Stevens urges Rondo to return when ready
Rondo underwent surgery to repair a partially torn ACL in February and the team eyed an aggressive timeline that would have had him ready for opening night. No firm timeline was ever established and Stevens stressed Friday that nothing has changed in that regard.
"[Rondo] hasn't put a date on [a return], and we haven’t put a date on it," Stevens said before Celtics players and staff led a basketball clinic at Holland Elementary School in Dorchester as part of the Harvard Pilgrim Foundation’s annual community service days. "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. But it hasn’t been a specific date. Literally, I haven’t even asked that question in the past couple of weeks."
While some of Rondo's teammates -- both past (Paul Pierce) and present (Jared Sullinger) -- have hinted that he might not return until December, Stevens has insisted there is no target date at the moment. The team and player seem content to let Rondo rehab and see where he stands as the start of the season nears. Boston opens training camp on Oct. 1 in Newport, R.I.; its first exhibition game in six days later when Toronto visits TD Garden.
Rondo spent last week in the area, rehabbing at the team's training facility and joining his coaches and teammates on the floor for basketball activities.
"Rondo was here last week, the whole week, and it was great," said Stevens. "I spent a lot of time with him on the court, he’s obviously limited in what he can do on the court, but he’s a worker. That’s the one thing that was very noticeable is his work ethic is very good and it impacts the other guys in the gym. So we spent a lot of time together and he was great."
Despite the obstacles ahead in both coming back from the ACL tear and navigating a team in transition, Stevens stressed that Rondo is ready for the challenges.
"My general sense is that he’s really excited," said Stevens. "He is excited about the challenge of the new season, he’s excited about the challenge of a new situation. He seems to be excited. I don’t want to speak for him, and I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but every time we’ve talked it’s been a really engaging conversation."
Stevens did stress that the uncertainty around when Rondo will return does add a layer of difficulty while game-planning for the new season.
"That’s something that you have to balance," said Stevens. "You’re going to introduce some things that may be best for [Rondo, but] on Oct. 7, in our first exhibition game, he may not be available. You’re going to have to figure out where you go from there, and how to best fit pieces into those spots. But we have a lot of versatile guys, and I think we’ll be able to, when he’s not playing, do things that are conducive to the skill set of others and, when [Rondo is] playing, incorporate him into it easily."
Undrafted rookie guard Phil Pressey, who is one of the only pure ball-handlers behind Rondo on Boston's roster, said having Rondo in town last week already helped his development.
"He was here for a short span, a couple days, but even then he was in my ear, telling me what I need to do," said Pressey. "Every little thing I was doing wrong, he kinda corrected it."
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