Rondo returns, hopes to put Celtics on right track

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Rondo returns, hopes to put Celtics on right track

WALTHAM The veterans were back on the floor for the Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers was running practice and Rajon Rondo - back from a two-game suspension - was running the show.

His return always bodes well for the Celtics who are looking to get on a roll after a lackluster start to the season that has them at 9-8 with the Minnesota Timberwolves in town on Wednesday.

Doc Rivers doesn't for a minute take for granted the impact of having his three-time all-star back in the fold.

"Rondo's is important," Rivers said. "But Kevin (Garnett) is important, Paul (Pierce) ... we should have won both games without Rondo. Having said that, we need him. It's a team game, guys. The day that one guy is going to change a team, make them win every game, that's not going to happen."

Maybe not, but having Rondo certainly gives the Celtics as good a chance as they'll have in reaching their max potential.

While away from the game, Rondo had a chance to watch the C's battle on without him, and came away impressed.

"They moved the ball really well without me," said Rondo, the league's leader in assists with 12.9 per game.

Indeed, his absence afforded other players an opportunity to play more extended minutes and just as important, contribute in ways that might prove beneficial to the Celtics later this season.

"That'll help anybody out," said C's Courtney Lee, referring to extended minutes in Rondo's absence. "You can play through your mistakes, you can play (more) aggressively."

But Rondo's back, and his mindset now is to get the Celtics back to winning.

"I want to get better," he said. "I want to run off by eight or nine games straight. I just want to go out there and give it my all for my teammates, and get some wins."

Said Jeff Green: "When he's there, he's our captain, he's our leader. He knows where everybody is supposed to be on the floor. It's a lot easier when he is here."

Paul Pierce echoed similar comments about Rondo.

"A lot of things we do revolve around Rondo," Pierce said. "Our tempo, our offensive sets ... he's vital to this offense."

But as important as it is for Rondo to be back, Rivers understands that the C's success has to involve others as well.

"It's a team game, guys," Rivers said. "The day that one guy is going to change a team, make them win every game, that's not going to happen."

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Blakely: Jae Crowder is more than 'just another guy' on Celtics

Blakely: Jae Crowder is more than 'just another guy' on Celtics

As the NBA trade deadline gets closer and closer, A. Sherrod Blakely helps shed some light as to why the Boston Celtics may be unwilling to part ways with Jae Crowder