WALTHAM, Mass. -- As the Boston Celtics huddled after practice on Thursday afternoon, point guard Rajon Rondo stood slightly hunched with hands on his hips, trying to catch his breath. Rondo was at the center of some cardio-centric drills to close out an extended 90-minute workout with the goal of helping the All-Star guard get closer to game shape as part of the final stages of his rehab from ACL surgery.
Rondo raced up and down the court during sprint-heavy drills, tried to take charges as teammates attacked in odd-man breaks, and even dunked off his left leg at one point. He seemed to be pushing himself hard as Boston engaged in its first practice after a three-day holiday break.
After the team broke the post-practice huddle, Rondo recruited veteran Keith Bogans and launched into another half-hour shooting competition as assistant coach Ron Adams dutifully fed the pair, who bickered playfully over who was winning at each spot on the floor.
Rondo had said Sunday in Indianapolis that getting back in game shape is the biggest remaining hurdle for him after being off the court for 11 months while rehabbing from surgery on his right knee.
"I would agree with his assessment," said coach Brad Stevens. "But that’s not unusual when you haven’t played in  months. How do you get to be game-conditioned without a lot of game opportunity or without a lot of practice opportunity, and real game-like scenarios? We tried just a quick little drill at the end to help him with that a little bit and he was huffing and puffing. But that’s part of it. That’s part of why we did it, and especially after three days off."
But Stevens acknowledged that Boston's game-heavy schedule limits how much live action the team can do in practice. Rondo is going to have to find ways to simulate game action even when his teammates can't join him.
"I think a lot of that’s going to have to be on his own," said Stevens. "Again, that’s not atypical. We can do a little bit more, but you can’t wear your other guys down because it’s a long season for everybody."
A few more notes from the afternoon session:
BRADLEY, WALLACE BUMP KNEES: Neither Avery Bradley nor Gerald Wallace engaged in the final drills of practice after bumping knees during the session. Bradley got the worst of the collision, sporting an ice wrap above his right knee and receiving some treatment. Stevens didn't seem too concerned. "[Bradley] and Gerald bumped knees, but it doesn’t look like it’s anything major," he said.
BACK TO WORK: The Celtics took three days off after Sunday's loss in Indiana, but Stevens admitted basketball was on his mind during the break. And the three days went by pretty quick, which is good for a team on a three-game losing streak. "It’s really not a lot of days off in the big picture," said Stevens. "You’re not going to lose any conditioning in three days, you’re not going to lose any basketball feel. You’re not going to forget anything, so it’s not that big of a time. The biggest thing for me was identifying what we need to work on and trying to get better in those areas that we can control. Our defense slid a little bit in the last couple of games, but that’s all relative, because you’re only talking about a couple stops per game. Now the key is can you re-hone in and get those couple of stops per game."
FINDING THEIR FOCUS: Gerald Wallace said the Celtics might have launched into break-mode a little too early after getting trampled by the Pacers on Sunday. He wants the team to refocus moving forward. "It’s very, very rare that you get a break during Christmas. And we’re a young team, so I can pretty much see some of the guys kind of looking forward to it. Mostly, you only see that (during) the game before All-Star break, when guys are already looking to go on their break. It’s kind of typical. We put ourselves in a bind. We’re on a three-game losing streak. I think we came out today, we worked hard, we got better as a team. We understood what we did in Indiana ... the game could’ve been a lot better with effort. We’ve got a tough stretch coming up. We’ve just got to continue to get better."