Rondo in line to play Friday with minutes restriction

Rondo in line to play Friday with minutes restriction
January 16, 2014, 4:00 pm
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(USA Today Sports Images)

WALTHAM, Mass. — Unless there's an unexpected hiccup between now and Friday night, Rajon Rondo's long-awaited start to the 2013-2014 season begins against the Los Angeles Lakers.

"Barring any setbacks, he's planning to play (on Friday)," said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.

And like former Celtic Kevin Garnett in his last couple of seasons, Rondo will start off with a minutes restriction of around five minutes per quarter.

Not only is that the safest route for Rondo to take, but it also helps temper some of the off-the-charts expectations some might have for him upon returning to action.

"Fans are pretty smart," Ainge said. "They know he hasn't played basketball for a year and he's just been practicing. I'm optimistic that Rondo will be pretty good when he's back."

Getting a gauge on how good Rondo will be won't be easy at the start, in part because his minutes will be restricted.

Remember the 5-5-5 plan for Kevin Garnett?

Meet the 5-5-5-5 plan for Rajon Rondo, with each number representing approximately the number of minutes Rondo is set to play, per quarter.

Even with limited minutes, expectations as far as what he can and cannot do, are still likely to be pretty high.

"He hasn't played basketball for a year," Ainge said. "What I've seen throughout my professional basketball career, the ACL injury is something that every player has to overcome, coming back mentally not just physically.

Ainge added, "So I anticipate some adjustments, just getting used to playing and feeling confident in playing and returning to the player he was. I do think he will get there. If that means a week, a month, I don't know what."

One of the early challenges for head coach Brad Stevens upon Rondo's return will be how to disperse his minutes in a way that works both for Rondo and the Celtics.

"Obviously he is our starting point guard," Stevens said. "So I want to make sure we figure out the right minutes for him so he doesn't get too stiff on the bench."

And while Rondo's minutes will be increased over time, it remains to be seen how that will play out exactly.

"I'll wait to be told what to do," Stevens said. "And that is the way I've always done it. That's the way these guys, our medical staff, do a phenomenal job. I'm never in the business of trying to do their job. They know what they're doing. They just tell me."

Even though he has yet to play a game this season, it's clear and undeniable that the anticipation of his return has provided a boost of energy and encouragement to the Celtics.

"In practice, it's clearly shown itself true that he lifts everyone around him," Stevens said.

Rondo has been practicing with his team in some capacity for about a month now.

And like those that have played in games with the four-time All-Star, newcomers to the team like Kris Humphries have been impressed.

"He's a competitor," Humphries said. "It's great to have that competitive spirit in practice. His team wins most of the time even when he wasn't 100 percent."

And it's too soon to say whether he's 100 percent now.

But he's close enough to play and has readily admitted to having wanted to get out there sooner but smart enough to know that his body just wasn't ready.

"He's anxious to play," Ainge said. "So the last few weeks have been really focused on continuing the rehab and the strengthening of his legs, but also conditioning. He does a lot. Playing point guard in the NBA against some of the greatest athletes requires a great deal of conditioning. I think he was surprised when he had a couple of practices and realized just how far he had to go from a conditioning standpoint."