INDIANAPOLIS -- Though he has been cleared for full-contact practice and recently scrimmaged with his teammates, Celtics guard Rajon Rondo said he still has a long way to go before he plays his first game after sitting out since last season with a knee injury.
"It might be mid-January, late February, I’m going to come back when the time is right and I get my stamina," Rondo said after the Celtics' 106-79 loss to the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Sunday.
He later, "I’m just listening to my body. If my body told me I was 100 percent, I’d be playing now. I’m not.”
The key issue now, as Rondo pointed out multiple times, is his conditioning.
"My endurance is key for me," he said. "I don’t want to come back and not be fully 100 percent as far as my health and me being in shape as well, because the worst thing is me coming back and not being in shape and have another injury, so I want to make sure I’m in basketball condition."
Rondo is back practicing, but he said there's a huge difference between practicing and being in game shape.
"You can run all the sprints you want, off the court, get on the bike and do that conditioning, but being out for 10, 11 months without playing the game of basketball. It’s not easy to get back in shape by just doing those type of things," he said. "You’ve got to play basketball plays."
But Rondo said he has confidence in his right knee after having surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in February. He even fell a few times during a recent scrimmage with teammates and said he didn't worry at all about his knee.
"The knee is fine," he said. "It’s not about falls. That’s part of my game. I fall. I fell before. The last time I scrimmaged wasn’t the first time I fell. I’m not afraid to hit the floor, it’s just a matter of going up and down the court."
How did he feel after that scrimmage?
"It felt good [to get back out there]," he said. "I got winded very quickly. We only played two pickup games and I was tired by the second one, so it’s just a matter of time. We continue to go as hard as I can in those pickup games and practice time and get some repetitions and get my conditioning up."
Derrick Rose of the Bulls and Kobe Bryant of the Lakers both came back from major injuries this season, and then suffered new injuries that will keep them sidelined, but Rondo said what happened to them doesn't weigh on his mind.
"Those are two big MVP players that have had unfortunate injuries like that, but a lot of guys came back and did fine," Rondo said.
Rondo emphasized that he didn't want to put a timetable on when he might return.
"I just want to practice," he said. "I just want to get as much practice time as possible. I haven’t practiced in 12 months. I just want to get back in the rhythm and flow of things, get my timing back.
"A lot of these guys I haven’t played with, so they don’t know where I am going to throw the ball. They’ve been playing with Jordan [Crawford] and Phil [Pressey], so I don’t want to come back and turn the ball over at a high rate. So just the pickup game I played the other day was good for guys knowing that certain passes they might not think are coming are coming, so I want to continue to get guys rhythm. Guys like [Jared Sullinger], Gerald Wallace back-cutting, Avery [Bradley] back-cutting, I've just got find my personnel and know what we need to do going forward."
Of course, Rondo is eager to get back to playing again.
"It’s what I’ve been doing my entire life," he said. "[I've] never had a time where I had to sit out this much, so it’s a very humbling experience. I just want to play the game."
Are there any more tests that he must pass?
"Nah, I don’t think I have to pass any more tests," he said. "I have to pass tests for myself. I know what I felt like before I hurt my [knee]. When I get back to feeling that ... then I’ll be back."