Danny Ainge went on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston and said he would be "shocked" if Rajon Rondo was back by opening night in Toronto on October 30th. This is not the first time Ainge has commented on Rondo's recovery from a torn ACL. In July he said having Rondo back for opening night was a "reasonable goal."
This is not the first time Ainge has dragged out a star player's injury. In February of 2009 Kevin Garnett landed funny and tweaked his knee. Initially, it seemed like Garnett would miss a few weeks and then return. March passed and the playoffs loomed, and still no Garnett. But the Celtics were saying he was just resting for the playoffs, getting ready for another deep playoff run. Then the playoffs came and Game 7 against the Orlando Magic went poorly. Still, there was never another Garnett sighting.
Now, Ainge has gone from saying opening night is a "reasonable goal" for Rondo's return, to saying he'd be "shocked" if Rondo was ready to play the first game of the season. Now December seems more reasonable for Rondo's return, according to Ainge. Is that a fair answer? What happened in two months that Ainge added at least a month to Rondo's rehab?
Ainge also put the decision in Rondo's hands. Ainge said, "I've told him from day 1, come back when you're ready. I think it's really important that he feels good when he's back and ready to play."
This has the makings of a long drawn out drama. Ainge is pushing back deadlines like he did with Garnett. He also put the onus on Rondo, giving him the choice to decide when he's ready. That could make Rondo a scapegoat over the course of the season. Derrick Rose was given the same option and missed an entire season to rehab and get completely healthy.
Could Rose's performance at the start of the season determine what the Celtics do with Rondo? Could Rose prove that he was right about about not coming back too early (ahem… Robert Griffin III)?
At this point, it seems like anything goes with this injury and that until Rondo is wearing #9 and running the offense all fans should simply trust no one and listen to no predictions, especially considering that this team might not be worth rushing back to play for. A slow start might mean that lottery is a better option than a mediocre playoff run.
After all, this lottery might go farther than just Andrew Wiggins. So a full blown tank-job might not even be necessary to get a star player. Landing one of these autographed NBA photos from MJR Sports Integrity is like drafting a lottery prospect!
Buckle up for a season full of "will he" or "won't he." One thing seems very certain, Danny Ainge will probably never have the answer.
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