WALTHAM, Mass. — Notorious soft-talker that he is, Rajon Rondo somehow dropped his voice even lower before practice Tuesday, making an admission about his offseason workout plan that must pain him to the core.
“I’ll probably ramp it up a little more, given the fact that I’ll probably have a long break,” the Boston Celtics guard said.
That’s as close as Rondo will ever come to admitting defeat, but even the fiercely competitive point guard can’t avoid the obvious. The Celtics aren’t headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2007, adding another layer to a difficult campaign for the All-Star and team captain. It will be a long offseason, Rondo’s longest since the summer following his rookie year.
Perhaps the hardest part for Rondo is that things are winding down just as he’s starting to get strength back in his surgically repaired right knee. March has been his best month in terms of assists and rebounds per game, with his scoring load dropping to a more manageable 11.1 points per game. More time between games and sitting out the second legs of back-to-back sets to rest have been the biggest factors in determining how he feels from game to game.
“It’s just fortunate to be playing the game again,” Rondo said. “I still have a ways to go to get my knee stronger, but that’ll come. If I get a couple days rest, there’s no big swing. It’s the recovery time, the procedures I’m doing after the game, to get back to feeling as good as possible.”
While Rondo’s improved jump shot has altered the way opponents defend him, 3-pointers and long jumpers will never be his preferred shots. Though not known for his scoring, Rondo traditionally has been a reliable finisher, particularly with his floater.
This season, Rondo has seen his name fall out of the running for the game’s most devastating floaters, while the likes of Tony Parker and Mike Conley have kept lofting such shots softly into the hoop. Rondo is shooting just 17.7 percent from the 5- to 9-foot distance where floaters usually come from, a precipitous drop from more than 41 percent last season and his lowest rate of accuracy since 2010-11.
“That’s the most frustrating part of my game that hasn’t come back, that I expected to be there,” Rondo said after hitting two late runners in a win over the Miami Heat. “I made two (against Miami), but I have to continue to work on that.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens can’t wait to see what Rondo is capable of once he re-masters his most reliable shot.
“It’s huge, huge, because he can get inside the defense,” Stevens said after that game. “One of the things that’s very underrated about the better guards in the league is their ability to shoot floaters and get floaters off. He’s good at it, and I think he will continue to get better at it. But you’ve got to have a guy that can get there. Sometimes a floater’s as good as a pass because you put it up on the rim, you make somebody jump, and that’s a good thing.”
Rondo still has a little less than a month left to get his touch back, but then the season will end and he’ll need to go through it all again this fall. Getting the shot ready for next season probably will start with his lower body, which Rondo will begin working on this offseason, even if he gets an earlier start on it than he’d like.