|Pump the brakes on Rajon Rondo’s return||12.05.13 at 11:21 am ET|
Everybody can just pump the brakes on Rajon Rondo‘s imminent return.
After conflicting reports over the past week about whether or not Rondo has been cleared to return to practice 10 months after surgery to repair the ACL in his right knee, The Boston Globe’s Baxter Holmes is reporting that the Celtics point guard is not scheduled for a checkup with famed surgeon Dr. James Andrews for another two weeks. As a result, while Rondo has participated in limited practice work, he reportedly has not been cleared for full contact.
Likewise, in an interview up the dial, Celtics president Danny Ainge said Rondo would not return to the court for good until his knee is “back to 100 percent.”
“I don’t think he’s close,” Ainge said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen in the next few weeks. We’re not on pins and needles about it. We’re being very cautious with Rondo. He’s still got a little bit of a limp. He needs to get his strength back.”
So, if Rondo won’t be cleared for full contact until mid-December at the earliest and then must rehab his knee to full strength, it’s safe to assume we won’t see him in a Celtics uniform until 2014.
Meanwhile, the first-place C’s (8-12) have 11 games left on the December slate, and seven of them are against teams with better records. The other four — the Knicks (twice), Nets and Cavaliers — aren’t walkovers, either.
And things get worse in January. The Celtics visit the Bulls and host the Pelicans for a Jan. 2-3 back-to-back, and then face a brutal West Coast swing against the Thunder, Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors and Blazers from Jan. 5-11. If Rondo doesn’t return by then, the standings could look a whole lot different. After all, as SB Nation’s Paul Flannery noted, the C’s may own the No. 4 seed now, but they’re much closer to the East’s worst record (4.0 games up on the Bucks) than they are to the conference’s best mark (9.5 games behind the Pacers).
|Avery Bradley ‘can’t wait until’ Rajon Rondo returns||12.04.13 at 1:10 am ET|
As the past few days have brought conflicting reports about whether Rajon Rondo has already met with Dr. James Andrews or will do so in New York next week, the only certainty is that his return is on the horizon, and it couldn’t come at a better time for a Celtics squad that just assumed first place in the Atlantic Division.
And while we can measure Rondo’s statistical impact on these Celtics all we want — as we attempted here — Avery Bradley knows the three-time NBA All-Star point guard brings so much more than stats.
“I think that’s going to be big and good for us to have a player like Rondo,” said Bradley, one of only five players on the current roster to play with him. “He’s a very good player, and that’s going to open up everything for everybody. Everybody’s going to get a lot of open looks, because he’s a great player. I can’t wait until he comes back.”
The C’s have shown a remarkable ability to stick with teams through the first three quarters of games, winning the ones when a handful of guys contribute on the same night — like Tuesday’s win over the Bucks, when Bradley’s 15 points, including a ridiculous over-the-backboard bucket, gave the Celtics six players in double figures.
“Everybody on our team I feel like can have a big game any night,” said Bradley. “That’s the good thing about our team. We have a lot of good players that could have breakout games. Jared [Sullinger]‘s been playing well, Jordan [Crawford]‘s been playing well and Jeff [Green]‘s been playing well, and that brings a lot to our team when we have those guys come out every single night and take turns having big games.”
Except the Celtics can’t depend on six guys all coming to play every single night if they hope to cling to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Just ask Gerald Wallace. They’re lacking star-power, especially when they need to execute in the final minutes of close contests. As Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, “It’s hard sometimes when things tense up late.” Basically, they need Rondo. Half of their 12 losses have been by six or seven points, and Bradley knows Rondo’s return could mean the difference between competing regularly and winning regularly.
“It could be big for us,” he said. “I know once he comes back, a lot of teams are going to hate to play the Celtics.”
|Behind the backboard: Larry Bird vs. Avery Bradley||12.03.13 at 11:56 pm ET|
For the record, Avery Bradley had never seen Larry Bird‘s over-the-backboard bucket before.
“That was honestly just a lucky shot,” said Bradley, who finished with 15 points in the Celtics’ 108-100 win over the Bucks. “I didn’t even know how much time was left. I just wanted to get the shot up.”
|Fast Break: Third time the charm as Celtics stop Bucks||12.03.13 at 9:50 pm ET|
All five Celtics starters reached double figures, led by Jordan Crawford‘s 25 points, and the C’s avoided falling victim to the three-win Bucks for the third time in as many tries this season with a 108-100 home win.
Starters Jeff Green (18 points), Brandon Bass (16 points, 9 rebounds), Jared Sullinger (12 points, 8 boards) and Avery Bradley (15 points) all reached double digits, and Courtney Lee added 11 off the bench.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Long distance: The Celtics sunk their first four 3-point attempts — a pair of Bradley treys sandwiched around one apiece from Crawford and Green — to grab an early 18-9 advantage and force a Bucks timeout. While the C’s missed their next 10 3-point attempts, the early barrage staked them to a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, and a late string of triples gave them 11 on 24 attempts for the night. Crawford, Bradley and Green combined for 10 of them.
Over the Hump: The ankle injury to Kelly Olynyk finally created an opening for increased Kris Humphries minutes, and the veteran forward has responded with his usual rebounding prowess. As he has for his previous seven NBA seasons, Humphries entered the game averaging double-digit boards per 36 minutes (10.5), and that number only stands to improve after he snagged seven boards in his first seven minutes against Milwaukee.
