By Brian Robb, CBS Boston

WALTHAM (CBS) – The Celtics season just took another turn in the right direction.

One night after defeating the New York Knicks to maintain their lead atop the Atlantic Division, Brad Stevens said on Saturday he expects Rajon Rondo to return to the lineup sometime next month. He was cleared to participate in full contact practice by Dr. James Andrews on Friday.

Rondo has not played since tearing the ACL in his right knee during a game against the Atlanta Hawks in late January. He underwent surgery on February 14th to his right knee and has worked with Dr. Andrews over the past 10 months on his recovery.

Rondo traveled to see Dr. Andrews with the Celtics’ training staff and team physician Dr. McKeon.

After receiving the clearance by Andrews, Rondo returned to Boston and participated in the team’s practice today in full.

“He’s not been cleared 100 percent until yesterday for practice,” Stevens explained, “But he has done some stuff he’s been cleared for along the way. He’s done more and more, and today he’s done the most he’s done.”

Stevens described the practice as “short, but hard, in 45 minutes,” and noted that Rondo looked, “pretty good,” during the workout.

Despite the All-Star point guard clearing a major obstacle in his rehabilitation, Stevens is still unsure when Rondo will be back on the floor for game action.

“He won’t play in games from what I’ve been told until after the 1st of the year. That said, we’re talking in big generalities, I don’t know when that means. It could be a month from now, it could mean six weeks from now. There are a lot of different variables that have to be met for him to be cleared for games,” Stevens said.

With an unclear timetable, and a Celtics’ team gelling well in the past 10-15 games, Stevens’ next challenge will be figuring out the best way to integrate Rondo into the team’s game plans in the coming weeks. It’s a topic he hasn’t spent too much time considering yet.

“I haven’t thought a ton about it,” Stevens admitted, “since it hasn’t presented itself and it still isn’t going to present itself in the very near future. My focus is what we can do on Monday. You’re thinking about how you are going to get him into it, ease him into it, but then also how you are going to manage everything around that, because there’s a lot of good players playing at a high level. They key is to continue those guys playing really well and add in another good player.”

With the Celtics currently perched atop the Atlantic Division with 11-14 record, Rondo’s pending return adds an extra level of intrigue to a surprising start to the season.

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

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