Rondo enjoys first All-Star Game

DALLAS -- In his first All-Star Game appearance, Celtics guard Rajon Rondo found himself as part of an Eastern Conference crunch-time lineup that featured 20 years of All-Star experience in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh.

So it seemed like a reasonable question to ask whether Rondo was surprised be on the floor with the game -- as meaningless as it might be in grand scheme of things -- on the line.

"Why would you say that?" shot back Rondo, as if the question suggested he was not ready for a stage that included a record crowd of 108,713 inside pristine Cowboys Stadium.

Truth be told, Rondo did have butterflies at the start of the game. And while he didn't have a breakout performance or hit a game-winning shot, what Rondo did do is confirm that he absolutely belongs on the floor with the best players the NBA has to offer.

And he belongs there even with the 2010 NBA All-Star Game on the line.

Rondo registered four points, five assists and a steal in 20 minutes of action, helping the Eastern Conference All-Stars tip their Western Conference brethren 141-139 Sunday evening.

While teammates Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce -- another 21 years of All-Star experience between the two of them -- engaged in limited action, Rondo got a chance to shine in a state where everything truly is a little bigger.

The most difficult part of his night came three hours before that crunch-time moment. The second-most difficult part came a short time before that.

It started amidst a wall of sound that 100,000 screaming fans and blaring music combined to provide during introductions. Rondo stood shyly on a stage intended for the musical talent of the night (Usher, Shakira, Alicia Keys) and his first task of the All-Star Game was to avoid falling down the slippery ramp that led to the floor.

"I was trying not to fall. I was glad I didn't have any dress shoes on," Rondo said. "The slope we walked down was pretty slippery. [Coach] Stan [Van Gundy] went first, so there probably wasn't a risk of us falling."

But his heart rate spiked again a few minutes into Sunday's game. Despite his seemingly unflappable and steely cool demeanor afterward, Pierce indicated Rondo battled butterflies before checking in with 5:43 to go in the first quarter.

"Talking to Rondo on the bench, he told me his heart started beating fast when he was about to go in the game," said Pierce, blowing his teammate's cover. "He looked good out there tonight."

One night after Rondo sat in the front row and cheered Pierce on as the Celtics' captain captured the 3-point contest title, Pierce and Garnett were happy to return the favor. The duo beamed like proud older brothers watching Rondo on the court, squirming with excitement as he tossed a couple alley-oops to Wade, the game's MVP.

"It was good to be out there with Rondo," Pierce said. "I've had the chance to play with Ray [Allen] the last two years and, to play with two teammates, that makes it even more enjoyable."

Rondo's first All-Star Weekend lived up to the hype.

"It was a great weekend," Rondo said. "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. I got time with my family. I'm very happy."

Now it's back to business and the second half of a season temporarily derailed by the Celtics' struggles at the end of the first half. Rondo doesn't have the answer to turning it around -- if he did, he said, he'd have done it already. But he does know the Celtics will turn it around.

And unlike him playing in crunch-time of his first NBA All-Star Game, no one questioned him about that.

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.