Celtics

Robb: Anticipation Building As Rondo Nears Return

By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
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Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo works out with team training Bryan Doo prior to a game at the TD Garden. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo works out with team training Bryan Doo prior to a game at the TD Garden. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) – The anticipation is starting to build.

Although Rajon Rondo is weeks away from returning to the floor in a Celtics uniform, the point guard has made great strides recently, ramping up his rehab on his surgically repaired right ACL.

Rondo is nearly ten months removed from suffering the ACL tear in his right knee, during an overtime loss against the Atlanta Hawks last January. He underwent surgery to repair the injury a couple weeks later in February.

It’s been a long and trying road back to the court for the All-Star over the past year. However, since being cleared to participate in some non-contact portions of practice in the past month, Rondo’s started to build up his conditioning and increase his presence around the team.

“I’m participating in some contact drills here and there, and as of now I’ve had no swelling, and I’m feeling pretty good,” Rondo said in an interview with NBA TV last week.

The strides he’s made in his rehab is starting to turn some heads amongst his teammates though, as they await his help out on the floor.

“[Rondo] still has his quickness,” Jared Sullinger said Tuesday after practice, “He still can finish with either hand. He’s still crafty with the basketball. Rondo is Rondo. Once that knee gets 100 percent, look out. He’s going to be back full effect.”

Reserve guard MarShon Brooks has spent considerable time playing one-on-one with Rondo before games recently, which allowed him to provide some additional perspective on the point guard’s progress.

“It was good. He’s very quick, he’s always been quick, I think he’s almost there,” Brooks continued, “A lot of the things with an ACL, from what I’ve heard, I’ve never suffered one…is just your psyche. You just have to make sure you’re ready, have confidence in making those moves. But I’m not playing, he’s not playing, we’re working to get each other back.”

Another benefit that Brooks has noticed in Rondo’s training: Plenty of work put in on further developing the point guard’s jumper.

“I think he’s improved his jump shot. He’s been doing a lot of shooting with me, after practice. He’s a hard worker. I think he’ll come back strong.”

While the positive steps are encouraging in the work Rondo performs in his workouts, Brad Stevens reminds us that there is still no definitive timetable on when Rondo will be able to actually play in games.

“I know he’s playing a little bit of one-on-one before games, but I’m not out there, so I haven’t seen a whole lot that would say he’d be close to ready or whatever the case may be. I have not gotten any word that we have a timeline that is anytime in the very, very near future,” Stevens said.

Danny Ainge has mentioned on Toucher and Rich that a return for Rondo sometime in December seems likely. The Celtics know they have to be cautious with one of their franchise building blocks and that’s an attitude that Rondo shares with the team.

“I’m anxious to get back out there, but I want to take my time, make sure this knee is healed 100 percent,” Rondo said last week, “I don’t want to rush back and have any second surgeries or get anything drained out of my knee.”

Once he does see the floor, newcomer Gerald Wallace is intrigued to see just how well the prized point guard will mesh with a roster full of new faces.

“It will be fun. It will be interesting just to see. It’s going to be hard. I think the main thing for us is how he’s going to fit in with us; the way that we’ve been playing, he’s been out,” Wallace continued, “Him coming in with his mentality of what can he and can’t he do, mentally as far as with his knee. We don’t want to rush him and push him. We don’t want him to come back and the first game, be the All-Star Rondo that we know he can be. We want him to take his time, work himself back into the game and kind of slowly become the player that he’s always been.”

In the meantime though, the Celtics will continue to wait and hope to stay relevant in the playoff race in the wide-open Eastern Conference as they await Rondo’s help. As the buzz continues to grow though surrounding Rondo’s progress, his backcourt running mate sums up the team’s feeling well.

“I just can’t wait until he gets back,” shooting guard Avery Bradley said, “It’s fun to see him out there. He wants to be back so bad. He’s getting closer out there.”

For now though, the waiting game for the Celtics’ team and fan base continues.

Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.

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