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Rondo returns to Celtics Friday. With a minutes restriction, but he returns.

Jan 17, 2014, 11:42 AM EDT

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

Rajon Rondo is back.

For about five minutes a quarter, but he is back.

After missing basically a year with a torn ACL, the Celtics’ All-Star point guard is set to return Friday against the Lakers to the Boston lineup — a lineup that is very different than the one he was last on the court with. Now the Celtics are rebuilding, gone are Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Which begs the question: Can Rondo step up and be the No. 1 option for this team? Is he a true franchise piece they can rebuild around?

That question isn’t going to be answered Friday night or in the next weeks as Rondo plays himself back into NBA shape, Rondo is going to be on a minutes limit keeping him under 20 to start. But even so everyone around the Celtics expects Rondo to instantly make them better, they told A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.

“He hasn’t played basketball for a year,” Ainge said. “What I’ve seen throughout my professional basketball career, the ACL injury is something that every player has to overcome, coming back mentally not just physically.

Ainge added, “So I anticipate some adjustments, just getting used to playing and feeling confident in playing and returning to the player he was. I do think he will get there. If that means a week, a month, I don’t know what.”

“He’s a competitor,” Humphries said. “It’s great to have that competitive spirit in practice. His team wins most of the time even when he wasn’t 100 percent.”

Rondo’s playmaking, his aggressive style and his defense will instantly improve the Celtics on the court. Which could end up hurting the quest for lottery Ping-Pong balls, but that’s another issue.

With is return there will be trade talk around Rondo again, as there always seems to be. That wasn’t going to happen if he wasn’t back on the court.

For Boston what to do with Rondo comes back to if he really is a No. 1, franchise cornerstone option for the franchise. If so, you can’t let him go (unless you get another elite cornerstone in return). If not, then you have to think about what you can get that would help the rebuilding. Or, Ainge has to see if he can use Rondo to help recruit another star. Rondo’s contract runs through the summer of 2015, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s a long way off, there’s a lot of basketball between now and then — and it starts Friday night. In limited minutes.

  1. sellahh - Jan 17, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    Misses 12 months. Returns against my Lakers.
    Perfect! Your tank ain’t got no **** on us Boston.

  2. phaden27 - Jan 17, 2014 at 1:50 PM

    Just glad he’s back. Tanking season or no, (Definitely a tanking season), It’ll be good to have him back out on the floor.

  3. lenbias34pt - Jan 17, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    Rondo is 27 and has played 1 complete 81 game NBA season.
    He’ll be traded in the next 3 weeks.

    • 1historian - Jan 17, 2014 at 5:04 PM

      Every GM in the league will be watching him over the next month or so. If he’s healthy he’ll be good trade bait.

      His present contract expires in 2 seasons – he might not want to be part of a long term rebuilding project.

    • 1historian - Jan 17, 2014 at 5:06 PM

      One more thing – the Celts could hold on to him until this summer. If they get 2 good players in the draft and if they get one quality FA Rondo might stick around.

    • andyhr17 - Jan 17, 2014 at 7:53 PM

      Yes, because other teams trade for players 3 weeks after coming back from ACL surgery. You’re also an idiot in general if you think they’re trading him. Most people’s logic on here though is “I DON’T LIKE RONDO THE CELTICS WILL TRADE HIM”

    • j0esixpack - Jan 18, 2014 at 2:37 PM

      As a Celtics fan I can go either way on that.

      Ainge already has enough free money for free agents and enough draft picks to use and/or trade for players.

      Basically Ainge has given himself enough ammunition to rebuild the team pretty quickly. If that includes Rondo, so be it. If it doesn’t, I’m fine with that too.

      If they don’t trade him that bodes better for rebuilding within 2-3 years. I will be somewhat surprising if Rondo agrees to wait for a team to be built around him, but then again, they’re going to have to make him a maximum contract player – and he may be content to stay with the Celts.

      All that being said, in basketball, some guys never return to form after a knee injury – so Ainge will be watching Rondo as much as anyone else.

  4. jcmeyer10 - Jan 17, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    In a down season this and the Nets coming to Boston were the only things I could count on.

  5. coachjac30 - Jan 17, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    I thought they were planning on trading him (and was hoping so also) but the fact they announced him as the captain tonight tells me they are planning on trying to build around him

  6. henryd3rd - Jan 18, 2014 at 2:45 AM

    Let thCan you spell rebuilding and draft picks?

  7. ranfan12 - Jan 19, 2014 at 3:53 AM

    Surprised no one was talking about pau gasol and his obviously terrific stats. He’ll be first to blame if they lost though lol

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