- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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So desperate to participate in 5-on-5 action, Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo invaded the team's managerial offices last month trying to recruit bodies to help test his knee in a game-like environment.
According to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, Rondo failed in that quest, which in part led to him initiating discussions about joining the Maine Red Claws of the D-League in order to gain practice reps.
"So we've been talking to Rajon -- he's just looking for opportunities," Ainge said Thursday during his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio 98.5 The Sports Hub. "It's funny, about 10 days ago he was looking for the guys in the office to get their gear on to go down and play 5-on-5 against him. There's not enough practice time -- there has been 5-on-5 practice, but we're not playing game-like and going up and down; we've been playing so many games.
"He's anxious to practice and to play. It was his idea [to consider Maine], actually, to go practice with the Red Claws and possibly play with Maine Red Claws at some point. But those are still in discussion. I'm not sure when he would do that, but that's probably the next step."
Rondo confirmed later Thursday that a stint with the Red Claws is a possibility as he navigates the final stages of his rehab from ACL surgery and said that he'd embrace the idea of being one of the league's first superstars to travel that path.
"I think that's what [the D-League is] for," Rondo told reporters in Chicago before the Celtics fell 94-82 to the Bulls. "I'd probably be the first guy to do that, but it doesn't make a difference. I want to make sure I'm healthy and I handle it the right way. I don't want my first [game-like action] to be with the Celtics. I haven't had a preseason. I haven't had a training camp. Right now, this is pretty much my training camp."
Rondo added, "It's an idea, definitely. That's more game-like speed. With our schedule, with the Celtics, we don't get a chance to play a lot of pickup, so [the Red Claws] might be a possibility."
Ainge said the Celtics plan to have Rondo traveling with the team during a five-game trip that starts with Sunday's visit to the Oklahoma City Thunder. That would suggest Rondo might not head north to the D-League until after Jan. 11, if he ultimately elects to pursue that option.
It remains uncertain if Rondo would participate in game action for Maine. He underwent surgery for a torn ACL in mid-February.
"It really hasn't [happened], but it should," Ainge said of star players competing in games during rehab assignments. "You see it in baseball a lot -- rehab in Pawtucket [the Triple-A affiliate for the Boston Red Sox] and so forth. That's very common."
Ainge said the activity in Maine could help Rondo both mentally and physically.
"I think Rajon is very sensitive to not being a detriment to his team, and coming back and playing without really playing," Ainge said. "I think he wants to get some of the rust off and not hurt his team when he gets back. ... I think he wants to help the team."
Rondo said he's still working on his conditioning and endurance, but suggested that he's getting "pretty close" to a return. He won't be rushed through the process, however.
"It's frustrating, it's rough," said Rondo. "There's a lot of things that you have to go through, but it's how you handle it. I've gone through a lot of adversity, but I'm staying positive."
11hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
12hMatt Walks, ESPN.com