|Celtics guard Rajon Rondo starting against Lakers||01.17.14 at 7:25 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo got the start at point guard in his much-anticipated return to the court on Friday night against the Lakers.
Rondo has been sidelined since Jan. 25, 2013 with a torn ACL he suffered in a regular season game versus the Hawks.
Undrafted rookie Phil Pressey started his first career game at point guard in the Celtics‘ 88-83 win on Wednesday night that snapped a nine-game losing streak. Pressey briefly took over for the starting duties for the traded Jordan Crawford.
Rondo averaged 13.7 points, 11.1 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game in 38 games last season.
|Danny Ainge confirms Rajon Rondo’s return set for Friday||01.16.14 at 11:21 am ET|
“Unless there are any setbacks [Thursday], we’re anticipating him playing [Friday],” Ainge said in an interview with Boston radio station WBZ-FM, noting that the guard will be restricted to five minutes per quarter.
Rondo was placed on the active roster and in uniform for Wednesday’s win over the Raptors, but he did not enter the game.
Rondo has been out since tearing his ACL last January and having surgery.
A few minutes into the third quarter, Phil Pressey jetted around a pick-and-roll, confidently rose for an 18-foot jump shot and connected. But before he could celebrate a whistle sounded: A Boston foul nullified Pressey’s first points as a Celtic starter.
“I felt like that really was going to get me goin. When I finally hit one, it felt good,” Pressey said with a smile after Wednesday night’s game.
Pressey never scored those elusive first two points, but with Boston’s 10-game losing streak snapped in the team’s 88-83 win over the Raptors, he can now boast about his 1-0 record as a starting point guard in the NBA.
The undrafted rookie free agent’s 0-for-5 shooting line and zero points were not indicative of the impact he made on the game. Pressey dished out a career-high 10 assists and did not commit a single turnover in 26 minutes of play — also a career-high.
Pressey liked the 10 dimes, but not as much as the zero turnovers.
“I know if I take care of the ball, I know I’m giving my team an opportunity to get more shots up. That’s what I pride myself on,” Pressey said.
The Celtics‘ thinness at the guard position necessitated Pressey’s insertion into the lineup. (Starting point guard Jordan Crawford and reserve guard MarShon Brooks were dealt to the Warriors, Rajon Rondo is still out, and Keith Bogans indefinitely left the team for personal reasons).
Pressey said he was alerted of his promotion in shootaround. Yet the suddenness of the promotion was not alarming.
“The guys embraced me from the start, like I’ve been there from day one, so it was very easy for me to step in and help my team out,” Pressey said.
Pressey started off slowly, but he helped spark a 6-0 run to end the half that put Boston ahead 45-41. With under one minute left, Pressey and Jared Sullinger executed a pick-and-roll that culminated with Sullinger canning a long running jumper. Pressey then pick-pocketed Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry and set off in transition where he found a trailing Avery Bradley with a smooth behind-the-back pass for an easy layup. Then Pressey collected a Raptors miss and alertly sent an outlet pass to Bradley, who had leaked ahead of the field. Bradley was fouled and made both free throws.
Pressey helped extend Boston’s lead to 17 with three assists in the third quarter.
“I thought when things got tough, he got tough,” Stevens said.
And things got tough in the fourth quarter. The Celtics blew their massive lead, and suddenly found themselves nursing a three-point advantage in the waning moments. But Pressey helped weather the storm and Boston eked out the win.
“To his credit, I thought he pulled guys in and together instead of when something doesn’t go our way we’re not together,” Stevens said.
There’s speculation that Rondo will return on Friday against the Lakers. But Boston hopes to ease Rondo back into action, and Pressey’s strong outing suggests that he’ll continue to see big minutes until Rondo’s healthy.
|Brad Stevens, Celtics still uncertain about Rajon Rondo’s status against Lakers||01.15.14 at 11:17 pm ET|
While Brad Stevens and his Celtics players, depleted backcourt and all, could simply be maintaining the mystery, they sure seemed sincere denying any knowledge about the All-Star point guard’s plans for Friday.