Happy Lee returns: After missing the previous two games with soreness in his left knee, Lee scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting off the bench. He didn’t provide his usual stat sheet stuffing, but the Celtics desperately needed his offense after seeing their second unit get outscored by 49 points in his two-game absence.
|Stat Man: How much will Rajon Rondo help Celtics’ offense?||12.03.13 at 1:02 pm ET|
Since Rajon Rondo appears one step closer to his eventual return, now is as good a time as any to ask: Just how much will the three-time NBA All-Star point guard help the Celtics’ woeful offense when he returns?
When we last saw Rondo, his 13.7 points and league-leading 11.1 assists per game created an average of 38.0 points for the Celtics, and that doesn’t include the new free throw and secondary assist statistics available this season on NBA.com/stats or the C’s increased pace under Brad Stevens.
This season, Jordan Crawford has received 1,301 touches, which ranks 15th among the league’s guards, and the Celtics rank 26th in points per 100 possessions (96.0). It’s safe to assume there’s a correlation there.
The other 14 guards: Chris Paul, John Wall, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Jrue Holiday, Tony Parker, Mike Conley, Ricky Rubio, Steve Blake, Kemba Walker and Jose Calderon.
The most jarring name has to be Blake, who’s doing a better job replacing Steve Nash on the Lakers than Crawford is substituting for Rondo. When you combine their scoring and passing, only Calderon creates fewer points per game than Crawford (23.8), and that’s because Calderon shares a backcourt with Ellis.
|Fast Break: Pacers hand Celtics sixth straight loss||11.22.13 at 9:43 pm ET|
The Celtics led the Eastern Conference’s best team by eight at the break, but a dreadful second half left the Celtics looking at a sixth straight loss and their 10th overall — this time 97-82 at the hand of the Pacers.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens grew up idolizing Reggie Miller and lamented the fact that Indiana has its best team of his lifetime before facing his former favorite team for the first time. And the Pacers lived up to that billing, holding the C’s to 12-of-30 shooting and forcing 16 Celtics turnovers in the second half.
Jordan Crawford led the C’s with 24 points. Jeff Green added 20 and Jared Sullinger 13.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Twisted: Kelly Olynyk got tied up with Indiana’s Luis Scola under the Pacers’ basket in the second quarter and immediately headed to the locker room with Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte and team Dr. Brian McKeon. The Celtics announced he would not return due to a right ankle sprain, calling the injury, “nothing serious.”
Give it way now: After staking themselves to a 25-22 lead and committing just two turnovers in the opening quarter, the Celtics committed four turnovers in their first eight possessions of the second quarter, allowing the Pacers to briefly regain the lead. Things only got worse in the third, when the C’s had more turnovers (11) than points (8) and the Pacers turned an eight-point halftime deficit into a nine-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
Thin line: The Celtics entered Friday’s game with 76 fewer free throw attempts than their opponents. Tommy no likey. And they attempted just one free throw in the first 30 minutes against the Pacers — on a defensive three-second call. Tommy really no likey. Of course, the lack of a point guard capable of penetrating doesn’t help.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
So much Steez: Crawford fittingly capped a ridiculous first half by banking a 30-footer to beat the buzzer and hand the Celtics a 50-42 halftime lead. He also drained a shot clock-busting triple as part of an 8-for-8, 19-point effort in the opening 24 minutes. He added three assists in that span and was not credited with a turnover.
Defending their life: Without a defense that forced 16 turnovers, this loss could have been even worse. Led by Green (yes, that guy) and Sullinger, the C’s D respectively kept Pacers stars Paul George and Roy Hibbert in check for most of the night (until George dropped 14 fourth-quarter points). They just had no answer for Indiana’s depth, as Lance Stephenson recorded the first triple-double of his career while Scola and David West added 17 apiece. West has to be smiling now about choosing the Pacers over the Celtics in 2011.
|Rajon Rondo on rehab, cornhole, wing-tipped shoes||11.22.13 at 9:55 am ET|
As most interviews with Rajon Rondo do, his live chat with fans hosted by NBA TV’s Jared Greenberg for American Express began with some hilariously dry responses from the Celtics point guard, as he talked fashion for roughly five minutes. But Rondo warmed to the questions over the course of 17:42. Here’s what we learned.
He’s still not rushing his rehab.
“I’m anxious to get back out there, but I want to take my time, make sure this knee is healed 100 percent. I don’t want to rush back and have any second surgeries or get anything drained out of my knee. … 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.”
He plans to enter the World Championships of Cornhole.
“I saw a cornhole tournament on ESPN the other day, about a month ago, and I think I’ll probably try to enter next year and win that. I’m pretty good at that as well.”
Connect 4 comes more naturally to him than basketball, and roller skating is a close third.
“Probably Connect 4 — the most naturally. Or I could say basketball. I’ve been playing basketball for a long time, but I just love sports in general. I’ve always had a knack for competing, whether it was football, baseball, track. Anything I did, I’ve always wanted to be the best at it, so that’s a trickle down as far as Connect 4 or even skating. I always put a lot of time and practice in when I first started to [roller] skate, because I wanted to be the best.”
He wanted to join the NFL a couple years back.