WALTHAM, Mass.— Rajon Rondo’s rehab continues.
And now it will take place in live NBA games.
The Boston Celtics’ point guard, who has not played since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last Jan. 25, is scheduled to return on Friday night. Coach Brad Stevens and general manager Danny Ainge both said Rondo would return for the game against the Los Angeles Lakers “barring any setbacks.”
“I don’t think we can expect him to be the Game 7 Rajon Rondo tomorrow,” Stevens said before practice on Thursday. “This is part of the process to getting back to full-go.”
Rondo did not speak with reporters on Thursday, but he worked out with his teammates at the team’s practice facility. Stevens said Rondo will probably play 18-20 minutes at first, and Ainge said he would probably be limited to five minutes per quarter.
“He is our starting point guard,” Stevens said. “We want to figure out the right minutes for him so he doesn’t get too stiff on the bench.”
Said Ainge: “And, knowing Rondo, he’s going to be complaining about that and probably checking himself back into the game. That’s who he is.”
Ainge said he wasn’t sure what to expect, especially since the ACL injury tends to leave players tentative about making quick moves.
“He hasn’t played for a year,” Ainge said. “What I’ve seen is the ACL injury is something that every player has to overcome, coming back mentally, not just physically.”
On Wednesday, Rondo scrimmaged at the practice facility for about an hour with the Celtics’ NBA Development League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws; afterward, he took the minor leaguers out to dinner.
“I think the guys had a fun time also,” Ainge said.
Rondo had developed into one of the top point guards in the NBA, averaging career-highs of 13.7 points and 5.6 rebounds to go with his 11.1 assists per game in 2012-13 before he was hurt. He played almost 45 minutes and recorded a triple-double in a double-overtime loss to Atlanta on Jan. 25, then was diagnosed with a torn ACL two days later.
Ainge said he expected to see that player again.
“I think he will get there. I don’t know how long it will take,” he said. “He has to get back on the court and try it. Now is as good a time as any.”
The Celtics could use the boost. They lost nine consecutive games before beating Toronto on Wednesday night, falling into fourth place in the woeful Atlantic Division.
Stevens, in his first year with the team after leaving Butler, said he is glad he will finally have his point guard on the floor.
“There’s all kinds of thoughts going through my mind right now,” he said, noting that the pre-injury Rondo was a savvy floor leader who could see things on the court and get the ball to places that only a few others can.
Ideally, that will return quickly.
“The one thing he could do, even when he wasn’t playing, was think,” Stevens said.