“He hasn’t told anybody,” said Avery Bradley. “We honestly don’t know.”
Rondo dressed and participated in the layup lines for Wednesday’s streak-busting win against the Raptors, but was never a consideration despite this week’s departures of Keith Bogans, Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks.
“Well, we were up three with no timeouts trying to get the ball inbounds and one of the best passers in the world was sitting right next to me, so no,” said Stevens. “He would not have been [available]. I told [assistant coach] Jay Larranaga he was next, and [assistant] Walter [McCarty] was right after him, depending on what we needed.”
The coach said he still hasn’t been told whether or not Rondo will be available to play against the Lakers. If so, “he’s only going to play 18-20 minutes.” Members of the organization contend the decision is entirely up to the point guard. He’s been practicing for weeks, has been cleared to play and faces no known hurdles in his rehab.
Yet, Bradley & Co. maintain: “I’m not sure if he is going to play. I’m not sure when he’s going to play.”
|Celtics briefly send Rajon Rondo to D-League||at 1:07 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo‘s Red Claws tenure lasted less than two hours.
The All-Star point guard participated in a workout with the Red Claws in Boston and is still expected to make his return from ACL surgery on Friday against the Lakers.
“Rajon is progressing terrifically in his rehab and this is the next step,” Celtics president Danny Ainge said in a statement.
The Celtics backcourt against the Raptors on Wednesday will be thin. They excused Keith Bogans indefinitely for personal reasons on Tuesday, and then reportedly traded Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks a day later.
That leaves Avery Bradley and the newly acquired Jerryd Bayless as the likely starters against Toronto, with rookie Phil Pressey as the lone true backup guard.
|Report: Celtics close to dealing Jordan Crawford||at 11:07 am ET|
Jordan Crawford, who has had somewhat of a career resurgence with the Celtics this season after being moved to point guard, might soon have to make a fresh start. According to a tweet from veteran NBA reporter Peter Vescey, the Celtics are close to moving Crawford, with the Nets, Clippers, Sun, Rockets and Warriors showing interest. (The league told the Celtics they can’t deal directly with the Clippers for one year following the Doc Rivers deal, but there is speculation that they might be able to work around it, perhaps with the inclusion of a third team.)
With Rajon Rondo expected back for Friday’s game against the Lakers, Crawford became obvious trade bait.
Crawford, 25, is averaging 13.7 points and 5.7 assists per game.
Benched by the Wizards midway through the 2012-13 season and then acquired by the Celtics, Crawford got an opportunity to start under new coach Brad Stevens this season, following the offseason roster overhaul and with the absence of Rondo.
Crawford turned some heads with his early season play, and he peaked in early December, when he averaged 23.3 points and 6.7 assists in a 3-0 week that earned him Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. However, his shooting percentages have substantially declined and his turnovers have increased since that time.
|Rajon Rondo’s Celtics return coming ‘sooner rather than later’||01.13.14 at 9:52 pm ET|
With the Celtics mired in a losing streak and spiraling down the standings, Rajon Rondo‘s return can’t come soon enough, and it doesn’t appear the All-Star point guard is all that far off from playing for the first time since his ACL injury.
While Stevens, Rondo and the Celtics are avoiding any strict timeline, the coach didn’t rule out a return this week. “I think you could say possibly,” he said.
Yahoo’s Marc Spears reported that the Rondo was targeting Friday’s game against the Lakers as his comeback night. The Celtics also face the Heat on Jan. 21 before hosting Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and the Nets on the 26th — on ESPN, no less, and we all know how Rondo enjoys national TV audiences.
Rondo added to the speculation when he sent out a tweet Monday night reading “29,233,380 secs.” That’s the amount of time from his surgery on Feb. 13 to tipoff for Friday’s game.