Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (hamstring) is a last-minute scratch with coach Doc Rivers finding out his point guard was unable to go just moments before he met with reporters (about an hour before tip-off). Nate Robinson will start in Rondo's place.
Rondo missed three games late last month because of the strained left hamstring, but played in Boston's last four games. At the start of Friday's game against the Bulls, he motioned to be taken out, but stayed in the game after the initial soreness and ended up dishing out 19 assists in a win. With a two-day break looming after today's game, the Celtics weren't going to take any chances.
"We have a two-day break after this and that’s one of the things that went into this," said Rivers, acknowledging that the team might need to shut Rondo down for a short period of time to get the hamstring right again. The Celtics do play a back-to-back later in the week as part of three games in four days. "Listen, it is what it is. We're just going to try to get through it."
Which won't be easy with Robinson also hobbled by a lingering foot ailment suffered in a win over Atlanta in which he started in place of Rondo. That, combined with the timing, left Rivers scrambling a bit.
"I just found out, actually, and I just told the TV and radio [reporters] he was good, because he was," said Rivers. "Literally, as I was walking out, he said he can't go. That's a tough one because we hadn't prepared for that one. With Nate [also injured], it could be an interesting point guard rotation."
Rivers said he would lean on Marquis Daniels as the first backup point guard off the bench, but acknowledged that rookie Avery Bradley could get thrust into the fire later in the game.
"It’ll be Marquis first, instinctively, but Avery will play some," said Rivers.
* Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal traveled with the team to New Jersey and said he'll resume on-court workouts Monday. He will not practice with the team, but will engage in basketball activities with eyes toward ramping himself back up after missing a month with lingering left knee soreness. He offered no definitive timetable for his return, but noted that, if all goes well this week, he could resume practice with teammates the following week.
"All in all, I'm excited about [Monday]," said O'Neal, admitting it's been challenging, mentally, to be out the past month.
* O'Neal did not have a timetable for his return and Rivers said he won't worry about it until he's closer to actually playing. "It's not on my radar," said Rivers. "I knew about [his workouts], I knew as of [Saturday], but I just want him to get on the court with us. That's more important. Again, we’re just going to be patient."
* With O'Neal, Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West already sidelined by injuries, the Celtics were operating shorthanded with only 11 healthy players (or players who are healthy enough to be on the floor).