didn’t favor it, I don’t think. It got bent back a little bit but other than that, I was fine.”

Although Rondo practiced only in spurts, Stevens said conditioning wasn’t a concern.

“Rondo has a lot less problems getting into condition than other guys,” Stevens said. “He stays in pretty good shape throughout the course of the year. He takes care of his body well and everything else.

“If he were to play as early as this week, then I would probably play him in shorter stints, but still play him quite a bit.”

The main hurdle is finding out what happens when the hand takes a hit in an actual game.

“Contact is a completely different thing,” Rondo said. “If I land on it, if I get taken out in the air and have to brace myself. It’s still different. So I don’t know.”

If Rondo can’t go, rookie Marcus Smart will start at point guard. Smart also returned to practice Monday after sitting out Thursday and Friday with an illness and spending the weekend recovering.

“This weekend wasn’t one of my best weekends,” Smart said. “I was a little under the weather. I’ve been taking a lot of medicine for it and getting a lot of rest, and I feel a lot better today.”

In eight preseason games, Smart averaged 8.4 points and 4.6 assists playing 26 minutes a night, but he knows the learning curve will get dramatically steeper once the season starts, especially if he has to fill Rondo’s shoes.

Advertisement



“Definitely nervous a little bit,” Smart said. “It’s kind of hard to take the place of a guy like Rondo, his caliber.

“Unfortunately, we won’t have him if he’s not ready to participate on Wednesday. But this team is young and we have a lot of other great players, so it’s going to help us in the long run.”

Tough way to start

Of all the things that could possibly be worrying Stevens going into the season, what he’s bracing himself for most is a torturous first 14 games.

Eleven of the first 14 teams the Celtics will face were playoff teams a year ago, and that doesn’t include the Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James back, or, for that matter, the Phoenix Suns, who just barely missed the postseason in a loaded Western Conference. The gauntlet comes to an end Nov. 30 against the defending champion San Antoino Spurs.

“No. 1, it’s who you play,” Stevens said. “The other teams are really good. They all have multiple guys that can beat you on any given day while you’re doing everything right.”

Looking at his own team, Stevens knows that protecting the rim will be a challenge without a prototypical shot-blocker, and without many sharpshooters, the Celtics will have to be aggressive about driving to the basket.

But the early schedule is a headache that’s out of his hands.

Advertisement



“That’s a concern,” Stevens said. “But those are things you can’t control.”

Knowing the enemy

After guarding Kevin Garnett on a daily basis as a rookie, Jared Sullinger pretty much has his bread-and-butter moves memorized.

“Pick-and-pop, one dribble left to a pull-up,” Sullinger said. “That’s his go-to. And of course, over-the-right-shoulder fadeaway. You watch it so many times — and I watched it so many times in practice — so you know it’s coming.”

He’ll likely get both of those moves in heavy doses Wednesday when the Nets come to TD Garden.

But knowing they’re coming is one thing. “It’s just, how are you going to make him miss?” said Sullinger.

In two games against the Celtics last season, Garnett averaged 8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in 24.3 minutes. But Sullinger said guarding Garnett felt exactly the same as it did his first year in the league.

“It was just like practice,” Sullinger said. “My rookie year, I had to guard him throughout practice. So it was just like practice.”

This will be Garnett’s 20th NBA season, and if that sounds like a lifetime to Sullinger, it should. He was 3 when Garnett made his NBA debut.

“That’s a dinosaur compared to what I’m going through,” Sullinger said. “It’s a long process. That’s a hell of an accomplishment and hopefully many more to come.”

Six players waived

The Celtics met the 15-man roster limit for the opener by waiving six players Monday, including guard Will Bynum, who was acquired from Detroit Oct. 17 in a trade that sent center Joel Anthony to the Pistons.

Advertisement



Also waived were guards Tim Frazier and Rodney McGruder, forwards Erik Murphy and Christian Watford, and swingman Jarell Eddie.


Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.