Rondo, sidelined since suffering a sprained left ankle in the fourth quarter of a win over the New York Knicks on Dec. 15, warmed up on the court before the game, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he's simply not ready to return to action yet.
"He’s just not ready; He’s close though," said Rivers. "He’s getting better. He’ll be back soon, maybe the next game or game after, we just don’t know yet. But he’ll be back soon."
The Celtics had hoped Rondo could be back on the floor for Friday's showdown with Chris Paul and the Hornets, but they have exercised great caution with all of their injured players this season. Combined with the absence of Kevin Garnett (strained calf) and Kendrick Perkins (knee), Boston is now playing without three starters from its familiar starting 5.
Rivers admitted the team is in survival mode, but didn't want to hear anyone feeling sorry for themselves.
"It’s tough, but we have to make do," said Rivers. " I told our guys that today, we don’t need anyone feeling sorry for us... We really don’t need that.
"I heard a couple guys say we need guys to step up. I said, ‘We don't need anyone to step up, we just need you to step into your role and do what you do.' I think what happens, guys do try to do more -- more than their ability and that’s why you lose games. We just need guys to step into who they are, be who they are and win a home game. Right now we are a game-to-game team and that’s all we can be with all the injuries we have. But we have to be a game-to-game team that’s trying to win game."
Rivers said the team will get a small boost as rookie center Semih Erden is feeling better after missing the last three games due to a stomach bug and should add depth to a Garnett-less frontcourt.
As expected, Glen Davis will move into the starting role, leaving Jermaine O'Neal to shoulder the load with that second unit losing a player in Davis who has played his way into the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year through the first two months of the season.
Davis has been in this role before and Rivers cautioned him about trying to do too much.
"Not just Glen, but everyone," said Rivers. "That’s human nature, you start counting up the shots that Rondo takes or has the ball, and Kevin, and say, ‘Alright, I can do those,’ instead of being who you are. That way our team can function better. We’re going to win games for this period of time being a team, we’re not going to win any other way."
A couple other quick hits from pregame:
* Rivers on the relief from Garnett's MRI: "I was excited, yeah. Listen, I didn't think think it was [a severe injury], but you don't know. An MRI scares you. I think that's why we all played [during Rivers' playing days], there were no MRIs. Now, you find out that things are broke that you didn't know you had. It's good, obviously. Even though we thought that it wouldn't be a major injury, you just never know when they get inside of you."
* Rivers on if Garnett will have any sort of mental hurdle to overcome with this injury: "No, this is not a hard one. I mean, you never know. But this is not coming back from surgery. This is a [strained] muscle. He'll be fine."
* Ray Allen said he wasn't even aware of the Garnett diagnosis, but figured it wasn't anything catastrophic when he saw him walking off the team plane coming back from Detroit. Allen downplayed the fact that Boston might have been mentally zapped in Wednesday's loss to the Pistons because of Garnett's injury, suggesting the team simply needed to play better regardless of available bodies.