As Rajon Rondo made his way from one media station to another, he moved the way Rondo moves. But he will not be returning to the floor to start the season. And a return in December?
That too is far from a given as Rondo made it clear to anyone within earshot that he's not planning to return to the floor anytime soon. As much as his return hinges on how well his torn right ACL heals, getting past the mental hurdle such an injury can cause appears to be an even greater obstacle which may keep the four-time All-Star sidelined longer than anticipated. "When I'm mentally ready, I'll play," Rondo told reporters at the Boston Celtics' Media Day on Monday.
Rondo suffered the injury on Jan. 25 at Atlanta, but it wasn't diagnosed until two days later. After the swelling subsided, Rondo underwent surgery - performed by Dr. James Andrews - in the middle of February. Even with a speedy, Adrian Peterson-like return to the floor, the best-case scenario would have put Rondo's return being sometime in the middle of November. But considering he is limited to riding a stationary bike now in short bursts as well as some light shooting with no contact, a Rondo return in December might be a bit optimistic at this point.
When asked about his return, Rondo initially said it would be in "the 2013-2014 season," then later added, "sometime in the winter." The official start of the winter season is Dec. 21. Since the injury, Rondo has talked to a number of athletes who endured similar injuries, including his best friend and former Celtic Kendrick Perkins as well as former Patriots receiver Wes Welker. But those athletes play a different role in their respective sports with their respective teams.
What Rondo's dealing with mentally best parallels what Chicago's Derrick Rose dealt with last season. Rose suffered a torn ACL injury on April 29, 2012 in the playoffs against the Sixers. He returned to practicing with the Bulls in January, but did not play in a single game last season. "Until you go through this type of injury ... a lot of people gave Derrick Rose a lot of heat about not playing or whatever the case may be," Rondo said. "But this injury ... it isn't easy. It's more mental when you come back." And the return is especially challenging for point guards such as himself and Rose who appears poised to return to the floor at the start of this season for Chicago.
“I feel back,” Rose told reporters after the Bull's first practice. “I'm not worried about anything. I'm reacting when I'm out there. I'm just trying to win every scrimmage and just trying to push everybody to be better.” Rondo admittedly isn't there yet, nor should he be considering he's just seven and half months removed from having the knee surgically repaired. "When you get around 10 or 11 months, it's just feeling confident," Rondo said. "You want to feel confident, especially with the type of players at the point guard position that we are. Our legs are pretty much everything."
One of Rondo's greatest assets is his speed and ability to shift direction while not losing a step in the process. Getting that level of comfort back in playing that brand of basketball, well aware that he will get bumped and banged around along the way, is part of the path that Rondo's on now. So time and rehabilitation will continue to move Rondo closer and closer health-wise to returning to action for the Celtics. But until he leaps over the mental hurdle that such an injury presents, his timetable will remain up in the air. "When I feel confident and don't think about it and just go out there and play ... I'll be fine," Rondo said. "I'll be ready to go."
- A. Sherrod Blakley, CSN New England