It doesn't seem likely but a Rajon Rondo return to the Bulls-Celtics series certainly seems possible, as the injured point guard was launching corner 3-pointers before the start of Tuesday's practice.
Except he was shooting with his left hand, as his right thumb was fractured in the second half of Game 2 in Boston. Game 5 is Wednesday night in Boston, as the Bulls have lost the two games without him and have looked rudderless at point guard.
As of the moment, the Bulls have ruled him out for Game 5 but are noncommittal beyond that, with Game 6 being back in Chicago Friday night.
If he returned it would be a remarkable turnaround considering one of Rondo's teammates called his thumb injury "I've worst I've ever seen in my career", leading to cautious words from Bulls coach Fred 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.
It's not just Rondo's wizardry that has people fantasizing about Rondo producing a Willis Reed moment, but the lack of confidence in backups Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams is palpable.
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Hoiberg is going with Isaiah Canaan at point guard for Game 5, after he hit a few shots and defended Isaiah Thomas reasonably well, despite Thomas scoring 33 points Sunday night.
Rondo did a good enough job funneling Thomas near the help defense, but it seems to be a foreign process from anyone else this series. The Bulls' dependency on Rondo's brain is obvious, given everything he's been through; Their seeming reliance on Rondo in the physical form is more than shocking, seeing as how he couldn't do right in their eyes in December and January.
"He obviously wants to get back out there and is doing everything he can to put himself in that position, knowing that it's still a longshot that that happens," Hoiberg said.
The visual, though, in plain view of camera phones and TV cameras, certainly appeared striking as Rondo still had a brace around his thumb before practice.
"We want that guy back, man, but I don't know if it will happen, if it won't happen, I can't tell you that," said Jimmy Butler, who's had to take on more ballhandling responsibilities in Rondo's absence. "But he's still out here, shooting shots with his left hand from the corner."
Butler then added some levity and perhaps a dose of reality to the moment of optimism.
"He just shot that one right-handed by the way and air-balled it. But we love him, man," Butler said.
The Bulls would need more than just a ceremonial Rondo appearance if he were to return, as he supplied the Bulls with a confidence and swagger that hadn't been seen in awhile and hasn't been heard from since his injury—unless you could the Celtics' brimming confidence with two wins in Chicago to take control back of homecourt advantage.
The Celtics have loaded up on Butler and to a lesser degree, Wade, turning them into facilitators rather than attackers or at least guys who can get an easy basket or two during a game.
Rondo was good for setting those guys up along with taking care of Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis, but that responsibility has fallen down the line to players who are just as willing but not as creatively capable as Rondo.
"He's our floor general out there," 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."