Rondo seems like a guy hell-bent on returning and putting all questions to rest about his character, play and desire to be in Boston during this rebuilding phase.
"I will be returning for the 2013-2014 season," said Rondo in a very low-key voice during a presser after the Celtics played their final preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets. The veteran point guard had only the slightest hint of a smile as he made that very promising declaration.
But before Boston fans tear their respective ACLs jumping for joy, Rondo made it very clear that he will not return until he is 100-percent healthy and psychologically confident. He alluded to that when he is able to dunk off his root foot his return would shortly follow.
A modest test, but one that should not be taken lightly.
That seemingly simple act will go a long way in restoring the confidence of the All-Star guard. As was well documented in the curious case of Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls last season, confidence in movement is the last hurdle players recovering from ACL surgery need to overcome.
Recovering players have an understandable fear that the knee could explode with the slightest contact until that player takes a hit and continues on unscathed. Rondo said that his knee is at 87 percent and he is being fitted for his first brace. Contact in practice will soon follow after that.
The Celtics' offense has been a bit stifled in the halfcourt without a true facilitator and ball-handler to initiate the offense. Boston, as expected, has scored in transition and with one-on-one play under the new leadership of Brad Stevens during the preseason.
Rondo can certainly play at a quick pace and is amongst the best facilitators in the league. He will be able to improve Boston's 94.25 points per game preseason average once he puts on his familiar No. 9 jersey.
Unfortunately, there is still no timetable for his return. Some pundits think the Boston brass is in no real hurry for Rondo to lace up his Antas so that their "tanking" hopes can stay in place a while longer. On the surface that has some validity, but the Celtics don't want to get into an anti-Rose situation where the player wants to return but the team won't allow him to. That's a stink Danny Ainge wouldn't be able to shake. Rondo just isn't the sitting type if he is capable of playing.
The flip side to that coin is Boston may want him to play as soon as possible to showcase him for a potential trade with unknown suitors. Speculation aside, one thing that is for sure is that Rondo has every intention of suiting up this year.
"I hope I can play against the (Toronto) Raptors, but that's not likely," said Rondo when asked about when he would be ready. The mere fact that he uttered any sentiment about wanting to play in the team's first game tells you all you need to know about this guy.
Rondo is coming, just not yet.
Warren Shaw is a NBA contributor to Dime Magazine and co-host of the weekly basketball podcast "The Baseline". He has covered various NBA events live while also conducting one on one player interviews. His work can also be found at Celticslife.com and Prosportsblogging.com.
Follow him on Twitter @ShawSportsNBA.
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