SAN FRANCISCO – Rajon Rondo is targeting the Boston Celtics' Jan. 17 home game against the Los Angeles Lakers for his possible season debut, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Rondo, who had season-ending surgery to repair a torn right anterior cruciate ligament nearly a year ago, didn't specify a date for his return, but said his knee – and confidence – are strong. His only concern is regaining his conditioning.
"It's just a humbling experience," Rondo said during the Celtics' shootaround on Friday morning.
Rondo had the surgery on Feb. 13, 2013. He was cleared to practice on Dec. 13 and has been working out without any swelling in his knees, including an extensive long practice in Denver on Monday.
Rondo said he could play limited minutes, but his conditioning needs to improve. He was initially concerned about a "clicking" in his right knee during practice, but his doctor and former Celtics teammates Tony Allen and Kendrick Perkins, who have both had knee surgeries, told him it was normal. Rondo will wear a knee brace covered by a sleeve when he returns.
Rondo had initially considered a rehab assignment with the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics' D-League affiliate. A possible return against the Lakers gives him another week to improve his conditioning.
"I feel like I'm ready now, but I'm not in shape," he said. "I can go out there and I can give the team 10 minutes. I want to be productive out there. I don't want to limp or drag behind because of my cardio. That would be hurting the team.
"I don't want to be selfish and go out there and not be able to go up and down every possession and give it all I got. That's what I can't do right now."
Rondo is the last player left from the Celtics' 2008 NBA championship team still on the roster. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were traded to the Brooklyn Nets last offseason. Coach Doc Rivers departed to the Los Angeles Clippers. Perkins, Tony Allen and Ray Allen have also been gone for a while.
Pierce recently told Yahoo Sports that he doesn't feel sorry for Rondo because he is now the face of the Celtics. While there has been trade speculation swirling around Rondo for years, he says he is in a "great situation," likes new coach Brad Stevens and wants to be in Boston long-term.
"I don't really judge what everybody else did," Rondo said. "I've been in this situation for a long time. I don't really like change. I'm comfortable with the staff and the players. Coach and I are great, and we talk back and forth a lot."
The Celtics enter Friday night's game at Golden State with a 13-23 record and six straight losses. When asked why he would want to stay with a rebuilding Celtics franchise, Rondo answered: "Why would I not want to be? I talked to a lot of people, not necessarily about leaving, but my situation and how fortunate it is. It's a great situation for me. I'm taking another step into a leadership role."
Rondo said he has had his share of emotional days since having knee surgery, but the hardest part has been watching games from the sideline.
"It's boring sitting over there," he said. "It's boring especially feeling like you can play. This is the game you love. It's a game I've dominated."