Calling a Rajon Rondo return likely would be a bit strong, but it’s certainly become a possibility in the last 24 hours as the Bulls traveled to Boston before Game 5 of their first-round series against the Celtics.
Rondo participated in Tuesday morning’s practice before the team departed to Boston, going through five-on-five scrimmages to test his broken right thumb he suffered in Game 2 in Boston.
Multiple sources confirmed to CSNChicago.com Rondo has been making progress with the aim to get back on the floor sooner rather than later, but the probability of a Game 5 return hasn’t been determined yet. A report from ESPN stated Rondo staged a private workout in Boston to further test the thumb.
One source described it as Rondo playing with one hand in practice, which would in theory make him an easy target for the Celtics if he returns, considering his right hand is his dominant one.
Most have said it's too early to call while one source tells CSNChicago.com that “If he can play he will," while the fact the Bulls haven’t released an injury report has added to the intrigue of an already wild playoff series.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said before practice that Rondo is out “as far as we know right now," a statement that certainly seems intentionally ambiguous in hindsight.
If he returned it would be a remarkable turnaround considering one of Rondo’s teammates called his thumb injury the "worst I’ve ever seen in my career," leading to cautious words from Hoiberg.
“This is honestly the first time he has touched a basketball with that right hand. We’ll see how it goes. He’s going to continue to condition and do everything he can,” Hoiberg said. “Just watching him wince a little bit when the ball was coming to him makes me think it’s a longshot. But if there’s anybody who can do it and will try to fight through it, it’s Rondo because of the competitor he is.”
Rondo said he couldn’t grip a fork with his right hand, let alone a basketball when he spoke to the media this weekend, and the official diagnosis stated he would be evaluated between 7-10 days, pushing things right between Games 6 and 7, if it gets to a decisive seventh game in Boston.
Hoiberg plans to start Isaiah Canaan at point guard, as the Bulls have lost the last two games after jumping out to a surprising 2-0 lead, mostly on the strength of Rondo’s leadership.
Rondo was seen shooting with his left hand before practice began and had a light brace surrounding his right hand. He missed a handful of games late in the regular season with a right wrist injury, so he’s not just nursing one serious injury but a moderate one as well.
“He’s our floor general out there,” Jimmy Butler said. “He knows everything, knows every matchup, every position, and he’s still helping over there from the bench, but we really want him healthy and out there for us.”