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Jared Sullinger Expects Rajon Rondo to Return by December

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COMMENTARY | With a much different roster, the Boston Celtics will be taking a step or two back this season.

For the first time in a while, the team will likely be focused more on lottery balls than it will be with the playoffs. The team's only chance at remaining decently competitive on a nightly basis rests on the shoulders of Rajon Rondo, who is recovering from an ACL injury that ended his season.

For a team that recently pressed the reset button, the Boston Celtics are in fair shape. There is some young talent on the roster, and Danny Ainge has plenty of assets to play around with. The team is set up for a relatively quick rebuild, particularly with next year's draft class figuring to be so strong. While losing Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Doc Rivers certainly hurts, these moves helped set the team up for future success. Regardless, this year's team will be almost unwatchable if Rondo is not on the floor.

Unfortunately, it looks as if the Celtics are going to have a very tough start to the season. Jared Sullinger, who is also recovering from injury problems, believes that his star point guard won't return to the floor until December.

Rondo's health should be a priority for Brad Stevens and Boston's management. There is no reason to rush him back before he's healthy, although he will certainly be itching to return to the floor. Ainge seems intent on building around Rondo, so a few early-season games during a rebuilding year shouldn't carry any sort of weight.

This being said, the Celtics will be brutal without Rondo. They won't win very many games until he returns, and they probably won't even be remotely competitive. However, there could be a benefit to throwing some of the youngsters into the fire to fend for themselves for a few months. Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Kelly Olynyk, and Jared Sullinger won't lead the team to many wins, but it could be a great opportunity for the group to grow as a whole. It won't be pretty, but fighting to scrap together a handful of wins could be a helpful experience in the long term.

We'll see where Rondo's health stands as the season gets closer, but it appears as if Brad Stevens already has his work cut out for him. With or without Rondo, his biggest challenge will be keeping this group focused on development.

As long as Rajon Rondo returns at full strength at some point, Celtics fans will be satisfied. They'll just be very tough to watch until then.

Mark lives in the Boston area and has been covering the Celtics for 3 years. He has been featured on Fox Sports Yardbarker, Fox Sports, and Sports Illustrated "Hot Clicks", and has been published on Celtics 24/7, Bleacher Report, and Sports-Kings.

Follow him on Twitter here.

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