BOSTON — Rajon Rondo seemed to be in high spirits. As much as anything the Celtics point guard said Wednesday, his demeanor alone was noteworthy for a player who operates with a chip on his shoulder when healthy, not to mention when he is working his way back from knee surgery.
In a rare appearance before the media on a night he did not play, Rondo offered an update on his recovery from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee he suffered last season. Instead of offering a hard and fast date for his return, he acknowledged a few benchmarks he will use to judge when he is fit to get back on the court with no limitations.
“I’m hoping I can play against the Raptors [on opening night] but that’s not likely,” Rondo said after the Celtics finished their preseason with a 101-97 victory over the Nets without him. “I’m taking it one week at a time. I know it’s getting stronger each week. Whenever I’m able to jump off my right leg and probably dunk, that’s when I think I’ll be back to play.”
Rondo, who loves to put arbitrary percentages on things, labeled his leg “87 percent, give or take, depending on how the day goes.” He has yet to be cleared for contact and was recently fitted for a brace. He has also ramped up his workouts from once per day to “compound” workouts. He has been active in practice and on the bench, tutoring rookie point guard Phil Pressey and reinforcing some points with Avery Bradley. Brad Stevens has kept him busy with books to read during his rehab.
As Rondo’s recovery unfolds, it is clear that he has encountered obstacles he did not anticipate. He sounded surprised the first time he acknowledged the mental roadblocks in his recovery, citing the trouble other players have had in regaining confidence in their legs after such a devastating knee injury. When it was proposed he may be limited once he does return to contact activities, Rondo initially dismissed the idea — before it dawned on him that, yes, his doctors and coaches probably will want to ease him back into playing full-time.
“No, not to my knowledge,” Rondo said. “I mean, if they want to ease me into it — but it’s going to be hard to tell me to ease into something. When I get out there I want to go full speed. I don’t want any limitations. That’s when I’ll return, when I’m able to do that.”
The timetable for Rondo’s return remains nonexistent. He will be back when he feels right, and from the sound of it he will not try to come back at less than full strength just to hit a random deadline. In the meantime, he will be eyeing that rim at the Celtics’ practice facility in Waltham, Mass., envisioning the day in the not-too-distant future when he can launch off his reconstructed right knee and get that dunk he’s been waiting months for.