BOSTON — After hours of rumblings that Rajon Rondo might give it a shot in Game 5, and even after he confirmed he’s not playing, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg put the final nail in that coffin in his pre-game press conference, confirming Rondo was on the inactive list.
It’s not shocking, but if there is anyone that could actually hit the floor with one o0f his body parts not functioning, it’s Rondo. He's done it several times, playing through a torn ACL in 2012 and a dislocated elbow in 2011.
“Rajon was out there playing basically with a torn ligament in his wrist,” Hoiberg said. “If there’s any chance of him playing, he’s a gu8y that’s going to go out there and give it a shot. That’s just his makeup.
“Rajon’s got an unbelievable left hand,” Hoiberg said. “Better than most guys’ right hands as far as handling the ball and passing the ball.”
That has Isaiah Canaan making his first start of the series for the Bulls, a mid-series adjustment that started in the second half go Game 4 for Hoiberg and gave the Bulls their best shot at defending a red hot Isaiah Thomas.
“Obviously, Isaiah Thomas was having his way with us and we wanted to put someone on him that could put on pressure and pick him up full court,” Hoiberg said.
While Thomas dominated the late third and early fourth quarter, Canaan proved to be the only somewhat viable option, as Michael Carter-Williams and Jerian Grant have proven to be ineffective if not disastrous at times.
Hoiberg needed a solution to stop Thomas and what he considered a consistent carrying violation by Thomas throughout the game. Hoiberg surprisingly avoided a fine from the league and was asked if he took that as a sign that the refs would agree with his critique in Game 5.
“I don't know. We’ll see.”
When Hoiberg was asked if he was surprised he didn’t get fined, he let out a little smirk.
So perhaps the refs will apply the carrying rule for the first time in NBA history. And maybe Isaiah Canaan can handle the Thomas assignment for most of the night until Jimmy Butler gets the call in crunch time.
Canaan has emerged as the option despite a midseason trade to bring in point guard Cameron Payne from the Oklahoma City Thunder, who is again inactive for Game 5.
“He’s been really good of playing the role of Isaiah Thomas (in practice), Hoiberg said of Payne. “He’s really showing flashes of what he can become as a player.”
Hoiberg is going with Canaan because of his experience and his active defense. He is also capable of exploding for some athletic drives and pull-ups from deep.
Brad Stevens knows that player all too well. In his past life as coach at Butler, Canaan left an indelible mark on the Celtics coach.
“He torched a team I coached in 2010 when he was 18 years old, so I know him,” Stevens said. Canaan dropped a team-high 14 points for 13 seed Murray State in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, as they fell 54-52 to Stevens’ 5 seed Butler.
“When he became active the other day, we threw him into the pregame edit right away,” Stevens said. “We thought we could see him in (Game 4). Our guys him.”
As Stevens was asked if he put the college tape in the pre-game set, Stevens laughed.
“No way. He was too good!”
He wasn’t lying.