CHICAGO – The Chicago Bulls are listing Rajon Rondo as being “OUT” for Friday night’s Game 6 matchup against the Boston Celtics.
Rondo, speaking in Boston prior to the Bulls’ Game 5 loss, didn’t sound all that optimistic that his fractured right thumb would be healed in time to suit up for Game 6.
So why are the Celtics still preparing as though the four-time all-star will see action?
Because they know Rondo.
“He’s tough,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley, who saw first-hand Rondo play with a dislocated elbow when he was a member of the Celtics. “We used to say back then, you always want to play with your dogs; people that are going to play hard no matter what and just want to go out there and compete at a high level and that’s Rondo. If he’s hurt, he’s going to try to help his team no matter what and I know that.
Bradley added, “that’s why I know it’s a possibility that he does come back Game 6, but that doesn’t change our game plan. It just makes the game that more fun. That’s what it’s all about, competing against the best players.”
Rondo’s toughness and grit has never been questioned, but this is a different kind of injury.
We’re talking about his thumb to his ball-handling, dominant hand.
And for someone who is such a pass-first, and second and third and … type of player, Rondo has to give some thought to potentially making the injury worst if it’s not fully healed.
As tough as Rondo is, he’s also smart enough to know whether his return at would be significantly less than his best, would help the Bulls at this point in the series.
Prior to Game 3, the Celtics had already implemented a game plan on how they wanted to play with the assumption that Rondo was going to play.
When the Celtics learned that he was going to be out, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the team’s game plan didn’t change.
And whether he plays or not in Game 6, Stevens reiterated his team’s approach and preparation won’t be altered.
“It’s not going to change how we are trying to play on either end of the floor,” Stevens told reporters prior to the team’s practice at the United Center on Thursday. “And I think that’s something we evaluated after Game 2. We kind of determined a course of action before we knew that he was out. So regardless of if he’s out or not, we’re going to have to play our best game tomorrow night. We know that.”
Prior to suffering the injury in Game 2, Rondo was instrumental in the Bulls winning Games 1 and 2 of this best-of-seven series, in Boston. In Games 3, 4 and 5 - all with Rondo sidelined - the Celtics have been able to wrestle control of the series away from Chicago and can eliminate them on Friday with a win.