As a five-day Christmas break between games offers Celtics  fans time to reflect on a somewhat surprising 12-17 start while looking ahead to a brutal start to the January schedule, the question remains: When will Rajon Rondo  return?
While Celtics  coach Brad Stevens  believed Rondo was on schedule to play his first NBA game within a year of tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament on Jan. 27, the C’s point guard backed off that timeline, suggesting instead to The Boston Globe he may not make his comeback until February .
“I have confidence in my knee,” Rondo told the Globe’s Gary Washburn after the C’s third straight defeat, a 106-79 loss to the Pacers. “I’m excited to be playing the game of basketball again, so it’s just a matter of me getting a lot of repetition, 5-on-5 basketball and just playing the game. It might be mid-January, late February; I’m going to come back when the time is right and I get my stamina.
‘”I don’t think I have to pass any more tests. I have to pass tests for myself. I know what I felt like before I hurt my knee. When I get back to feeling that type of feeling the way I play the game, then I’ll be back.”
Rondo participated in a five-on-five scrimmage Friday, but the Celtics  don’t have another scheduled practice until Thursday. Meanwhile, the beginning of the new year offers little respite for practice. The C’s play a road-home back-to-back against the Bulls and Pelicans on Jan. 2-3 before heading on a brutal week-long West Coast road trip against the Thunder, Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors and Blazers from Jan. 5-11.
The Celtics  have dropped out of the Atlantic Division lead and into the No. 8 playoff seed. Only a handful of games separate them from the league’s worst record.