BOSTON – There was growing speculation that injured Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo could possibly return to action Wednesday night to play in his team’s Game 5 matchup against the Boston Celtics. Rondo revealed Wednesday morning, however, that he would not be suiting up as he continues to nurse his fractured right thumb and a torn ligament in his right wrist.
The 31-year-old suffered the injury on April 18 during Chicago’s Game 2 win in Boston. He missed Games 3 and 4, and Boston took advantage of his absence by capturing both of those contests in Chicago and evening up the series at two wins apiece.
It appeared as if Rondo was trying to make a comeback, after he reportedly went through most of practice Tuesday, followed by an individual late-night workout. However, x-rays confirmed that his condition has not improved, and on top of that, he’s still experiencing significant swelling and soreness in the area of the injury.
“I can’t further damage my thumb,” Rondo told reporters Wednesday morning ahead of Chicago’s shootaround at TD Garden. “That’s my main concern, is my health – being able to play this summer and the following year. So when the doctors say I can play and not further injure my thumb, then I’ll probably consider playing again.”
Rondo’s teammates expressed disappointment Wednesday when they heard that their floor general would not be joining them on the court. They’ve suffered dearly without him running the offense over the last two games, but they say that their mindset will not waver when they take the floor for Game 5.
“It means the same thing even when he’s out there on the floor; we still need to win,” said forward Jimmy Butler. “After we dropped our last two we need to be better. Obviously he’d help us with that, but he’s not going to be out there with us.”
Instead, the Bulls will have to lean on reserve point guard Isaiah Canaan, who will step into a starting role for the first time this season.
Canaan was a significant contributor off the bench for Chicago during Sunday’s Game 4 loss, as he tallied 13 points, three assists and a pair of steals during 34 minutes of play. It was a major workload increase for the fourth-year guard who had registered 46 DNPs through the regular season and first three games of the series.
“Isaiah has done a great job of keeping himself prepared,” Fred Hoiberg said ahead of Game 5. “It’s what you talk to your guys about as far as keeping yourself ready when the opportunity presents itself. For him, it came in the Playoffs, which is tough to have your first meaningful action in months and go out there and try to make an impact. But Isaiah, I’m proud of the fact that he’s done a great job of keeping himself ready. He’s always putting in extra work for when his name is called and obviously it was the most important time of the year when that happened.”
In the meantime, Rondo is still hopeful to return for Game 6 or 7, so he will continue to participate lightly in drills.
“He’s just really trying to get a feel for the ball again,” said Hoiberg. “He’s going to do everything possible to get himself extra running just in case (he can play later in the series), but it is a long shot.”
Rondo added that it’s “too early to say” if he will be able to make a miraculous return, “but I just have to keep my conditioning up for anything that could happen.”