In just a few short weeks it will have been exactly one year since Rajon Rondo tore his ACL. I remember it specifically; the Celtics All-Star point guard drove the lane and jumped into the air to complete a wrap around pass to Kevin Garnett for a spot-up jumper on the baseline. It was a pretty routine play for Rondo and one we’ve seen him make time and time again. Except this one ended a little differently. Upon landing, Rondo’s right knee buckled and he immediately began limping while grimacing in pain. I remember not thinking much of it due to the simple fact that he remained in the game. In fact, he went on to record a triple-double that night, accumulating 16 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds in the double overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
It wasn’t until two days later that we learned of what had truly gone wrong on that single play. Prior to their January 27th match-up with the Miami Heat, the Celtics sent Rondo to the hospital to undergo an MRI that would ultimately reveal the damage that had been done.
A torn ACL? Wow. Certainly that could never happen to a Celtic, right? Derrick Rose had suffered the same injury during the 2011-12 playoffs and Louis Williams did just a few weeks before Rondo. Heck, Iman Shumpert fell victim to the injury on the same exact day as Rose. It was happening all over the league it seemed but, surely, we never thought for one second that Rondo would be the next high-profile guard to go down. But he did. And we were wrong.
And so began the rehabilitation process. A process that, on average, takes between 8-12 months to be completed. Fortunately, it looks like Rondo could be right on schedule.
"I’m better than last week when I talked to you guys," he said Thursday referring to his meeting with the media on December 22. "I’m still getting my endurance but I’m getting pretty close, feeling good, feeling better. Like I said, I feel better than last week."
Rondo, who has been gauging his progress on a weekly basis, was cleared to participate in contact practices just three weeks ago and has been working harder than ever to return to his pre-injury form. When and how will he know he’s ready? Well, he has one goal in mind.
"Like a 12 minute quarter, straight. I don’t want to go out there and get fatigued and cause another injury. I want to make sure I’m ready to go and I’m in shape."
Rondo also spoke to the reports that he was mulling over a possible stint with the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics D-League affiliate.
"That’s what it’s [the D-League] is for," he said. "I’ll probably be the first [NBA player] to [use it as rehab] but it doesn’t make a difference. I want to make sure I’m healthy and I handle it the right way. I don’t want my first time to come out game-like to be the first time with the Celtics."
"I haven’t had a preseason. I haven’t had a training camp. Right now, this is my training camp."
If there’s one thing that’s true about Rondo’s mindset it’s that he’s in no rush to return to the court, denying that the Celtics then-13-18 record had something to do with the timing of his return.
"I’m pretty motivated regardless of our team’s record," he stated. "I told myself before the season I wasn’t going to base it off our record. It’s based off how I feel. We could be 2-30 right now, if I’m able to come back and play I want to play. I love the game. I’ve been away from it for a long time, and when I feel ready to play, I’m going to play."
January 25 will be the day that marks the one year anniversary of the point guard’s unfortunate injury. Ironically, the Celtics take on the Brooklyn Nets at home on January 26 of this year, otherwise known as Paul Pierce’s and Kevin Garnett’s first return to the TD Garden since being trade to the Nets this past summer.
Would I say that that’s the motivating factor in Rondo’s return? No.
Would I say he has that game circled on his calendar? Probably.
Either way, Rondo has made it clear that he isn’t in any hurry to take the floor with his teammates and return to this beautiful game we call basketball and after seeing Derrick Rose suffer another catastrophic injury (torn meniscus) earlier this year, that’s probably a good thing.
Quotes courtesy of Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.