WALTHAM, Mass. -- Courtney Lee won't deny the coincidence in timing between his one-on-one meeting with Celtics coach Doc Rivers and the recent uptick in his production on the court.
Coming off of two of his most impressive outings of the season, Lee admitted after practice on Monday that he met with Rivers roughly a week ago to discuss in more detail what his specific role with this team is and how he can better fill it moving forward. Rivers' overarching message was pretty simple: Play more, think less.
"I think I was going out there not thinking as much, just playing aggressive, and that's what Doc wanted me to do," Lee said. "It took him to sit down and talk to me to realize that, so from now on, that's how I'm going to go out there and approach it."
"He just told me to go out there and stop thinking so much. He said, 'We want you to be aggressive.' He said, 'We know you're going to play hard on the defensive end, we just need you to play with the same energy and focus on the offensive end.' I mean, that was enough said right there."
Lee said some of his early-season struggles centered on him not knowing how best to impact a game. He already knew defense was his starting point, but what about the other end? Should he focus on one specific aspect, the way Jared Sullinger gravitates toward rebounding, for example? Should be strive for an all-around effort each game? As it turns out, worrying about the approach took away from the final product. In Rivers' eyes, Lee simply playing aggressive on both ends of the floor would translate to productivity of all varieties and help the Celtics win.
"I was just trying to find things to go out there and help the team out in, whether it be rebounding, defense, and trying to get steals and whatnot," Lee said. "But now, like I said, speaking with Doc, we have a clear understanding, so now I can just go out there and play freely now."
Rivers wasn't at practice Monday to give his take on Lee's adjustments, but assistant coach Armond Hill pointed to Lee boasting a more aggressive mindset in recent games.
"His transition -- people have to understand how fast he is in transition," Hill said. "He’s getting two or three layups or and-ones per game. Defensively he’s been terrific, getting back in defensive transition. So he’s playing a little bit -- I’d say a little bit harder at both ends of the floor, and he’s playing -- Doc had mentioned -- like he was as a rookie. You can see that speed and that enthusiasm."
While no one on the Celtics was thrilled with the two-game suspension Rajon Rondo endured as a result of his scuffle with Nets forward Kris Humphries in last Wednesday's loss to Brooklyn, a silver lining might be the added minutes that were handed over to Lee. He played a then-season-high 37 minutes in Friday's win over Portland (10 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals), and topped that by playing 39 minutes in Saturday's loss to Milwaukee (13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists). He started in place of Rondo and admitted that he had more freedom to play aggressively and not worry so much about any mistakes he might make.
"[Playing more minutes will] help anybody out because you know that you're going to be out there playing a lot of minutes, so you can play through your mistakes, you can play aggressively, and then you're going to have a lot of reps at it," Lee said.
More importantly, the fresh dose of minutes gave Lee the freedom to exercise on the court the discussion he had with Rivers. Seeing the results with added court time helped instill in him the confidence he'll need to do the same when his minutes go back to where they were before Rondo was suspended. His goal now is to harness that same mindset in a more limited role.
"It's not hard at all," Lee said of getting his old role back. "Just whenever you get out there and the minutes that you get, you've got to perform, and that's my mindset when I get out there. Just be as aggressive as possible.
"You get in the game, you get in the game. All that matters is that you're in the game, so you've got to make the most of it when you get that opportunity. So, like I said, I'm just going to go out there, just focus on the things that I've been doing, and playing aggressive."