One of the major storylines so far in the Bulls-Celtics playoff series is the stellar play of point guard Rajon Rondo while the Bulls won two games in Boston.
Well, scratch that. That Bulls announced Friday morning Rondo is out indefinitely with a broken right thumb.
The Bulls said the injury does not require surgery. Maybe there's a possibility he tapes it up and plays, but there's a better chance Rondo doesn't play again in this series.
"He'll be re-evaluated in probably the next week to 10 days," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after Friday's shootaround. "He has a cast. He'll get the cast off next week. We'll redo an X-ray and see how he's doing."
Jimmy Butler talked about getting the bad news Friday morning.
"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.
"It's definitely a loss for all of us. We wish we had him, but we don't. There's not too much more to say about it."
There's not much Hoiberg can do besides send in backup point guards Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams. Grant will start Game 3, Carter-Williams will come off the bench, while Cameron Payne will be active for the first time in this series.
The injury happened during Tuesday's Game 2 in Boston, but there was virtually no evidence of Rondo being injured, either late in the game or during the past two off days.
"It happened sometime in the third quarter," 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."
In the first two games of this series, Rondo averaged 11.5 points, 10 assists and 8.5 rebounds. He tied the Bulls franchise record for assists in a playoff game with 14 in Game 2.
Rondo spent the first nine years of his NBA career playing for the Celtics and there was so much talk in Boston about how the familiar "Playoff Rondo" had returned. Dwyane Wade talked about how Rondo knew all the plays when they faced off three times in Miami-Boston playoff series, and the same thing seemed to be happening here.
Hoiberg was asked if the players seemed deflated by the bad news.
"I didn't see that," he said. "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 walk-through we had on the floor. You have to stay positive throughout this. Guys have confidence in Jerian and Michael. They've been in these situations over the course of the year and stepped up and played very well. Hopefully that will continue to happen the rest of the series."
Not only has Rondo done a nice job of facilitating the Bulls' offense, he's also spent the most time guarding Celtics leading scorer Isaiah Thomas. Carter-Williams is the better defender of the two backup point guards, while Grant is a more reliable outside shooter. It's also possible the Bulls would ask Butler to spend more time guarding the 5-foot-9 Thomas.
"Rajon's experience in these types of settings is invaluable," Hoiberg said. "To miss that now with him being out, most likely for the rest of the series, it does put some extra responsibility on some guys. Again, we've been through this. We had other guys that have had to step up in players' absences."
Hoiberg said it was too soon to tell if Rondo would be able to play if the Bulls advance to the second round of the playoffs. The Bulls will try to build on their 2-0 series lead tonight at the United Center, with a 6 p.m. tipoff time.
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