DALLAS -- Rajon Rondo developed a reputation for being stubborn and somewhat stuck in his ways in Boston, but he’s been more than willing to follow directions in Dallas.
The pass-first point guard’s performance in Friday night’s 102-98 win over the Los Angeles Lakers proved that.
“Coach has been telling me to be aggressive,” Rondo said. “I haven’t been scoring as much in the past in Boston, but here he told me to be a little bit more aggressive.”
In his fourth game since joining the Dallas Mavericks in a blockbuster deal, Rondo scored a season-high 21 points on 10-of-17 shooting, mixing in a few jump shots with several drives to the basket. He also had eight rebounds and seven assists.
The rebounds and assists won’t surprise anyone. After all, Rondo leads the NBA in assists (10.5 per game) and all guards in rebounding (7.3) this season.
The points? Rondo hadn’t scored that many in a game since Feb. 26, so don’t count on him dropping 21 on a regular basis.
But the Mavs’ message has gotten through to Rondo loud and clear: He must be a threat to score for Dallas’ league-leading offense to flow as designed.
“I liked his aggression tonight,” coach Rick Carlisle said.
“We need him to do that,” small forward Chandler Parsons said. “We can’t have teams sagging off of him and going under screens and him not being a threat. He’s got to be aggressive. He’s in the gym working on his shot every single day. We want him to shoot the ball. We want him to look to score. Once he does that, everything else will open up and become easier.”
The Mavs understood that it’d be an occasionally bumpy process to mesh with a starting point guard acquired in midseason. Some of those growing pains were apparent in back-to-back losses to the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns this week.
The quality of competition must be taken into account -- the lousy Lakers are 9-21 -- but there were encouraging displays of Rondo developing chemistry with his teammates of one week. That’s especially true with center Tyson Chandler (15 points, 12 rebounds), who was on the receiving end of a pair of Rondo lobs in the first three minutes and another late in the game.
And Rondo showed no signs of hesitancy, heeding the strong advice of his coaches and teammates to attack when presented such opportunities.
“He’s starting to run a great show,” power forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “He’s starting to understand when he needs to be aggressive, get in the lane, when he needs to shoot when they go under and he’s open. And he still has obviously the great passing gene that you need as a great point guard. He looks pretty sharp, and we’ve got to keep it going, get used to each other even more as the competition gets stiffer.”
It won’t take long for the competition to get stiffer. The Mavs’ next two opponents feature arguably the premier point guards in each conference: Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and John Wall of the Washington Wizards.
“It never stops at this position,” Rondo said. “That’s what you want as a point guard. You want the challenge. I look forward to every night playing against the best.”
The Mavs look forward to more relentlessness from Rondo.