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Jared Sullinger hopes Rajon Rondo returns by December 08.26.13 at 10:59 am ET
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Appearing on Ohio’s “Good Day Columbus,” Jared Sullinger offered a different timeline for Rajon Rondo‘s return than the one Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has stuck to since Rondo’s ACL injury.

“He’s back working out again and hopefully he’ll be back by December,” said Sullinger (h/t MassLive.com).

Both Ainge and new Celtics coach Brad Stevens have consistently indicated that Rondo is on target to be in the starting lineup when the 2013-14 NBA season begins in Toronto on Oct. 30. That isn’t out of the question, considering Rondo suffered a partial tear in his right knee on Jan. 25 and fellow guards Iman Shumpert and Ricky Rubio have returned in similar timeframes. Derrick Rose, obviously, is a different story.

Was this a slip of the tongue by Sullinger? Possibly. He’s told the media in recent months that he’s been in fairly close contact with Rondo ever since their season-ending injuries occurred less than a week apart.

As for Sullinger’s own recovery from season-ending back surgery, he sounded optimistic about his return, yet reluctant to reclaim the starting power forward position he assumed just prior to his injury.

“I’m doing great,” he added. “I work out every day, five days a week. I’m just trying to strengthen up my core and my back. That was the first month. After that, it was full go, back to working out again on the court.”

You’ve also got to love Sullinger’s reaction to the host’s mention of Kris Humphries. Just straight laughing.

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Jared Sullinger: ‘I’ll be 100 percent’ by September 05.23.13 at 6:43 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger poses with Irving Middle School's Most Improved Pupil Tatiana Morales at the 22nd annual "Stay in School" celebration.

Jared Sullinger poses with Most Improved Pupil Tatiana Morales at the Celtics’ 22nd annual “Stay in School” celebration.

As the Celtics honored hundreds of middle school students for their perfect attendance at Thursday’s 22nd annual “Stay in School” celebration at Northeastern University, Jared Sullinger shared the lessons he’s learned since undergoing the surgery to repair a lumbar disk that ended his rookie season in February.

“In life, it’s kind of different,” said the recently turned 21-year-old power forward. “Teachers give you a lesson and then the test whereas in life you get the test and then the lesson. I’ve learned that through this situation right now. I’m getting a test of my patience, my discipline … so I’m just learning the lesson now.”

The lesson in patience should be completed by the end of the summer. By his calculations, Sullinger’s 50 percent and on target to return fully healthy before training camp.

“It’s a 10-week process,” said Sullinger. “Every two weeks, we’re going to bump it up 10 percent. By September or October, I’ll be 100 percent to go full. About two weeks ago, I met with the doctor. He said it’s a full go. Our medical staff — [strength and conditioning coach] Bryan Doo, [head trainer] Ed Lacerte — we’re just taking it slow. You don’t want to go right into the pounding, so every two weeks it’s just 10 percent bumping it up.”

Sullinger averaged 6.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 19.8 minutes a night over 45 games as a rookie, eventually earning high praise from his teammates for his basketball IQ and a starting role in late January. When he does finally play for the first time since aggravating the injury four minutes into a game against the Kings on Jan. 30, he’s been told the medical issue that’s plagued him since his Ohio State days will be gone.

“Everybody says back with a question mark,” said Sullinger, “but you might as well put an X through that, because I had surgery, I’m taking my time and getting back right. There won’t be a reoccurring injury.”

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Doc Rivers on Rajon Rondo: ‘They say he’s doing tremendous’ 03.29.13 at 11:39 pm ET
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The Celtics got an added boost on their bench for Friday’s showdown with the Hawks.

Rajon Rondo made his first appearance on the sidelines with the team since having season-ending ACL surgery on his right knee.

“It was nice. It was nice,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He told us today he was coming in, and it was good to have him back around. He’s moving okay. You know, it’s funny, I’m looking at it knowing he’s nowhere near, but that’s the first thing you look at. Having gone through that experience, we sat and talked about a lot of the stuff you have to go through. So, it brought back these horrendous memories, actually. But he’s, from his doctors, they say he’s doing tremendous.”

