BOSTON -- Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant knows what it's like to be a ring-wearing, injury-rehabbing player on a rebuilding team, so he knows what Rajon Rondo is enduring, both while returning to game action and navigating this murky transition process.
"It’s frustrating," said Bryant. "But from what I understand, he’s an a------ like me, so I think he’ll manage."
Apprised of Bryant's remarks, Rondo noted, "That’s a great compliment coming from Kobe. I feel the same way about him."
Bryant is traveling with the Lakers and had a front-row seat as some less familiar names unleashed a 3-point barrage that helped the Lakers spoil Rondo's 2013-14 debut as part of a 107-104 triumph Friday night at TD Garden.
Bryant, who is battling a knee fracture after working his way back from an Achilles tear, said it was nice to see Rondo getting back on the court.
"It’s never good to have one of the top players in the league go down," said Bryant. "We all know the excitement that he brings. Some of the numbers that he puts up are staggering numbers. It’s good to have him back on the floor."
Rondo finished with eight points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals and a turnover during 19 minutes, 25 seconds of floor time in Friday's loss. He looked rusty early, battled his wind later and his night culminated with a missed 3-pointer with a chance to force overtime.
Bryant is well aware of the obstacles Rondo will face in getting acclimated.
"Rhythm is always the biggest adjustment, just getting your game legs back," said Bryant. "It’s one thing to train and to run and to do what you have to do, but when you step on that basketball court, to play at game speed is a little different."
Bryant will have his ailing left knee re-evaluated in February but said the Lakers' struggles won't dictate when he returns to action. He's making the most of his free time, dropping into classes at Boston College on Thursday evening after the Lakers arrived into town.
"It’s interesting, because, obviously, I’ve been doing a lot of international marketing the past 15 years," explained Bryant. "So to actually sit in a classroom and hear the terminology, the proper terminology, from the things that I’ve been doing, it’s pretty cool."
Some additional notes after the Lakers rallied late to top the Celtics:
RAISED ON CELTICS-LAKERS: Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he developed a passion for basketball watching the Boston-L.A. rivalry growing up in the 1980s. "As a kid, that’s my introduction to the NBA," said the 37-year-old Stevens. "It seemed like every Sunday, the Celtics and Lakers were on. I know they weren’t on that often, but it certainly felt that way. Obviously, growing up in the state of Indiana, the Celtics having that Indiana tie [in Larry Bird], and an amazing history between the two teams and obviously that’s continued well beyond the '80s. That’s one of my early memories of NBA basketball." Did he secretly root for Boston because of Bird? "No, I loved both. Here’s what I liked: It was hard-nosed, tough, together basketball. In that time of your life, you’re kinda looking and finding your passions. Nothing fed the passion like watching those teams play, and I’ve spoken about growing up in the state of Indiana and just basketball in general what it means. That just added the fuel, it was really fun to watch."
FROM A DISTANCE: The Lakers shot a scorching 60 percent beyond the 3-point arc, making 12 of 20 attempts from distance. Los Angeles connected on 7 of 9 attempts in the fourth quarter alone with a trio of triples helping erase a late eight-point deficit. Said Stevens: "The 3-point line killed us. That was the difference in the game. ... When you shoot 12-for-20 from 3, you’re going to win most of those times. [The Lakers] had guys, to their credit, that stepped up and really made big ones. We all know that Ryan Kelly coming in can shoot the basketball. That said, he’s 2-for-15 coming into the game from 3, so for him to come in and [score 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting] is really impressive. For Manny Harris to come straight from the D-League to knock that 3 in, that’s really impressive. Kendall Marshall, who, at one point in time, people would have said that shooting was the thing he needed to work on most, and he’s 4-of-5 from 3. You have to credit those guys for that. Because none of those guys probably have felt like NBA locks. They’ve really worked to put themselves in position to get here, and I respect that greatly. They made big plays against us tonight."
JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS: With 16.2 seconds remaining in a one-point game, Gerald Wallace forced a jump ball that gave Boston a chance to gain possession. On the initial jump, Wesley Johnson appeared to swat the ball out of bounds, but the replay was inconclusive (it's unclear whether Wallace's fingertips glanced the ball after Johnson made contact) and referees requested a second jump, which the Lakers won, forcing the Celtics to foul. Asked after the game about the jump ball, Stevens steered clear of talking his way into trouble, offering simply, "[The referees] didn’t tell me anything other than I saw both thumbs go up and I moved on to the next play." For his part, Wallace said of the first jump ball, "I didn't touch it."
NATIONAL EXPOSURE: With Rondo back in the lineup, the Celtics are gaining some national interest. NBA TV picked up Tuesday's game, when the Celtics visit the champion Miami Heat.