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Confidence in Rondo is growing

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / March 9, 2012
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Rajon Rondo’s topsy-turvy season continues, as he followed his triple-double Sunday with two modest games in which he had a combined 14 points and 20 assists. One constant, however, is Doc Rivers’s trust in Rondo’s ability to run the offense.

After Sunday’s victory over the Knicks, the Celtics coach acknowledged that he is encouraging Rondo to take more control of the play calling.

Rondo has clashed with Rivers over the years regarding the offense, and there have been reports that the two have clashed even more this season. But Rivers said his trust in Rondo is a testament to their improving relationship and Rondo’s maturity.

“I don’t look at his numbers, I look at the way,’’ Rivers said. “He’s starting to make calls. There’s no guy on the floor who should know how it should be run better than the point guard.

“And if he has a feel for your team, then I’d rather have him make the call. That’s why you saw [Sunday] he would look at me and say, ‘I don’t know what to call,’ and then you give him a call, but it’s sensational when he doesn’t look.’’

Rivers has never before entrusted a point guard with control of the offense in his 13-year coaching career.

“Rondo is the only one, he really is, in all the years I’ve coached,’’ said Rivers, “and the reason you give it to him is he is the smartest one.

“He’s the smartest point guard I’ve ever been around, and he deserves it. He knows the playbook.

“We talk about the playbook. He knows it. He knows plays from three years ago. In that way, he’s a brilliant player.’’

Rivers recalls emphasizing to Rondo that his responsibility in the success of the team has increased as his skills and decision-making have improved.

“It’s his team, and I tell him that every time: ‘It’s your team,’ ’’ Rivers said. “We’re all in this together, but it’s just great when he takes over like that. And he has a conscious clock.’’

Rondo, who is second in the NBA in assists behind Phoenix’s Steve Nash, feels capable of handling the play-calling duties.

“You guys may just see it now, but I’ve been calling a lot of plays, and Doc and I have been on the same page for a couple of years now,” said Rondo, who is averaging 11.5 points and 13.3 assists in his past four games.

“Each year, obviously, we get more confident and our chemistry grows, but I’ve been calling my plays for a long time and it seems to work out for both of us. That’s an honor.

“I think I have earned his respect.’’

Bass works on ‘D’

Defense was not associated with Brandon Bass when he was acquired by the Celtics in December. He was considered a tough guy who could rebound and shoot from the perimeter, but his reputation was more for his offense.

He has blended into the Celtics system well, and Rivers said Bass is working hard on the defensive end individually but needs to make more adjustments team-wise. His athleticism makes for positive matchups, and he said he has learned immensely from Kevin Garnett, one of the league’s top defenders.

“We’ve been doing just a whole lot of talking, a whole lot of communicating out there,’’ Bass said. “Everything has been working out for us. They demand so much talk here, and I think it starts with KG and I think it has helped us out as a team defensively.

“My coaches in the past have always been about defense, but this team here, the coaches and Hall of Famers really put big emphasis on defense, and I just think it makes it easier for it to trickle down to the players. And that’s what you’ve been seeing.’’

In Orlando, Bass played alongside Dwight Howard, also one of the league’s premier defenders because of his athleticism.

“They’re two different players,’’ Bass said. “Dwight is different, to be so athletic to block shots, but KG is a great defensive mind.

“That’s what I would want versus athleticism, because that goes away at some point. I want to have that great defensive mind I think could help a team, and that’s what KG has and it’s good to have that behind me.’’

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com.

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