We are a day late with this news, but it’s significant enough. According to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE, Rajon Rondo is improving steadily but won’t be ready for the start of the season.
While there hasn’t been a delay in his recovery, Rondo’s timetable looks more and more like he will miss all of the preseason as well as some regular season games.
Stevens said no timetable has been set for Rondo’s return, adding that he had not inquired about Rondo’s return in the past couple of weeks.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Rondo’s knee was repaired on February 15, and although it was only a partial tear, as opposed to the injury Derrick Rose suffered in 2012, expecting Rondo back at the start of the season would be unreasonable. Huge improvements have been made to ACL surgeries in recent years, but they are still complicated, and the knee is still both fragile, complex and absolutely essential for basketball activities.
The important news in this article is that Rondo’s recovery is going well. His return, provided it happens this year, isn’t nearly as important as his progress. Obviously, the Celtics want Rondo back on the court, but not at the expense of his health. The top priority for the 2013-14 season should be getting Rondo back to full strength, which includes the mental adjustments necessary for players coming back from major surgeries. It can take a while for players to recover the confidence to cut, reverse direction, crossover or test a surgically repaired knee (or shoulder or ankle or whatever else they injured) in any way. Mobility is one of Rondo’s greatest weapons, so getting him back to a point where A) his body is prepared for the rigors of an NBA season and B) his mind trusts his body to move like it did before the injury will be extremely important.
Brad Stevens, to his credit, hasn’t been placing any pressure on Rondo to rush himself, even though Stevens has made it clear that he doesn’t want to tank. Despite the young talent on the team, without Rondo, the Celtics are going to lose. A lot. The easiest way to tank would be to tell Rondo “If you sit out this season, we will be able to provide you with an uber-talented young rookie in 2014.” But Stevens is urging Rondo to come back when he is ready without implying that this season is a waste. Again, from Blakely’s story:
“I told him, whenever he feels best and he’s ready to come back, we’ll support him and we’ll be happy that he’s back.”
That seems to be the best, and the prevailing, sentiment. Boston wants Rondo back…when he’s ready.
One thing to watch: It will be interesting to see if the Celtics provide a timetable at any point during the recovery process. Kevin Garnett was, of course, out with a mystery ailment in 2009 into the playoffs. We can’t be certain how much of that was the organization trying to keep things in-house and how much of it was recently departed coach Doc Rivers. If Rivers was instrumental in keeping the KG news quiet, we may get a more accurate timetable on Rondo’s return with new people in place. If not, Rondo’s return may be a surprise.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.