Rondo returns to Celtics Friday. With a minutes restriction, but he returns.

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Rajon Rondo is back.

For about five minutes a quarter, but he is back.

After missing basically a year with a torn ACL, the Celtics’ All-Star point guard is set to return Friday against the Lakers to the Boston lineup — a lineup that is very different than the one he was last on the court with. Now the Celtics are rebuilding, gone are Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Which begs the question: Can Rondo step up and be the No. 1 option for this team? Is he a true franchise piece they can rebuild around?

That question isn’t going to be answered Friday night or in the next weeks as Rondo plays himself back into NBA shape, Rondo is going to be on a minutes limit keeping him under 20 to start. But even so everyone around the Celtics expects Rondo to instantly make them better, they told A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.

“He hasn’t played basketball for a year,” Ainge said. “What I’ve seen throughout my professional basketball career, the ACL injury is something that every player has to overcome, coming back mentally not just physically.

Ainge added, “So I anticipate some adjustments, just getting used to playing and feeling confident in playing and returning to the player he was. I do think he will get there. If that means a week, a month, I don’t know what.”

“He’s a competitor,” Humphries said. “It’s great to have that competitive spirit in practice. His team wins most of the time even when he wasn’t 100 percent.”

Rondo’s playmaking, his aggressive style and his defense will instantly improve the Celtics on the court. Which could end up hurting the quest for lottery Ping-Pong balls, but that’s another issue.

With is return there will be trade talk around Rondo again, as there always seems to be. That wasn’t going to happen if he wasn’t back on the court.

For Boston what to do with Rondo comes back to if he really is a No. 1, franchise cornerstone option for the franchise. If so, you can’t let him go (unless you get another elite cornerstone in return). If not, then you have to think about what you can get that would help the rebuilding. Or, Ainge has to see if he can use Rondo to help recruit another star. Rondo’s contract runs through the summer of 2015, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s a long way off, there’s a lot of basketball between now and then — and it starts Friday night. In limited minutes.