WALTHAM, Mass. – Rajon Rondo wove his way down the Boston Celtics’ practice court, stopping to interrupt an interview with Brandon Bass and another with Avery Bradley.
Photographers hustled to take pictures, and reporters scrambled to get in position. After all, it’s the first time they’ve seen him in uniform since January.
The Celtics’ point guard is not quite finished with his rehab from surgery to repair a knee ligament he tore in January. Rondo would not give a timetable for his return, saying only it would be in the 2013-14 season before adding that it would be in the winter — or perhaps the fall.
“I miss being out there on the court with my teammates and helping them win,” he said, adding that he was working on his ball-handling and his shooting but could not take part in scrimmages or anything involving contact. “The bike has become my friend.”
A four-time All-Star and the only remaining member of the Celtics’ 2008 NBA championship team, Rondo is now the undisputed star and leader of a franchise in the middle of a sudden and dramatic rebuilding process. Coach Doc Rivers was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, and future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were sent to the Brooklyn Nets.
Starting a season without them “is very hard,” owner Steve Pagliuca said. “We all grew up with those players.”
Rivers was replaced by former Butler coach Brad Stevens, who had never before coached or played in the NBA. But replacing the two perennial All-Stars will be more difficult.
“This is a fresh start for us. I’m excited about this fresh start,” said Rondo. “This is his team. This is my team. I’m very supportive of him and he’s very supportive of me.”
But first, Rondo must get back on the court. He has not played since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Jan. 25 — an injury that usually takes about a year to heal.
“When I’m mentally ready, I’ll play,” he said, adding that he has talked to Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker as well as ex-teammates Tony Allen and Kendrick Perkins.
“You need that mental aspect to go up and jump and come down without thinking about your leg again. … When I get there, I’ll play.”
Rondo said he’s had no trouble adjusting to the roster overhaul. He is eager to take part in the rebuilding, even hosting a dinner at his house for players, the coaching staff and ownership.
But GM Danny Ainge still won’t give a timetable for Rondo’s return.
“He’ll be back at some time, during the season,” Ainge said coyly.