- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- As the Celtics prepare for the first real game without Rajon Rondo, who was diagnosed with a season-ending ACL tear during Sunday's double-overtime win over the Miami Heat, coach Doc Rivers said his team is ready for the challenge.
Even if he'd still prefer to have his All-Star point guard available.
"I’d rather have him. But the coach in me, and the players in [the locker room], they understand that they don’t have him," said Rivers. "And so it’s another challenge, and I think everyone will be up for it."
How will the Celtics' offense adapt without Rondo?
"For us, it’s gotta be our ball movement. We don’t have a guy any more that’s talented enough to hold the ball and create plays with his eyes and orchestrate. That’s just not who we are. When you don’t have a shot, or you don't have a play, then you have to make a quicker decision to move the ball. Other than that, that’s it, it’s that simple."
Asked if he expected Rondo around the team during his rehab, Rivers said he'd leave that decision to Rondo.
"I just want him to do what he needs to do," said Rivers. "I think it’s very hard to come to every game. I had that same injury and there’s days you want to be around the guys and there are days you don’t. I think you have to give him room to do what he wants."
A handful of other pregame notes:
* NOT-SO SULLEN SULLINGER: Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger wasn't overly upset with not being selected to the nine-player rookie pool for next month's Rising Stars Challenge at the All-Star game in Houston. "I really don't care," said Sullinger. "That's pretty much it. I really don't care. It doesn't make me or break me." Sullinger said he'd simply take advantage of the downtime. What about using it as motivation? "Nah, you've just got to play. You've just got to play. That's what I do," he said.
* MELO ON THE MEND: Celtics rookie Fab Melo was in the locker room before Wednesday's game after being recalled in order to be tended to by the training staff. "I was playing pretty good with the Red Claws and I got hurt on my left quad," said Melo. "That's why I came here, to get treatment. And hopefully I'm going to stay for the next two weeks. Hopefully it'll be a good week for me." Melo was also wearing a splint over a dislocated finger. It's a finger injury, but the team is hoping the splint helps aid the rehab. "It was treated for a while, but it wasn't going normal, so they're going to try the splint." As for the concussion that served as a speed bump in his development in December, Melo noted he's had "no problem at all." With only 12 healthy bodies on the roster, Melo is able to dress for games if the team desires.
* KISSING COUSINS: Rivers offered praise for Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. "I like him, he’s a good player," said Rivers. "He’s just savvy. The one thing with Cousins, I don’t think he’s a great athlete, he’s just really skilled. And he’s really savvy. He’s a heck of a passer. I think people get lost in all the other stuff, and they don't give him enough credit for his basketball IQ." Rivers was likewise complimentary of the Kings as a whole, particularly after the December beatdown that Boston endured out west: "When their talent is activated, they are hard to beat. We found that our in Sacramento, first-hand. Actually, the last two times in Sacramento. They are talented young team and with that talent, they have nights where they get all activated and all together as a group and they are really good."
* LOPEZ TAKES RONDO'S SPOT: NBA commissioner David Stern named Brooklyn center Brook Lopez to replace injured Rondo in the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston.
13dKevin Pelton and Chad Ford