Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo said Tuesday that he does not plan to play in the second night of the team's final back-to-back of the season.
Since returning from a torn ACL in mid-January, Rondo has sat out the second night of eight back-to-backs. The Celtics have only five games remaining this season, one of which is Saturday's visit to Cleveland on the second night of the team's final back-to-back.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Monday that he'd leave the decision about whether to play up to Rondo and the team's training staff. Asked Tuesday if he would play on Saturday, Rondo replied simply, "Will not."
Rondo was asked about his individual goals for his final four appearances of the season.
"I’m pretty confident already," he said. "Obviously I don’t want to go home this early, but given this break that we’re going to have, a couple months earlier than usual, it’ll give my body time to rest and heal and get my legs stronger and continue to work on my overall game."
If he plays four more games, Rondo will have gotten in 32 games since his return, a solid base to build off. The team exercised caution throughout his rehab and return, and it appears Rondo won't add any unnecessary risk by adding the second night of the final back-to-back.
Rondo is averaging 11.5 points, 9.6 assists, and 5.3 rebounds over 33 minutes per game in 28 appearances. Rondo would rank second in the league in assisters per game (behind only Chris Paul at 10.8) this season if he qualified, but a change in the league's qualifications this season ensured Rondo's two-year reign as leader in assists per game would end. Previously, qualifiers had to simply reach the statistical benchmark of 400 total assists (which Rondo wasn't going to meet this year, though he did last year in 38 appearances), but qualifiers must now appear in 70 percent of their team's games.
For the first time in six years, the Celtics are not bound for the playoffs, which Rondo said has taken some of the stress off the final games of the regular season despite the team's desire to finish strong.
"It’s more relaxed," said Rondo. "We’re not playing for a seed, trying to jockey our position any place. It’s pretty relaxed. Guys are still upbeat. Looking forward to practice and finishing up strong these last five games."