BOSTON — He has scrimmaged twice, one in a post-practice pickup game with teammates.

Little wonder Rajon Rondo doesn’t think he’s close to a return. Maybe late January. Probably later.

“It might be the end of January, late February,” Rondo said this week. “I’m going to come back when I get my stamina.”

Asked if January, the nebulous time pegged by Celtics management, was a realistic goal, Rondo said, “No. I’ve had one practice – a pickup game, and that’s about it. My endurance is key. I don’t want to come back and not be 100 percent.

“It’s me being in shape as well. The worst thing is coming back and not being in shape, because you can risk injury. I want to be in basketball-condition shape. You can run all the sprints you want and get on a bike and do that conditioning, but after 10 or 11 months of not playing the game of basketball, it’s not easy to get back in shape just doing those things. You have to play basketball.”

That was Rondo’s motivation last Friday, when he asked teammates to stay after practice for a 5-on-5 pickup game.

His timing was clearly off. Normally crisp passes didn’t quite find their mark. But Rondo was also noticeably winded after some simple, up-tempo basketball.

That’s not how he wants to return to the floor.

And once the Celtics reconvene for practice Thursday – a session that Coach Brad Stevens has already promised will be “hard” – Rondo is especially looking forward to the scrimmaging.

“I think it’s very important,” he said. “I’ve been in the other drills, in the dummy offense, I know the game, I know what we’re looking for with our sets. It’s a matter of getting up and down the court. I got winded very quickly. I just have to go as hard as I can.”

Rondo stressed that faith in his surgically repaired right knee isn’t the issue.

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