With Rajon Rondo sidelined indefinitely, more pressure shifts to Jimmy Butler, Jerian Grant for Game 3

With Rajon Rondo sidelined indefinitely, more pressure shifts to Jimmy Butler, Jerian Grant for Game 3

The consistent theme in this Bulls season has been the presence of adversity, so with the team on the doorstep of an improbable outcome, Rajon Rondo's broken thumb seems to be par for a treacherous course.

Rondo will miss Game 3 and quite possibly the rest of the Bulls' first-round series against the Boston Celtics with the injury that puts his season and the Bulls' chances moving forward in these playoffs in jeopardy.

Should the Bulls advance to the second round, one would think it would increase the chance of a Rondo return, but a broken thumb is pretty severe and Rondo was already playing on an injured right wrist — his shooting hand.

Rondo dominated Game 2 with 11 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds in 40 minutes and is averaging a near triple-double in the first two games this series, with 8.5 rebounds to go with 11.5 points and 10 assists.

He didn't appear to show any ill effects at Thursday's practice but had his hand wrapped after his press conference following Game 2, a source told CSNChicago.com.

"When I saw him at practice I knew something was up. I was hoping it wasn't that," Jimmy Butler said. "But it's tough when any of your soldiers go down, man. Especially someone who wants to win as bad as he does, that studies the game and wants to do well by everybody like he does. It's definitely a loss for all of us. But damn. I mean, we wish we had him, but we don't. There's not too much more to say about it."

The Bulls found out the news late Thursday night and issued a statement shortly before letting the media into the morning shootaround, as Rondo was not present.

"It happened sometime in the third quarter," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "It sounds like he was swiping up for the ball. He either hit the ball or (Kelly) Olynyk's elbow and that's where the fracture occurred.

"It shows the toughness of Rajon Rondo to continue to fight through and battle and play pretty much the rest of that game. Last night, you could tell in talking to him that something wasn't right. Everybody who plays this game jams fingers and thumbs all the time. But he said this one was a little different. So to get the news last night was very tough."

[BULLS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

And it seemed as if the team knew it at the morning shootaround at the United Center, hours before taking the floor against a Celtics team that could suddenly have new life if it believes Rondo was the top reason for all the disruption in the first two games.

"Yeah, we're down one of our soldiers," Butler said. "But (Rondo) wouldn't be in here moping around. (Rondo) would be like, 'Yo, let's go.' That's what you have to do. We can't feel bad for ourselves now that one of our best players is gone. It's some big shoes to fill, but we've got to have it happen."

After all, seeing Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams doesn't inspire the same fear as "Playoff Rondo." Butler spoke in hushed tones about "Do" (sounds like "dough"), and it's hard to see how his absence won't affect this team's spirit.

"I didn't see that. I saw a group of guys who came in here with a lot of focus and were locked into the film session that we had and walkthrough we had on the floor," Hoiberg said. "You have to stay positive throughout this. Guys have confidence in Jerian and Michael."

Butler will likely shift over to take more ball-handling responsibilities, as he's done so much of in the regular season, but he'll also have to do a lion's share of guarding Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, whom Rondo has defended well with his length and physicality.

Grant will start, but Butler will be the main facilitator.

"We're going to miss him, the pace that he sets for the team, the leadership that he brings, and the way that he plays," Butler said. "We've still got to go out there. We're expected to win. We know what we're capable of. I guess we're doing this for him now.

"Without him it will be a little bit tougher, but everybody counted us out before anyway, so I think we'll be OK. I like the way we're playing. Everyone knows what's at stake, what we have to do. We're mixing it up, unfortunately, but I think they're ready."

Rajon Rondo declares himself out for Bulls-Celtics Game 5

Rajon Rondo declares himself out for Bulls-Celtics Game 5

BOSTON — Rajon Rondo is out tonight for Game 5 of the Bulls’ series against the Boston Celtics and if he is to be believed, an appearance in Game 6 or 7 doesn’t seem likely because “my finger is broken.”

If he is to be believed.

Rondo threw cold water on the report that he had a “secret workout” in the attempt to get back on the floor for Game 5 at TD Garden, saying he went to work on his floaters because he airballed one in practice Tuesday.

“No I’m not playing. I got an X-ray yesterday. The thumb is still the same. It’s still broke,” Rondo said. “I knew last week it wasn’t going to be fixed in a week. My finger is broken.”

Rondo being without a cast on his right hand was due to the wrist injury he suffered in the last remaining games of the regular season, when he tore ligaments and missed a few games.

Knowing his history of playing on a torn ACL and injured forearm, the expectation was that Rondo could find a way to play through the pain — which makes his words hard to completely take a face value, given the hard sell he presented to reporters.

“My thumb is the same as it was last week,” Rondo said. “I think I’m Wolverine but it hasn’t healed that quickly yet.”

As he reiterated time and time again, “my thumb is broken,” a statement he made almost incredulously considering the thought he could come back in a relatively quick time considering this injury occurred in Game 2.

And while the thumb is no longer discolored and looks to be close to its usual form, he still has to use a big cast on it and even when he practiced yesterday with the team he was using a lot of his left hand, according to people who were in attendance.

“Nothing. I can still dribble without it,” Rondo said. “Basic dribbling. But it’s still a big part of my game. I have a big cast on it while I’m playing so it’s not really effective.”

If he does decide to get out there in a clinching Game 6, he could risk further injury to his thumb, and due to the break occurring on the tip of his thumb, he can’t numb it up with a shot or a general painkiller.

He would have to have a wrap on it, and given the high stakes it would be a target for the Celtics players to slap at it to further injure it.

“I’m not worried about somebody else slapping it,” Rondo said. “I’m worried about the way I play — diving on the floor, trying to get my hand in on loose balls. I play on instincts. I can’t go in there with my finger tucked and trying to steal the ball. The game doesn’t work like that.”

“My finger is broke. I can’t go out there without anything. The slightest fall on the floor might further damage it. If I was to go out Game 7, 8, 9, I would probably have a wrap. I finished the game. My finger was broke in the third quarter.

“I can affect the game in different ways. But obviously the scouting report would be different, how they would play me. I might get hacked a couple times on the right side of my body. It could affect the entire hand. If I play, that won’t be my concern.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg seemed pretty amazed at the speculation that lasted all of 10 hours as the possibility of Rondo playing began to grow by the hour, but still calls it a “longshot”.

“He still has a broken bone in his thumb. He’s got a significant amount of swelling and he’s got a lot of soreness. So he’s out tonight,” Hoiberg said. “He is trying to increase his activity just in case by doing some extra running, and [Tuesday] was actually the first day he touched a ball with his right hand, so again, like I said [Tuesday[, it is a longshot.”

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox crush Royals; Cubs shutout Pirates; Bulls battle Celtics tonight on CSN

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox crush Royals; Cubs shutout Pirates; Bulls battle Celtics tonight on CSN

Here are some of the top Chicago sports stories from Tuesday: 

Five Things To Watch: Bulls battle Celtics in pivotal Game 5 on CSN

Preview: Cubs aim for sweep tonight on CSN

Three more hits for Leury Garcia as White Sox pound Royals

Kyle Hendricks outduels Gerrit Cole in Cubs win

Rajon Rondo return seems possible for Game 5

Clemson's Deshaun Watson is the one situation where a Bears reach has epic upside

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

NBA Buzz: Time for Fred Hoiberg to make adjustments for the Bulls

Duke chatter unlikely to stop, but newly extended Chris Collins wants to be at Northwestern: 'There's no reason for me to look elsewhere'

Teammates see Mike Glennon taking command of Bears offense