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.”

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

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

Watch as the Bulls take on the Boston Celtics today in Game 5 on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. And be sure to stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live-streaming coverage of the Bulls.

1. Point guards need to be better. It’ll be Isaiah Canaan starting Game 5 at the point for the Bulls now that Rajon Rondo officially has been ruled out, but their game plan can’t be to have Canaan play 34 minutes again. That means one of Jerian Grant or Michael Carter-Williams is going to have to give the Bulls some semblance of good run at times early in the second and fourth quarters. And that’s assuming Canaan can replicate Game 4’s performance.

2. Perfect time for a Jimmy Butler takeover game. Jimmy Butler has been good, not great, in this series. And for a No. 8 seed to upset a No. 1 seed, the eight seed’s best player needs to be great. Butler is shooting just 41 percent – and 24 percent from deep – despite averaging nearly 25 points per game. This could be a game where he decides to take over. When he does that (and is hitting jumpers), he’s unstoppable and can win a game himself.

3. Niko, Portis or Zipser? The Bulls wouldn’t have won Game 1 without Bobby Portis, and they would have had a much tougher time closing things out had Paul Zipser not gone for 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting. One of those two, or the struggling Nikola Mirotic, needs to step up in a big way for the Bulls, especially with Rajon Rondo out and Dwyane Wade struggling.

4. Is this now Isaiah Thomas’ series? With the Celtics going small Isaiah Thomas appears to have found his way offensively. He was dynamite in Games 1 and 2 with one of Gerald Green or Marcus Smart in the small-ball lineup. The Bulls don’t have enough options to throw at him when he’s on his game. There’s a reason he’s an MVP candidate, and if he decides this series is over the Bulls can’t match him.

5. The series is on the line. The Bulls are eight-point underdogs heading into Game 5, and the series is essentially on the line. A loss tonight means the Bulls need a win Friday at home AND a Game 7 road win in Boston against the top team in the East (record-wise). That just isn’t feasible. The season is on the line, and you can bet Fred Hoiberg has told his team as much – as if they needed to be told.

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Rajon Rondo return seems possible for Game 5

Rajon Rondo return seems possible for Game 5

Calling a Rajon Rondo return likely would be a bit strong, but it’s certainly become a possibility in the last 24 hours as the Bulls traveled to Boston before Game 5 of their first-round series against the Celtics.

Rondo participated in Tuesday morning’s practice before the team departed to Boston, going through five-on-five scrimmages to test his broken right thumb he suffered in Game 2 in Boston.

Multiple sources confirmed to CSNChicago.com Rondo has been making progress with the aim to get back on the floor sooner rather than later, but the probability of a Game 5 return hasn’t been determined yet. A report from ESPN stated Rondo staged a private workout in Boston to further test the thumb.

One source described it as Rondo playing with one hand in practice, which would in theory make him an easy target for the Celtics if he returns, considering his right hand is his dominant one.

Most have said it's too early to call while one source tells CSNChicago.com that “If he can play he will," while the fact the Bulls haven’t released an injury report has added to the intrigue of an already wild playoff series.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said before practice that Rondo is out “as far as we know right now," a statement that certainly seems intentionally ambiguous in hindsight.

If he returned it would be a remarkable turnaround considering one of Rondo’s teammates called his thumb injury the "worst I’ve ever seen in my career," leading to cautious words from Hoiberg.

“This is honestly the first time he has touched a basketball with that right hand. We’ll see how it goes. He’s going to continue to condition and do everything he can,” Hoiberg said. “Just watching him wince a little bit when the ball was coming to him makes me think it’s a longshot. But if there’s anybody who can do it and will try to fight through it, it’s Rondo because of the competitor he is.”

Rondo said he couldn’t grip a fork with his right hand, let alone a basketball when he spoke to the media this weekend, and the official diagnosis stated he would be evaluated between 7-10 days, pushing things right between Games 6 and 7, if it gets to a decisive seventh game in Boston.

Hoiberg plans to start Isaiah Canaan at point guard, as the Bulls have lost the last two games after jumping out to a surprising 2-0 lead, mostly on the strength of Rondo’s leadership.

Rondo was seen shooting with his left hand before practice began and had a light brace surrounding his right hand. He missed a handful of games late in the regular season with a right wrist injury, so he’s not just nursing one serious injury but a moderate one as well.

“He’s our floor general out there,” Jimmy Butler said. “He knows everything, knows every matchup, every position, and he’s still helping over there from the bench, but we really want him healthy and out there for us.”