While his return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament can be considered a success given Rajon Rondo has missed just one game and is the NBA leader in assists, the last two weeks have admittedly been a struggle.
Rondo has yet to solve his free throw shooting woes — 9 for 30 for the season — and in the last six games is 15 for 47 from the field (31.9 percent), 1 for 6 from the 3-point line, and has missed all six of his free throw attempts. He is averaging 8.3 points per game but just 5.2 in that stretch.
He also has committed 11 turnovers in the last two games, including a season-high seven in the 109-105 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday.
"I've not been myself," Rondo said. "I haven't been as aggressive. I turned the ball over. I say a lot of those losses I put on myself. I have to find a better rhythm."
Rondo and coach Brad Stevens said fatigue is not an issue. Rondo, who missed most of last season with the knee injury, has played no more than 37 minutes in a game this season, and the last time he played that much was Nov. 5.
"I really don't have the answer," Rondo said when asked about his lack of rhythm. "If I had it, I'd probably figure that out. I'm still confident in myself."
Stevens replaced Rondo with Evan Turner for a nine-second stretch of the fourth quarter of Wednesday's 109-102 overtime win over the Pistons when it was obvious that Detroit was going to foul. The Pistons fouled Turner with 19.4 seconds left in the quarter, and he sank both free throws. Rondo returned for the final play of regulation with the game tied.
Stevens would not say whether he replaced Rondo to avoid the guard being intentionally fouled.
"Evan is shooting what, 87 percent or something [92.3]?" Stevens said. "We were playing Rondo off the ball in some of the actions. We had Rondo run a cut to get him on a live dribble on a pick-and-roll to start the overtime, and he made a nice pass to [Jared Sullinger]. I took him out one time and immediately regretted it. I felt like I should have him back in."
Rondo was spotted eating breakfast with Lakers star Kobe Bryant on Thursday. The Lakers arrived in Boston early in preparation for Friday's matchup. Bryant said during his last visit that he would enjoy having Rondo as a teammate.
And after the Celtics' toughest loss of the season, in which they blew a 22-point lead against the Hawks, Rondo was greeted postgame by comedian Chris Tucker. The two took a picture and talked briefly in the Celtics' locker room.
"I know Chris personally," Rondo said. "He didn't throw any jokes. He was pretty cool. He asked about the family. He's a real nice guy."
Tucker was wearing a velour jacket, and Rondo was the one making the jokes.
"I sent him a text afterward and told him don't wear it again," Rondo said. "But he'll probably still wear it."
The Celtics sent rookies Marcus Smart, Dwight Powell, and James Young to NBADL Maine for Thursday's game against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. While Young and Powell had played in the D-League, it was Smart's first experience.
Smart played 28 minutes and scored 4 points in the Red Claws' 110-106 win, hitting just 1 of 12 shots, 0 for 8 on 3-pointers. Young led Maine with 31 points and Powell had 21.
Smart played five minutes in Wednesday's win over the Pistons. Stevens said afterward he didn't think Smart was ready after missing 3½ weeks with a badly sprained left ankle.
Smart did not practice before returning to action, and the D-League was expected to give him some seasoning before resuming his bench role. All three players are expected to be available against the Lakers.