That calls to mind that old joke about the patient and the doctor.
Patient: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.”
Doctor: “OK, so don’t do that.”
In Rondo’s case, it is not that simple. Celtics coach Doc Rivers cannot tell Rondo to stop driving hard to the hoop or to quit diving into passing lanes on defense. That is what Rondo does, whether his back is sore, his eye is swollen or his elbow is bending in the wrong direction.
The Celtics had to be encouraged, then, when Rondo addressed reporters after the team’s practice Monday and seemed resigned to missing Tuesday’s game against the Heat to provide more rest for his ailing back.
“I think any time off for a starter that plays an entire season is good for whoever it may be,” said Rondo, who sported a wool-lined, leather-brimmed hat after watching practice in his sweats from the sideline. “Me in particular, with this type of injury, I think it’s good to have time off.”
Rondo was stonefaced when he put the chances of him playing against the Heat at 39 percent, although a few minutes later he said he was upgraded to 47 percent before he ducked into a back room.
Rondo was undercut on a drive to the hoop in New York on April 17, landing heavily on his lower back. The swelling in the area has gone down, Rondo said, but he continued to experience back spasms that kept him out of the last two games.
Rondo hardly ever admits discomfort or weakness, so it was telling when he admitted he wanted to avoid drawing any hard shots to his back while it is still tender.
“Right now, I don’t want to do any contact at the moment,” Rondo said. “I think I’ll be able to play and I’ll be fine, but I hit the floor a lot, so I’ve got to get it as healthy as possible because I know if I play, I’ll hit the floor again.”
Rondo only has one gear, and he does not believe in popping into cruise control to preserve fuel or cut down on wear and tear. He has emerged this season as possibly the Celtics’ most important player, and for the Celtics to maintain their level of play from the last two months and challenge for an 18th championship, Rondo must be at full strength.
The sixth-year point guard seems to understand that. So instead of telling the trainers to take a hike and gritting his teeth through two meaningless games at the end of the regular season, Rondo is taking it easy. He will kick back, throw on some comfy pants and a cozy hat, and let his body get right.
Come playoff time, though, his strategy will be very different.
“Oh, no matter what, I’m playing regardless” in the playoffs, he said.
Let the bodies hit the floor.