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Rajon Rondo predicts late January, early February return

Dec 23, 2013, 10:24 AM EDT

Los Angeles Clippers Vs. Boston Celtics At TD Garden Getty Images

Rajon Rondo is back on the practice court with his Boston Celtics, but he’s still a ways away from a return.

Rondo spoke to the media after the Celtics were routed by the Indiana Pacers Sunday and for the first time gave a vague timeline for his return, reports A. Sherrod Blakely at CSNNE.com.

“My endurance is key for me,” he told reporters after Boston’s 106-79 loss at Indiana on Sunday. “I don’t want to come back and not be fully 100 percent as far as my health and me being in shape as well. The worst thing for me is to not be in shape and have another injury. I want to make sure I’m in basketball condition shape.”

After initially telling reporters a January return was not realistic for his return, he later said that, “it might be mid-January, late February. I’m going to come back when the time is right and when I get my stamina.”

So the second half of January, or maybe February. Rondo is giving himself a big window — but he’s allowed to do that.

It’s not about this season for Boston, who have lost three straight and slipped to 12-17 on the season, surrendering their Atlantic Division lead to Toronto (who doesn’t want it either). Brad Stevens and his team are not tanking, but if they make the playoffs even with Rondo back they are first round fodder for even teams like the Hawks or Wizards.

It’s about next season and the five after that for Rondo and the Celtics. He needs to be right and feel comfortable, then he still can’t be pushed too hard — do I really need to point out the star players who just came back from major injuries only to be lost for again with another one? Slow is good.

Rondo is no doubt one of the top point guards in the game (and that’s saying something considering the depth at that position around the league now). Slow and steady. Don’t return until he feels ready. That can take as long as he needs.

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