Celtics coach Doc Rivers estimated a 'one or two' week absence for Rajon Rondo after Boston's All-Star point guard suffered a left ankle sprain in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's win over the New York Knicks.
Echoing the sentiments of Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, Rivers said they'll give Rondo time to heal, particularly after battling a cocktail of maladies including a sore left hamstring and plantar fasciitis, but also noted that Boston is desperate for bodies.
Even still, Rivers kept his typical sense of humor amidst a thinning roster.
"I told [rookie forward] Luke [Harangody] to get ready," Rivers joked about his backup point guard situation with Nate Robinson set to join the starting lineup in Rondo's absence. "Harangody’s debut at the backup point. No, really, [rookie] Avery [Bradley] and Marquis [Daniels will be the backups]. That’s where, someone was asking me, ‘Could you lose Rondo?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, we’re 3-1 and should be 4-0 without him.’ But what we can’t lose is Rondo and Delonte West. The numbers are starting to add up now, to where we just can’t sustain another one.
"I actually said that [Wednesday] night and that went over well. But that's where we are at. Right now, Nate is going to have to play a ton of minutes. If he gets into foul trouble or anything, that’s where we struggle, each position is getting thinner and thinner right now with this group."
The Celtics are already playing without what Rivers affectionately dubbed "21 feet of centers" with Shaquille O'Neal (calf), Jermaine O'Neal (knee), and Kendrick Perkins (knee) all sidelined. That's left rookie center Semih Erden logging spot starts, but Boston is still riding an 11-game winning streak amidst that. The Celtics previously lost Delonte West (wrist) indefinitely last month and that leaves little depth at backup point guard.
"We'll use Paul [Pierce], Ray [Allen] and Marquis [at point guard], whoever [the opposition] is not pressuring," said Rivers. "Every team, you have one guy who pressures the ball, maybe two. Rarely do all three guys go up pressuring the ball. We did it one game, whoever was the guy, we don’t know who that guy is going into the game and that clearly changes your offense, when you can’t decide who’s bringing the ball up... but whoever [doesn't get pressured], that's who will bring the ball up the floor."
Meanwhle, Bradley has played a mere 28 minutes in five appearances after he started his rookie campaign on the shelf after offseaosn ankle surgery. Rivers stressed that he'd continue to protect the young guard.
"He’s going to be a good player and everyone wants to see the young guy play because they think they’re ready now, because you don't see him," said Rivers. "I ‘m going to try to protect his minutes, where he’s out with the better players, the starters. Listen, he’s just going to have to play some for sure."
As for Robinson, who has thrived as a starter, averaging 16.5 points, 5.5 assists, and shooting 62.5 percent from the floor in four starts (as opposed to 5.5 points, 1.6 assists, and a 39.1 shooting percentage in non-starts), Rivers simply wants him to continue to be himself.
"Offensively, we’re going to be fine," said Rivers. "Hell, in the four games we’ve actually scored more when Nate is in lineup. Defensively, that's where you’re more concerned because of Nate’s size -- not the effort, that's been great -- but his size has an impact on you. Then the bench part of it. Before, you had Delonte, that could come in, for that little stretch [after his season-opening 10-game suspension]. So you had another guy.
"All the injuries are more of a problem than just one guys’ injuries."
A couple other quick hits:
* Rivers suggested Shaquille O'Neal could be back in the lineup for Sunday's matinee against the Indiana Pacers. "Shaq is slated [to play Sunday] and that's what we're hoping for. Again, I don't know the answer [for certain]."
* Jermaine O'Neal is also closer to getting back on the floor, but Rivers said not close enough to be ready for Sunday's game. "I’ve seen him in clothes, walking by, he dresses nice," joked Rivers. "No, I haven’t seen him play yet. I'm going by what [strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo] tells me and [Celtics director of basketball development] Ty Lue was out there with him [during individual workouts] and he said [O'Neal is] looking a lot better. There's not as much pain, a lot of the pain is gone, which is very important."
* Rivers did stress that it wouldn't even take a day of practice to throw Jermaine O'Neal back to the wolves, not given the current injury situation.
"Just get him into the game at this point," said Rivers. "Right now, we can’t even worry. If guys says they can play, we’re throwing them in. It's not like we have a choice, practice or not. The day J.O. says I think I can play, I’m playing him that night. We need minutes right now."