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Rondo expects to play

Celtics point guard reports some improvement in ankle

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / June 12, 2008

LOS ANGELES - Kendrick Perkins didn't back away from the statement. He backed it up. On a team with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen, three Hall of Famers-to-be, Perkins's pick for Most Valuable Player is point guard Rajon Rondo.

"When he's out of the game, we don't have no kind of offensive rhythm," said Perkins. "We're so off-key when Rondo is not in the game."

That's why it was good news yesterday that Rondo, who suffered a bone bruise on the inside of his left ankle in the Celtics' 87-81 loss to the Lakers in Game 3 of the NBA Finals Tuesday night, all but guaranteed he would play tonight at Staples Center.

Rondo wrote on his blog that he was only 50 percent after suffering the injury, which forced him to leave the game with 11:16 left in the third quarter. After a day of treatment, he upped that number to 70 percent prior to yesterday's practice.

"Nobody in this league is 100 percent, but I'm sure I'll play," said the second-year point guard, who is averaging 10.3 points and 6.9 assists in his first postseason.

Rondo did return in Game 3, checking in with 7:59 left in the fourth quarter and coming up with an offensive rebound and put-back. But after the game, his ankle was in a big orange bucket of ice. The ankle buckled when he tried to get out of bed yesterday, but he said the more weight he put on it, the better it felt.

"I made a walk around the hotel and I was limping a little bit, but the further I walked, the better it got," said Rondo, who reported the ankle, which is undergoing a steady diet of icing and electrical stimulation, remained sore and painful.

During the portion of practice open to the media, Rondo, who was wearing a brace to support the ankle but said he planned to go with just a souped-up tape job tonight, was seen shooting jumpers, participating in drills, and doing change-of-direction warm-up exercises, although he was not at full speed.

Speed is Rondo's game, and if he's hobbled, he could be less effective. Rondo said that if he feels he's ineffective and hurting the team, he will step aside.

"It's the Finals. I don't want to hold anything back," he said. "If I'm going out there 50 percent, I don't want to hurt the team. Eddie [House] and Sam [Cassell] do a great job running things, so I'll let them have it."

Replacing Rondo's playmaking isn't as easy as simply subbing in House or Cassell, both of whom are shoot-first point guards.

"He's the one pure point guard on our team that has the ability to make plays, and that's what we would lose," said coach Doc Rivers. "I'm concerned because if Rondo can play but he doesn't have his speed, then that's a concern."

Whether the omission was intentional or not, Rivers didn't even mention Cassell when talking about potential replacements for Rondo, who is averaging 33.3 minutes per game in the playoffs. That could be because Cassell is nursing a sprained right wrist and played only seven minutes in Game 3 as the Lakers cut the Celtics' lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.

House, who hadn't played a minute in the series until Tuesday, energized the Celtics when he entered the game, scrambling for loose balls, clogging the passing lanes, coming up with rebounds, and hitting a pair of 3-pointers. He finished with 6 points and two assists in 20 minutes. Rivers commented that House's ability to shoot forced the Lakers to double-team less for fear of leaving House open on the perimeter.

House said he'll be ready if his number is called.

"Even when I haven't been getting called [upon], I expect to get called," he said. "That helps me be mentally into the game. The only thing you have to do is just get physically into the game. If you stay ready, you don't have to get ready."

Rivers also raised the possibility of using Tony Allen at the point.

Allen hasn't played since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, but when the Celtics played the Lakers on the road during the regular season, posting a 110-91 win, it was Allen who started at point guard, as Rondo was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Allen responded with one of his best games of the season, scoring 16 points and dishing out four assists in 42 minutes. A strong defensive presence, the 6-foot-5-inch Allen also brings the benefit of being a potential Kobe Bryant cooler.

If Allen is in Rivers's point plans, that was news to him. "I'll have to see it to believe it," he said. "I don't remember the last time I played in a game, let alone the last time I played point."

But Allen said he's capable of being a point man if called upon.

"It's really not much, when you think about it," he said. "Get it to your scorers. It's not like you're being put under the pressure to get 40 points because if you don't, you fail. You take what they give you."

The Celtics' best option at the point remains Rondo. That's why Boston is hoping injured center Scot Pollard turns out to be a seer.

"Scot Pollard, he's been through this injury before," said Rondo. "He told me I'd probably wake up sore [yesterday], and the next day, it would be a lot better. So far, his predictions are right."

Marc J. Spears of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com.

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