Did you catch the NBA All-Star Game in Dallas on Sunday night? It was like a pickup basketball game broke out in the middle of the MTV Video Music Awards. At Jerry Jones' monstrosity of a stadium — where style, flashiness, size and outlandishness seem to regularly outweigh substance — would you expect any less?
But Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo looked far from out of place.
No, he didn't have the star power or following of LeBron James or eventual MVP Dwyane Wade. Nor did he have the glitz, glamour, armored outfits or … ahem … cage-dancing and feathered leotards, respectively, of Usher or Shakira. Get him out on the court, though, and he looked like a natural.
But the pomp and circumstance combined with the enormity of the stadium took its toll. In fact, the 23-year-old Rondo, a first-time All-Star, admitted to being a touch nervous during player introductions.
"I was trying not to fall," he joked with reporters after the game. "I was glad I didn't have any dress shoes on."
On the floor, however, Rondo held his own with the rest of the NBA elite, scoring four points and handing out five assists in nearly 20 minutes on the court. In fact, he played almost the last 10 minutes of the game as the East earned a tight 141-139 win over the West in front of 108,713 of their closest friends.
"The fans were great," Rondo continued. "I got great applause. … The sound, it was crazy. It was crazy. You really can't describe it unless you were here. I'm glad I was a part of it and hopefully there's many more to come."
Fellow Celtic Paul Pierce was pleased with his young teammate's first All-Star performance.
"It was good to be out there with Rondo," Pierce told the Boston Herald. "Every part of this was enjoyable, and I talked about that while I was talking to Rondo on the bench. He told me his heart was beating fast when he was about to go in the game. But I told him he was going to be fine. People don't understand what the All-Star Game is all about."
But Rondo, as is often the case with the silky smooth point guard, looked right at home once he stripped off his warm-ups and took to the court. In fact, he quickly developed a rhythm with Wade, the Miami Heat star, tossing him three successful alley-oops in the second half.
It's not surprising that he jelled quickly with a star teammate, given Rondo's performance for the Celtics thus far in 2009-10. While Pierce and fellow All-Star Kevin Garnett have missed a total of 18 games for the 32-18 squad, Rondo has led the veteran-laden team in minutes (36.9), assists (9.7, good for fourth in the NBA) and steals (2.5, best in the league) per game and is third on the C's in scoring (14.3). He's scored when he's had to, he's dished to veteran teammates when the time is right and he's done everything that's been asked of him by head coach Doc Rivers.
But despite his regular willingness to give up the spotlight for his teammates, both with the Celtics and in the All-Star Game, it's clear that Rondo belonged on the sport's biggest stage. Following the game, he tried to put the whole experience into perspective.
"I'm just trying to enjoy the moment for what it's worth," Rondo told NECN.com. "Maybe a couple of years [from now] when I look down the line, I'll probably appreciate it. … I just haven't grasped the concept yet of what [I've] done so early … in my career. So I'm just going to go with the flow and continue to try to get better and do more things."
"It was a great weekend," Rondo told reporters. "It came and went kinda fast. Before you knew it, it was over. For the most part I enjoyed it. I didn't have a bad time this whole weekend."
It's a good thing. As one of the game's rising stars, All-Star weekend is likely something Rondo's going to have to get used to.