Rajon Rondo not ruling out opener

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said there's a possibility that Rajon Rondo could be ready for game action on opening night, but the point guard cautioned against setting a firm timeline while he recovers from a fractured left hand.

Rondo underwent a reevaluation last week that showed encouraging progress, but he has not been cleared for contact with nine days to go before the Celtics host the Brooklyn Nets to open the 2014-15 season on Oct. 29.

"I don't know. I still haven't had any contact yet," Rondo said when asked about playing on opening night. "The opener is a little bit over a week away. I don't want to set goals; I just want to go as my hand heals."

Rondo noted that he's a little more than three weeks removed from undergoing a surgical fixation of a left metacarpal fracture and that the bone has not healed completely. The team set a recovery timeline of six to eight weeks, but Rondo has hinted at times that he'd like to return sooner.

Once cleared for contact, which could come later this week, Rondo's comfort level with getting hit on the hand could dictate how soon he's game-ready.

"It doesn't bother me at all when I dribble the ball, catch the ball," Rondo said. "But it's night and day from trying to brace myself hitting the floor or going into the lane and somebody smacks my hand."

Rondo is investigating potential padding options that could alleviate any fear of drawing contact but said he must get any padding approved by the league. He said he had strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo simulate contact, but joked that "he's not an NBA player, so he's not as strong as those guys."

Rondo noted that the injury has not prevented him from engaging in conditioning activities, and he's often run through non-contact drills with the team to stay fresh with the playbook. Unlike his recovery from ACL surgery that limited his availability the past two seasons, Rondo expects to dive back in full tilt when the hand is healthy enough.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said recently Rondo is eager to return to game action, especially after being limited in recent seasons, but that the team has encouraged him to be patient.

Stevens was encouraged by Rondo's recent reevaluation.

"He had a scan on his hand and he's progressing great," Stevens said. "He obviously won't do any contact before the end of the week, but there's a chance that he could be cleared to do some stuff by the end of the week."

Does Stevens think Rondo could play on opening night?

"I think it's a possibility," Stevens said.

Rondo has been a consistent presence around the team during the preseason, including traveling to most road games. He's offered advice from the bench and is encouraged by improvements at both ends of the floor.

"I think our defense is pretty good," he said. "We're a good defensive team. And obviously this year we're shooting the 3 at a high level."