WALTHAM — While the Celtics were in the locker room at halftime of their 101-98 win over the Indiana Pacers last Friday night, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was deciding what to do about the screws in Rajon Rondo’s surgically repaired left hand.
Rondo had been able to return ahead of schedule after undergoing surgery in late September, and even though he wasn’t showing any ill effects on the floor — averaging 12.4 points, 12.5 assists, and 9 rebounds in the first four games — the screws had been nagging at him.
“The screws were irritating me a little bit and I was getting X-rays on it weekly,” Rondo said.
Initially, after he talked it over with team doctor Brian McKeon, Rondo planned on playing with the screws in his hand until February.
“Dr. McKeon thought I would be able to make it to All-Star weekend,” Rondo said. “But I wasn’t.”
So Ainge decided to have Rondo stay behind while the team traveled to Chicago and have the procedure Saturday. And this decision was made before Marcus Smart went out and sprained his ankle in the second half against the Pacers.
“It had been bothering [Rondo], so we wanted to do it sooner rather than later,” said Ainge.
Rondo found out about the decision when he came in the locker room after the win. He wasn’t necessarily pleased with it.
“I was very [ticked] off,” said Rondo, “but the team got the win.”
Saturday night’s contest in Chicago would’ve been the second of back-to-back games, and the Celtics had three off days right after it.
“I just wanted to go travel with my teammates in Chicago,” Rondo said. “I thought we’d have the day off Sunday anyway and I thought I could do it Sunday, but they make the decisions.”
Ainge figured that with the rare three-day break in the schedule, it would work out so that Rondo would have to miss only the one game in Chicago and would be back Wednesday to face the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Rondo returned to practice Tuesday, and while he said the hand was “a little sore,” he said it’s nothing he couldn’t play with.
“From everything I gathered, it was a quick in and out as far as getting into his hand, taking the screws out,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “They anticipated him being back and full-go by today and he was. So no issues.”
Even though Rondo was frustrated that he had to stay behind, he understood why.
“That’s what I love about Rondo,” Ainge said. “He always wants to play.
“Sometimes it’s my job to do what’s best in the long run. Players are often looking in the moment, but once I explained it to him, he understood.”
Marcus Thornton left Tuesday’s practice after twisting his ankle. He was able to walk off the floor on his own power, but Stevens said the severity of the injury was uncertain.
“First look, looks mild and will be a day-to-day type thing, but we don’t know that for sure,” Stevens said. “We’ll see how he feels [Wednesday] morning.”
In the preseason, Thornton was second on the Celtics in scoring (12.8 ppg in eight games), and Stevens considered him the kind of weapon that could score in bunches off the bench. That hasn’t quite developed yet, with Thornton averaging just 6.5 points and grabbing 1.2 rebounds in 13.8 minutes.
But he is coming off his best game of the season, dropping 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting against the Bulls.
Still a threat
The Celtics still have a very vivid recollection of the Thunder coming into the Garden last January and squashing them, 101-83.
The Thunder played that game under the same injury-plagued circumstances they find themselves in this season.
They were down both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but still put five players in double figures, including Serge Ibaka, who went for 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting and seven boards.
“The team that we’re playing tomorrow night was the team that drubbed us last year,” Stevens said. “We’ve got to do a great job of moving them because they’re big and long and very, very agile.”
The season is barely two weeks old, but it’s hard to find a player on the Thunder’s roster who hasn’t landed on the injured list.
Along with Westbrook (hand) and Durant (foot), also hurt are Andre Roberson (foot), Perry Jones (knee), Mitch McGary (foot), Grant Jerrett (ankle), Anthony Morrow (knee), and Reggie Jackson (wrist).
Stevens mentioned last year’s loss to the team and Rondo piggybacked.
“They’re still the team that came in last year and beat us without [Durant and Westbrook],” Rondo said. “So we have to come out and play aggressive and play respectful to our opponent.”
Young still away
James Young missed practice again because of an illness in the family. He was expected to return Tuesday night . . . Rondo practiced in a pair of star-spangled socks as a nod to Veterans Day . . . With Rondo back in, Evan Turner and Phil Pressey split the point guard duties off the bench. “They could come in at the same time and both play with the ball,” Stevens said. “So I’m not as worried about it from the standpoint of who is ‘the point guard.’ ”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.