Rajon Rondo says the Celtics will “surprise a lot of people”

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The Boston Celtics are expected to be one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference this season. There’s a lot of uncertainty around Rajon Rondo as he enters his contract year following a season that was hampered by inconsistent play while he was recovering from a torn ACL. But Rondo has confidence in Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, and says if everybody buys in, Boston could be a sleeper team.

From NESN:

“Even though it’s a different level, he’s had success at the college level (at Butler),” point guard Rajon Rondo said Thursday, via TNT NBA analyst David Aldridge. “I think the thing for any successful team is to buy in. He has us all believing in what his plan is. If we continue to do that, I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”

It’s probably wishful thinking. Not only is it unlikely the Celtics will make the playoffs, there’s a good chance Rondo won’t even be on the roster by the end of the season. He’s coming up on free agency next summer and slated to miss the beginning of the season with a broken hand. The injury could kill his trade value, but don’t be surprised if Danny Ainge moves him by February’s deadline.

Plus, the Celtics’ roster is incredibly thin. Rookie point guard Marcus Smart is a promising talent but the rest of the team is a mix of over-the-hill veterans (Gerald Wallace) and young players who may not be rotation players on a playoff team (Kelly Olynyk).

Then again, people said the same thing about last year’s Phoenix Suns, who won 48 games in the tough Western Conference and almost made the playoffs after being widely projected to finish near the bottom of the league standings at the beginning of the year. So it’s not inconceivable that Stevens lights such a fire under this Celtics team that they make a run to become this year’s out-of-nowhere playoff team. I’m just not betting on it.