BOSTON -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens confirmed that there have been no unforeseen setbacks and Rajon Rondo will indeed make his 2013-14 season debut on Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, just shy of one year after tearing his ACL.
Rondo will be on a minute restriction aimed at limiting him to roughly five minutes per quarter.
"So we want to be right around the 20-minute mark, give or take," said Stevens. "I think it’s fair to temper our expectations because this is really still part of his rehab, in my opinion, because he’s on a limited block. And he hasn’t played in a competitive game for a long time. This will be a great opportunity for him and it’s great for us to have him back out on the floor with our team."
Stevens knows that, once he gets back on the floor, Rondo is going to want to stay there, so he reminded the player on Thursday night about the plan for his minutes.
"I think he’s going to want to play in every game, because he likes basketball and he hasn’t been able to play it for a while," said Stevens. "I talked to him yesterday about, 'When your adrenaline kicks in tonight, you’re going to want to play more. And we can’t do that.' That expectation has already been talked about."
Stevens said he's mapped out Rondo's minutes for the first half, but will play it by feel after the intermission. Even as a very even-keeled coach, Stevens admitted he's excited for Rondo's return to game action.
"I’m excited to have our best player on the court. I think that’s No. 1, right?" said Stevens. "But certainly he’s a guy that can make plays, he makes plays for others, he lifts up everybody else’s game. So, yeah, I am excited about that. Even from a fan perspective, I think it’s great when all the bodies are available and healthy. And [the Lakers have] gone through some of that with their star, and a couple of the other guys, we all as coaches and players and basketball fans want everybody out there on the court."
Stevens did keep it light when asked how the rest of the team will have to adjust to Rondo's return.
"I think our trainers are prepared for four jammed fingers and stitches in the eyes and everything else," joked Stevens. "Fans need to be ready, everybody around the court needs to have their hands up and ready. We’ve seen a little bit of that in practice, but the good news is he’s been practicing full-go for almost a month now, I don’t think our guys will be too surprised. But I think they now understand, you better be ready."
Jared Sullinger, who returned from back surgery at the start of the season, knows the adrenaline rush that comes with returning to game action. He hopes the Celtics can ride Rondo's energy.
"I think we’re going to feed off him tonight," said Sullinger. "When he’s going, I think we’re going to go as a team tonight. I think we’re going to take it to another level when he’s out there. It’s going to be fun. I heard he’s starting too as well, so I can’t wait to hear the roar when he comes back."
Rondo is the only change to the starting lineup as he'll pair with Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Kris Humphries and Jared Sullinger. The Celtics got another pair of reinforcements Friday in veteran big man Joel Anthony, acquired from Miami in this week's three-team trade, and D-League forward Chris Johnson, signed to a 10-day contract on Friday. Both are in uniform (Anthony will wear No. 50; Johnson is in No. 12) but Stevens suggested neither were likely to play given their lack of time with the team.