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Gary Washburn | On basketball

Celtics’ Rajon Rondo regained his aggressiveness

Rajon Rondo scored 12 points and had 16 assists Friday.Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports

Rajon Rondo’s game-by-game approach is as quirky as his game, and on Friday night he once again displayed the ability to drastically adjust after a recent stretch of passiveness that caused him to reflect.

He has been struggling with his free throw shooting, and that has affected his aggression driving to the basket. Rondo is at his absolute best when whipping the ball around and notching assists, but he can be painful to watch when the only time he shoots is forcing a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock.

Rondo works countless hours on his jump shot. It will never be automatic, or even close to that, but he has to shoot often enough to be respected. Recently, that hasn’t been the case. Opposing teams invite Rondo to shoot and he steadfastly declined the invitation — until Friday.


The most encouraging aspect of the Celtics’ 113-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers is that Rondo regained his aggressive nature, attempting 17 shots and scoring 12 points to go along with 16 assists in 31 minutes.

The All-Star point guard chided himself following Wednesday’s win over Detroit for his poor shooting and passiveness around the basket. Rondo can be several different players, depending on the night. On Wednesday, he was pass-at-all-costs Rondo, the one who amasses assists but does little more.

Brad Stevens saw that his floor leader had lost confidence in his offensive arsenal primarily because of his free throw shooting. And the two had an interesting chat Friday morning at the team’s practice facility.

“We met for a few minutes this morning after shootaround and I had a couple of thoughts that aren’t real brain surgery to share with him,” Stevens said. “But the main one was that I felt like he was waiting for the game to materialize around him more than just attacking the game, and so it was really good; I thought he attacked great tonight. And every time he shot it, I was like a fan saying, ‘Go in!’ right?


“He really played aggressive, and sometimes even though he didn’t make every shot, it sets the tone for how your team plays and it puts you in an attacking mind-set.”

Stevens doesn’t mind when Rondo shoots. He encourages Rondo to display his offense because it opens up the floor for his teammates.

The conversation the two shared is the latest in a growing relationship between coach and point guard. It began when Stevens traveled to Rondo’s basketball camp in Louisville, Ky., soon after accepting the Celtics job. The consensus was that if Stevens was going to succeed, he needed Rondo as his ally. And that if Rondo was going to stay in Boston long term, a strong bond with Stevens wouldn’t hurt his chances at re-signing.

So far, so good on both sides.

There was a perception that an arrogant Rondo would reject the guidance of Stevens because of the coach’s lack of NBA experience. After years of dealing with father figure Doc Rivers, Rondo wouldn’t respond well to someone so close to his age, especially a coach who had no concept of the intricacies of the NBA game.

Stevens has learned quickly, leaning on Rondo and unafraid to offer advice and suggestions.

“I don’t want to make it more than it is, that’s what coaches are supposed to do,” Stevens said. “They’re supposed to take time to talk to people, not just walk in, conduct a practice. I’ve had many of those meetings where a guy goes out and doesn’t play well. It has nothing to do with me. He clearly was disappointed in how he played Wednesday.”


Rondo acknowledged that the previous six games — 15 for 47 from the field (31.9 percent), 0 for 6 from the 3-point line, 5.2 points — affected him mentally. He was visibly disappointed following Wednesday’s win.

“I tried to stop thinking with my head so much; it can be a gift and a curse as far as a high basketball IQ,” he said. “I just want to go out there and let my instincts take over and make plays.”

While there has been recent speculation that Rondo will be the Lakers’ No. 1 free agent target next summer, the fact he and Stevens are close has made the possibility of returning to Boston more attractive. While Rivers at times wanted to strangle the mouthy Rondo because of his refusal to listen, Stevens and Rondo are more peers, exchanging ideas and trying to foster this rebuild — together.

“We have good conversations, we have great dialogue, our communication is great,” Rondo said. “We talk pretty much every day and he’ll call me on off days . . . We talk a lot. Even when we’re struggling, we always have communication. We always have to be on the same page.”


Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.