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Rajon Rondo ‘unlikely’ to return for Celtics’ season opener

09.24.13 at 1:41 pm ET
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MILTON — Over the past month, the Celtics have rapidly backed away from their projections this past spring that Rajon Rondo would be healthy for the start of the 2013-14 NBA season, and on Tuesday the organization essentially announced the four-time All-Star would not be in the lineup come Oct. 30.

“My understanding and the last time that we’€™ve had discussions about it is that it’€™s very indeterminate still, but it sounds like it would be unlikely that he would be playing at the very start of the season,” C’s coach Brad Stevens said from the team’s annual charity golf tournament. “What that means beyond that, I think that’€™s going to be on his doctors, the training staff and him making the call on when he’€™s ready. I’€™ve told him from Day 1, ‘€˜Come back when you’€™re ready,’€™ because I think it’€™s really important that he feels really good when he’€™s back and ready to play.”

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge put it more succinctly: “I would be shocked.”

No players participated in the golf portion of the event, but Rondo was expected to arrive in Boston on Tuesday. He’€™s also expected to join the team when training camp begins on Oct. 1 in Newport, R.I.

‘€œI’ve been in constant contact with him, and so has Brad,” added Ainge. He seems to be in a really good place emotionally and mentally, and now we’re just trying to get the physical part done. And he’s got a ways to go.”

So, when exactly can we expect to see Rondo in a Celtics uniform again?

‘€œI don’t know,’€ said Ainge. ‘€œWe’ve just seen examples of why we shouldn’t give dates of expected return. We’ll just take it week by week. He’€™ll continue to get evaluated, but he’s working extremely hard, and he wants to play. He’s excited for the new team. I think there was a time when all of this was happening that he was sort of wondering, ‘€˜Where do I fit in here? What’€™s our team?’€™ But I think that Rajon is in a very good place right now.’€

Considering the expectations for the team in the wake of trading Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the only certainty at this point is that the Celtics aren’€™t in any rush to get Rondo back early.

‘€œI don’t think that we would ever succumb to the pressure of bringing back a player from an ACL too soon,’€ said Ainge. ‘€œWe’ve got to do what’s right for him. Maybe if he was 37 and it was his last year, but he’s just still so young and he’s our best player and we can afford to make any mistakes in judgment on when to bring him back.’€

Any decision on the distribution of point guard minutes — both before and after Rondo returns — is up to Stevens, although Ainge did list Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford and undrafted rookie Phil Pressey on the depth chart. It’€™s uncertain whether Ainge was laughing inside when mentioning Crawford as a possible point guard option, but Stevens seemed to be leaning heavily toward starting Bradley at the position.

‘€œAvery’€™s a guy I really believe in, and I think Avery has a lot of opportunity to be a very, very good player on both ends of the floor,’€ said Stevens. ‘€œI don’€™t know exactly how we will progress from here as far as that goes with regard to if Rajon’€™s not in –who’€™s in what roles and those types of things — but I know Avery will be on the court.

‘€œWhen you look at him on both ends of the floor, he’€™s a guy we can fit in well offensively at the point guard spot. I think he’€™s really excited about playing it. Then, defensively, he can be elite, so you’€™ve got one whole end of the floor that you’€™ve got an elite guy at a position and you’€™ve got to figure out how to best put him in position to be successful.’€

While Bradley has never fit the definition of a true point guard, Stevens isn’€™t trying to turn the 22-year-old into something he’€™s not. The Celtics learned that the hard way the first two-and-a-half years of Bradley’s career.

‘€œEverybody is always searching for that prototypical point guard and that pure, pure point guard,’€ the coach said. ‘€œWhen we really look at it, there are all kinds of point guards that are having success in different ways in the league. I don’€™t think that necessarily when you look at a guy like Chris Paul that you would say he’€™s a lot like Russell Westbrook from how they play, but they both have great success. So, it’€™s not about putting guys in boxes; it’€™s about finding out what they do best and trying to get the most out of the group as a whole.’€

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