WALTHAM, Mass. — There’s still a chance Rajon Rondo will be good to go in time for the Boston Celtics’ regular-season opener. If he isn’t, however, head coach Brad Stevens has decided on a replacement.
Rookie Marcus Smart will be the team’s starting point guard if Rondo is not healthy enough to return against the Brooklyn Nets, Stevens announced before Thursday’s practice.
Smart is coming off his best game of the preseason, scoring 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting Wednesday despite not playing at all in the second half. He also added four assists and two steals in the Celtics’ 100-86 win over the Nets.
“He’s come a long way, but he still has a long way to go,” Stevens said of his top draft pick. “And I say that with absolute respect for where he is right now, because he’s really done a great job, and where he can go. I think he can be a very, very good player. I don’t know if you can expect 15-point halves out of him like he had (Wednesday) night, but he can make shots, he certainly impacts the game, and we think he’s a big part of this deal.”
Smart started five of Boston’s eight preseason games at the point, with Evan Turner getting the nod in the other three. Turner likely will continue to rotate between the one and the three as the regular season begins.
— Smart was not present at practice Thursday. The team said he was dealing with a 24-hour stomach bug.
— Rondo wore a protective sleeve (pictured below) on his surgically repaired left hand as he put up some shots before practice. He likely wears additional protection during the contact portions of practice, as Stevens compared the pad he’s been wearing to a “baseball mitt.”
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The point guard has yet to be cleared for full contact.
— Avery Bradley has on several occasions this preseason expressed how excited he is for Rondo to return. On Thursday, he described what practice is like when the Celtics’ floor general is participating.
“He’s our leader,” Bradley said. “He pushes us. When he’s out there competing, talking mess a little bit, it makes everyone want to go out there and play hard. Practice (becomes) like a structured streetball game, because Rondo is the guy that pushes everyone. He goes hard every single possession. He really pushes our team, and it shows when he’s at practice why he’s our leader.”
— Rookie James Young returned to the lineup Wednesday and looked at times, as Stevens put it, like someone who hadn’t played a game in two weeks. The Nets picked on Young a bit with pick-and-rolls, but the coach was happy with the way the Kentucky product responded.
“I thought the really good thing was, he very rarely got beat twice the same way,” Stevens said. “They’d get him on a play or two, run a little action that they go into a side pick-and-roll. He got beat the first time they ran it by Alan Anderson, and the next time he guarded it right. That’s a really good sign moving forward.”
Stevens said a stint in the D-League for Young this season has not yet been considered, but is a possibility.
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