Rivers was asked to describe Rondo’s spirits while on the sidelines.

“Oh, I don’t know, I have no idea,” Rivers said. “I mean, I don’t care who you are, especially if you’re on a team sport I think these types of injuries are very lonely. Very hard, because rehab is all by yourself with some stranger. And you’re away from your team. Just brutal rehab. That’s what it is. He’s been in – wherever, Jacksonville, wherever, Florida, Pensacola – and that’s tough. His family has been going back and forth. But he’s made the commitment and he’s been great.”

Asked if Rondo tried to exert himself in the huddle, Rivers laughed, “No, no, no. I told him to be nice. And he was.”

The players were the most affected – and inspired – by Rondo’s presence.

“Definitely,” Paul Pierce said. “It’s good to get him around the guys, to see some of his new teammates. Who knows – a lot of these guys might be here for him next year. It’s good for him to get acquainted with them. He’s done his surgery, he seems to be in good spirits, so its good to see him.”

“It was fun. It was good to see him. He’s got a little fro now,” Jeff Green laughed. “It was good to Rondo, glad he’s doing well. Wish he were on the court but I think it was a big emotional boost for us to have him on the bench with us.”

How big of a boost was it to the players?

“It’s big,” Green said. “I think a lot of people counted us out when he went down, when Sully [Jared Sullinger] went down, too. But we’ve been coming together, doing our part, playing hard. We’ve been talking and he’s been seeing things from a different point of view.

“Definitely, most definitely,” Green added. “He sees us playing hard and that’s all you can do.”

Since Rondo had his ACL repaired on February 12, the Celtics have added several new players, including Shav Randolph, DJ Williams, Jordan Crawford (at the trade deadline) and Terrence Williams.

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Jared Sullinger: ‘I think I’ll come back better’ 02.13.13 at 8:20 pm ET
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Most of Jared Sullinger‘s days since undergoing season-ending back surgery on Feb. 1 have been spent sitting at an angle that resembles a reclining chair, so the 20-year-old Celtics rookie has plenty of time on his hands.

“I haven’t been doing anything but Twitter, playing video games and catching up on movies,” Sullinger said during a press conference prior to the C’s hosting the Bulls before their NBA All-Star break begins. “That’s about it.”

The back problems that have plagued Sullinger since Nov. 29, 2011, when the Ohio State product scored 21 points in a blowout win over Duke, flared up for the first time this season four minutes into a game against the Kings exactly two weeks ago. The next day, he couldn’t walk. And the next, he underwent surgery to repair a disc that was bulging into his central nervous system.

“I didn’t think it was going to come this fast; maybe two or three years later down the line,” said Sullinger. “That’s what an NBA season does to you. It’s a long season. You’re going to have a couple knick-knack injuries. My knick-knack injury turned into surgery. I’d rather have it now than later.”

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Donny Marshall on M&M: Celtics ‘more mentally healthy’ without Rajon Rondo 02.08.13 at 12:35 pm ET
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Donny Marshall of CSNNE joined Mut & Merloni to talk about the state of the Celtics without Rajon Rondo and why he thinks Kevin Garnett, not Rondo, is the team’s true leader.

Marshall said he thought the third quarter of the Celtics’ win over the Lakers on Thursday night was the best he’s seen the C’s play in a long time.

“They looked perfect,” Marshall said. “It was one of those situations, at least in my opinion, where it wasn’t just the bad Lakers, but it was the great Celtics. We’ve seen this team play really well, but the other teams are just so horrendous that me, you and Lou could get out there and play with them … Last night I really think it was the product of the Celtics playing great.”

Marshall said he doesn’t think the Celtics are a better team overall without Rondo, but that his absence is allowing them a change of perspective that’s helped them.

