Rajon Rondo gave the Lakers a little reminder.
The reserve guard opened the second quarter of Monday's game against Phoenix with eight-straight points over a dizzying 64-second stretch, finishing with 15 points in those 12 minutes on six-for-six shooting.
There were a flurry of three-pointers. There were dribble penetrations. He was aggressive. He was who the Lakers had been searching for in recent trade talks.
The 33-year-old, who has had an up and down season, gave the Laker organization a polite tap on the back Monday, a quiet reminder that they have a four-time All-Star and one-time NBA champion on their roster. He finished with a season-high 23 points on nine-for-13 shooting, including four-for-five shooting from beyond the arc, and six assists in the Lakers' 125-120 win over the Suns.
"They dared him to shoot," LeBron James said. "They said they wanted him to beat us -- and he did that."
Rondo is averaging 7.9 points this season, his fewest points since his rookie season (6.4 points) in 2006-2007. He's struggled with inconsistency and injuries, including a mild calf strain that sidelined him the first nine games of the season, a hamstring strain that caused him to a miss a few games in December and a fractured right finger that kept him out three games in January.
But Lakers' coach Frank Vogel said he trusts Rondo to come through when the team needs him.
"He’s a savvy vet," Vogel said. "He’s someone thats going to rise to the occasion. Guys in their 30s, 82 games, they’re going to have some nights when you don’t look as spry as you did when you were early in your 20s, but when it matters, he’s gonna be there for us."
Rondo didn't speak after Monday's game. He hasn't talked to the media since Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others on Jan. 26.
But Anthony Davis said behind the scenes, the Lakers have been encouraging Rondo to shoot more.
"He’s always had the confidence, but [Rondo is] a guy, he wants to get everybody involved, he’s a point guard," Davis said. "That’s what he’s done his whole career. We’ve been on him to shoot those shots, be aggressive. And he showed you all he can do [that] tonight. He does it all the time in practice. And we understand that he wants to get guys involved, but it’s only going to open up the floor to get guys involved the more aggressive he is."
Rondo is known as a smart player who steps up his game during the playoffs. He has postseason career averages of 14 points on 44.3 percent shooting and 9.3 assists a game.
During the 2018 NBA Finals, James talked about the importance of having intelligent players on the court -- and brought up Rondo as an example.
“Everybody knows how to put the ball in the hoop," James said in 2018 before the Golden State Warriors swept the Cleveland Cavaliers. "But who can think throughout the course of the game?”
James believes Rondo does that, and is looking forward to having him as a teammate in the postseason.
"I mean when you have so many battles versus an opponent, and you see the way they think the game, the way they play the game from a mind perspective, not only a physical standpoint, you take notice of that," James said. "You see the Rondos, the Draymond Greens, Andre Iguodalas, the guys that think the game as a more cerebral thing. Obviously from the physical standpoint as well, the competition, but you can see their brains always working and figuring out how they can be on time, and on target, plays before plays happen and things of that nature. Always sense that, especially from those guys, Rondo, Dray and -- Dray and Dre."
Davis added that even though Rondo has received criticism this season from fans and pundits, the Lakers believe in him and the rest of their roster -- and that's all that matters.
"We felt like we was a championship team as soon as we put the team together,” Davis said. "So we still have that confidence in our players."