BOSTON – Just so Rajon Rondo could receive a long and well-deserved standing ovation, the public address announcer introduced the Dallas Mavericks’ starting point guard last during pre-game introductions Friday night at TD Garden.
The fans -- many wearing the Rondo jersey they wore so many times when he played for the Boston Celtics -- screamed and hollered and cheered for the player they grew to love and adore so much over the previous eight-plus seasons.
Rondo, ever the humble type, soaked it all in.
"It’s what I expected,’’ he said. "It’s a class organization, classy fans.
"A lot of respect from me and vice versa. I didn’t expect anything less and that’s just what it is.’’
Even when the Celtics played a four-minute video tribute to Rondo bridging the first and second quarters, the Mavs’ newest point guard acted like a cool customer who didn’t have a care in the world.
"I tried to stay focused,’’ Rondo said. "It was a big game, it was already emotional enough and I just wanted to stay locked in and listen to coach in the huddle and then obviously go out and say thank you to the fans.
"So I wasn’t too keyed in on the video. I [caught] a couple glimpses, but I was just trying to stay focused.’’
Although Rondo was touched by the video tribute, he said he didn’t shed any tears. After Friday morning’s shootaround, he said he figured former teammate Brandon Bass would drop a few tears from his eyes.
"I think B-Bass blinked a couple times,’’ Rondo said. "But I didn’t cry.’’
Rondo probably had some among the Celtic organization crying after he dropped in a season-high 29 points in 35 minutes while converting 12-of-19 shots as the Mavs topped Boston 119-101. He also made a career-high five 3-pointers in seven attempts, in addition to dragging down six rebounds and distributing five assists.
It was a yeoman’s effort on a special night for the nine-year veteran from Kentucky.
"He’s a big-game player – he’s amazing,’’ said center Tyson Chandler, who collected 16 rebounds. "I was already impressed by his basketball IQ and knew he was a big-game player from witnessing him outside.
"But to come into a situation like this where you spent your entire career and had incredible success, I know it had to be very emotional, but he came incredibly locked in. It shows the type of player he is – he lives for moments like this.’’
Rondo let everyone know this was a moment he was going to treasure forever. Fifteen days after the Celtics traded him to the Mavs on Dec. 18, Rondo scored 15 of the 31 points the Mavs scored in the first quarter and was a table-setter all night in this emotional game.
As if this stage was set for him to perform the magnificent, Rondo made his first seven shots, four of which were 3-pointers, while stunning the crowd. Rondo only made 8-of-32 shots form 3-point range in 22 games for the Celtics this season before they shipped him to Dallas.
"I guess it was with me tonight,’’ Rondo said of his shooting stroke. "I shot here for about an hour-and-a-half after shootaround (Friday) morning, trying to get a feel for it.
"I shot the ball when I was open. I got into an easy rhythm by getting a couple layups early, then the 3-ball worked for me as well.’’
Rondo’s eye-popping performance certainly was a welcome sight for coach Rick Carlisle.
"He had such a good start to the game,’’ Carlisle said. ‘He had a lot of confidence going.
"He’s working hard on his shots, his recognition of situations on our team is getting better and he’s working hard on his rhythm. So there were a lot of promising things tonight.’’
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760