Rajon Rondo is on the road to recovery, but the New Orleans Pelicans point guard is expected to miss at least another two weeks.
Rondo said he immediately felt his left core muscle injury, which occurred Oct. 6 during a preseason loss and forced him to undergo surgery Oct. 9. The Pelicans' initial timeline said Rondo would likely to miss four to six weeks to fully heal and return to the floor.
On Thursday, coach Alvin Gentry provided a possible return date of Nov. 17 but was vague in whether that's a realistic goal or merely a checkpoint for progress. Rondo didn’t confirm the Nov. 17 return and wasn’t certain exactly when he would join the Pelicans, but he insisted it will rely on how he’s feeling, rather than a particular date.
The 31-year old said he doesn’t intend to rush back, preferring this injury be the last health issue to sideline him for a game this season. Regardless, it doesn’t appear he will suit up during the Pelicans’ four-game, seven-day road trip, starting against the Dallas Mavericks at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“I’m probably about 57 percent,” Rondo said with a smirk. “So, I’m getting better. Each day I feel a little bit stronger. I can’t do much right now in my core, so I’m just kind of waiting on that to respond.”
Rondo said he’s still building his lateral movement back to full speed but is able to move up and down the floor well. He’s a fixture on the practice courts at the Ochsner Performance Center and Smoothie King Center, crafting his shooting and working with coaches.
But he’s not running full speed and even when Rondo returns, Gentry doesn’t expect him to fully take over the reins of the offense immediately.
“It’s going to take him a while because of that whole thing about being in basketball shape,” Gentry said. “He hasn’t been able to run a whole lot, and being on the bike is great, but it’s not the same as being on the court. So it’s going to take him a while to adjust. But we are excited to get him back.”
In the meantime, Rondo has served as a de facto assistant coach, sitting near Gentry on the bench, barking out signals to teammates and huddling them up from time to time to discuss what he’s seeing.
Rondo is optimistic about what he’s witnessed thus far, despite the Pelicans' 3-5 record and consecutive home losses. Still, he understands his own presence would provide a boost.
“I think we are doing a pretty good job with pace, but I pride myself on setting the pace and starting the tempo of the game on both ends of the floor,” Rondo said. “It’s not just offense but defense as well. I look forward to try to get back to help my team, when I do get back. But from the sidelines, as of now I just try to talk to the guards and the bigs about how to communicate on the floor.”
Rondo also is learning how to be patient, waiting for his body to fully recover and allow him to return to the lineup at full speed. Not that they couldn’t use him sooner.
The Pelicans rank 25th in turnover rate and were bit particularly hard during the past two losses, surrendering 19 turnovers in consecutive games to decimate their offensive efficiency.
It’s an area Rondo and his 6,075 career assists can help alleviate, but he doesn’t want to rush his way back on the floor and put himself at risk.
“It’s a marathon,” Rondo said. “I can’t get out there and sprint with these guys. I want to play the rest of the 63 or 60-plus games or however many I can play. I don’t want to come back and play two games and then be out another two weeks.”