RAJON Rondo has played through a significant injury in the NBA playoffs before, and the Chicago Bulls veteran guard took steps to repeat that feat ahead of Game 5 of their first-round series against the Boston Celtics.
Sidelined with a fractured right thumb suffered in Game 2, Rondo had a two-week timetable to return but got his cast removed and was seen shooting jumpers and dribbling with both hands in Bulls practice on Tuesday morning (Wednesday, Manila time).
League sources even told ESPN that Rondo had a private workout Tuesday night to test if he can play well despite missing the past two games due to his injured thumb and aching wrist. Another source, however, said that Game 6 could be the more realistic target for Rondo’s return.
This would not be the first time Rondo tried to play despite getting injured. In the 2011 playoffs, he played despite a dislocated elbow. And in a regular season game in 2013, he also tried to play on even with a torn ACL on his right knee.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, though, insisted that the former Celtic is out for Game 5 and described a potential comeback in the series for the injured guard as a ‘long shot.’
But he’s not stopping the 31-year-old Rondo from trying everything he can to return and help his eighth-seed team recover from squandering a 2-0 series lead over the East’s top-ranked squad.
“This is honestly the first time he's touched a basketball with that right hand. We'll see how it goes. He's going to continue to condition and do everything that he can. He was in the weight room yesterday getting a good session in there. It was his first time back in the weight room. He's just getting this whole process started,” said Hoiberg.
"It's so early in the process. Just watching him wince a little bit as the ball was coming to him makes me think it's a long shot; but if there's anybody that can do it, will try to fight through it, it's Rondo. Just because the competitor that he is and obviously wanting to get back out there. Doing everything that he can to put himself into position, knowing that it's obviously still a long shot for that to happen,” he added.
Jimmy Butler was also sounded skeptical about Rondo’s potential return for Game 5 after seeing his teammate struggle through practice on Tuesday. Still he’s hopeful to get one of their top contributors back in the series after Rondo averaged 11.5 points, 10 assists, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 steals in the first two games.
“We want that guy back, but I don't know if it will happen, if it won't happen; I can't tell you that. He's still out here shooting shots with his left hand from the corner. He just shot that one right-handed, actually, air-balled it,” he said.
“But we love him. He's our floor general out there. He knows everything. He knows every matchup, every position, and he's still helping from the bench. We really want him helping out there from the floor,” added Butler.