“It seems like they needed to be more mentally healthy, and it looks like that’s what they are right now,” Marshall said. “I don’t want to make it sound like Rondo is … by no means is he a Dwight Howard that’s going to screw things up just because it’s all about him, going to purposely screw the mechanism up of Doc [Rivers'] machine there. But sometimes when we’re young and have success early we can’t stay out of our own way, and I think Rondo kind of ran into that a little bit. He really is a great player, but there’s more than just being a great player when it comes to basketball.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On Rondo’s leadership: “You can’t go in the locker room and alienate your teammates. I don’t know if he’s doing that or not, but it seems like that locker room is much healthier. You can’t go on the court and say, ‘I’ll handle the ball, get out of the way, I’ll make you better.’

“There would be situations where Ray Allen would be in position to make a move one-on-one, and Rondo would run over to him and grab the ball from him and say, ‘Get to the corner, I’m going to run the play.’ This team doesn’t have that guy right now, and they’re playing so free. Their spacing is amazing, which helps their ball movement. It’s just incredible to see, for a team that doesn’t really have that one guy that stands out to you over this streak, it’s really amazing.”

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Paul Pierce schools Fab Melo ‘all day’ in 1-on-1 drill in the post 02.05.13 at 5:55 pm ET
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WALTHAM — If you needed any proof that Fab Melo still has a lot to learn (and prove) to make it in the NBA, and that D-League stats don’t carry over to the NBA, we submit for your review the following evidence.

Celtics captain Paul Pierce took the opportunity Tuesday before practice began to teach the rookie big man out of Syracuse a thing or two about playing on the low post.

With Jared Sullinger out with season-ending back surgery, Melo was called up from D-League and played just three minutes against the Magic with a steal on Friday but did not seen any action Sunday.

Tuesday we saw a small reason why. Pierce noticed Melo working by himself on low-post moves and came over to give him some real resistance.

Melo missed a shot, double-dribbled and then, while defending Pierce forced a fadeaway that was off-target. But Pierce objected, calling a foul. The next two drives to the basket were baby hooks that found the bottom of the basket. Pierce walked away triumphantly, shouting “all day” to Melo, Celtics coaches and anyone within earshot.

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Doc Rivers on possibly adding Greg Oden: ‘He’ll come with a long list of scenarios’ 02.03.13 at 1:11 pm ET
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Coach Doc Rivers, general manager Danny Ainge and the Celtics may very well be interested in adding Greg Oden to their roster but they’re doing a job of not going overboard in expressing their enthusiasm after meeting with him on Saturday while the rest of the team had the day off.

“I got the Clippers tonight,” Rivers said before Sunday’s game with the Clippers. “I said hi to him, reminisced about high school days when I watched some AAU, but other than that, I can tell you I thought far more about the guys we are playing tonight than next year.

“We really haven’t talked about [additions]. Honestly. We obviously can, because we need a body. But we really haven’t talked about it much at all. Nothing really. What I think Danny is doing is probably doing all the work right now and I’m sure this week maybe, or who knows in two weeks, he’ll come with a long list of scenarios.”

The Celtics are in the market for a big man after losing Jared Sullinger for the season to back surgery on Friday. Rivers said he has only heard from Sullinger via text since the surgery and expects him out of New England Baptist Hospital this weekend.

Other Sunday pregame notes: Eric Bledsoe started for Chris Paul (knee), who missed his seventh game in nine contests Sunday. “In some ways, they are harder to guard and some ways they are not. Obviously, Chris Paul is fantastic. But when he plays, at least you know where the ball is at a lot, because it’s in his hands and that helps you somewhat defensively. When he doesn’t play, the ball is going all over the place, and they are in some ways difficult to guard.”

As for Doc Rivers’ Super Bowl prediction: “Oh, San Fran; it’s not even really close. It won’t be close, it’ll be a blowout,” he said, before hinging his bet bigtime. “Three points. No I do think San Fran, but who knows? I think they are the better team, but clearly I don’t know enough about football. That’s why I’m here.”

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