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Don't expect "game 7 Rajon Rondo" in his first game back

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As excited as we are to see Rondo return to the court, we can't expect him to be a triple double machine on day one.

Jared Wickerham

Good news, Danny Ainge thinks you are pretty smart.

Rondo in line to play Friday with minutes restriction | Comcast SportsNet - CSNNE.com

"Fans are pretty smart," Ainge said. "They know he hasn't played basketball for a year and he's just been practicing. I'm optimistic that Rondo will be pretty good when he's back."

Rondo's said all along that he wouldn't return until he's really ready to play, so I have to assume that he's ready now. I've seen a few reports that he's looked good in practice. Still, what Ainge said is absolutely right. Rondo has had a long offseason, a truncated training camp, and tonight is the start of his preseason. In short, we can expect some rust. Not only that, coming back from an injury of this sort will take some re-learning how to play the game on the fly.

"He hasn't played basketball for a year," Ainge said. "What I've seen throughout my professional basketball career, the ACL injury is something that every player has to overcome, coming back mentally not just physically. Ainge added, "So I anticipate some adjustments, just getting used to playing and feeling confident in playing and returning to the player he was. I do think he will get there. If that means a week, a month, I don't know what."

They are smart to play it slow and steady at first. Rajon might not like it, but I think he understands that a minutes restriction seems like the right way to go at first.

Bar starts low for Rondo - Boston Celtics Blog - ESPN Boston

The Rondo that the Celtics will receive Friday will be on a minutes restriction designed to initially limit him to 18-20 minutes overall (and maybe just five minutes per quarter). The Celtics have taken things slow with Rondo to this point, and they don't plan to hit the accelerator just because he's getting back on the floor.

So as we've talked about at length, when Rondo does take the floor, he changes everything about the Celtics. One of the best things is the audibles.

Rajon Rondo set to return Friday for Boston Celtics | masslive.com

The Celtics spent the first three months of the season trying to constrain Crawford, because when he lost control he often pounded the basketball into the court for 16 seconds and fired a fadeaway jumper with enough degree of difficulty to sicken basketball purists. But Rondo has a unique ability to control chaos, mostly because when plays break down he’s normally thinking one step ahead. The difference between him and Crawford is basically, in a word, everything.

"There’s always a play or there’s always a structure, but basketball takes precedence," Stevens said. "If you have an action that’s eventually going to get to the other side, but somebody falls down defensively, take a layup. Or if you read something, take that read. That’s why you have multiple reads in each things you do."

Few are better at improvising and reacting to the changing situation with decisiveness as Rondo. That's going to be so fun to see again. Even if it is just in small bits and pieces.

Rondo isn't going to be on top of his game of course. We might not see a lot out of him tonight really. But it will be wonderful just to see him on the court again. Knowing what kind of showman he is, I wouldn't be surprised to see a tricky pass here or there, or perhaps his patented "fake around the back pass leading to a layup." But even if he logs 20 minutes and goes oh-for-whatever and has no assists, just getting him on the court will be a big win for this team.