BOSTON -- Rajon Rondo walked toward the court and nonchalantly took a seat on the Boston Celtics bench on Friday, stepping on to the parquet for the first time since undergoing knee surgery on February 12 to repair a torn right ACL.
Dressed in sneakers, jeans, a green and navy striped shirt, and a navy blazer, he grabbed a spot next to the coaches to watch his team take on the Atlanta Hawks, his first live Celtics game in over a month.
Even though Rondo has not been physically with the team during his rehab, he has still remained part of the group from a distance. Last summer he arranged team workouts in Los Angeles to build chemistry and has not abandoned his role as one of the Celtics leaders.
"Rondo and I talked the other day," Courtney Lee told CSNNE.com on Friday. "He texted me that I'm playing great, that I'm doing a lot of good things out there. One thing he wanted me to do is try
to get to the foul line a lot more because I shoot a high percentage. Other than that, he told me how good I've been playing and I should keep it up. He's been here a while in the system so he knows the ins and outs, especially for me and Avery (Bradley)."
Lee formed a quick bond with Rondo in his first season with the Celtics. Brandon Bass joined the team last season and has been in touch with his fellow starter. He understands why it could be difficult for Rondo to be with the team every game when he cannot play.
"I checked in on him a few times, wished him a happy birthday," Bass said. "It's kind of hard to be around the guys being as competitive as Rondo is and having a love for the game like he does. You don't want to be around the game. You want to take care of your business so you can get back out on the floor."
While on the bench Rondo stayed involved with his teammates, four of whom were not on the team the last time he played. He stood in applause for a dunk by Terrence Williams, talked with close friend Chris Wilcox during the game, and looked on as assistant coach Mike Longabardi scrawled on a whiteboard in a timeout.
The Celtics have undergone several changes since Rondo's injury, and he looked eager to remain part of it.
Said Lee, "He's still one of the leaders of the team even if he's not playing."