By A. Sherrod Blakely
NEW ORLEANS Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo has not been himself recently, and now we know why.
The Celtics' all-star point guard has been battling a right pinkie injury, one that Rondo said has been bothering him for the past couple of weeks.
Rondo revealed the injury following Boston's 89-85 win at New Orleans, a game in which Rondo re-aggravated the injury and had to leave the game.
"My finger, my hand went numb," Rondo said. "I was a little concerned about it, going back in."
Rondo eventually returned to the floor, with the finger taped up - something he said he has been doing for the past couple of weeks.
Even before Saturday's win, there were signs that Rondo was starting to get closer to playing like he has throughout most of this season.
On Saturday, Rondo had his jumper going to the tune of nine points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field.
"They were cool. It felt good to hit a shot, more than one," quipped Rondo. "It was a relief. Coaches kept believing in me. I kept working at it, put the time and effort in."
He'll need to continue doing that, because teams will continue to give him the mid-range jumper until he forces them to defend him more straight-up.
As for his injury, it's not expected to keep him out of action.
But it does give Celtics head coach Doc Rivers another reason to continue pursuing ways to cut his minutes down.
During Boston's up and down play of late, a reduction in Rondo's minutes has indeed occurred.
He averages more than 34 minutes per game this season, but has played fewer than that in each of Boston's last five games.
Rivers has marveled at times at how Rondo has grown both as a player and a person, one who is on the road to recovery from his first major slump since emerging as one of the league's top point guards.
"This has been good for him," Rivers said. "You go through stages in your career, you go through struggles. This was really good for him."