BOSTON — About an hour after Boston's 107-104 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Rajon Rondo stepped to the podium.
There was no limp, no measured pace to his strides.
It was Rondo's first game back after having not played since suffering a torn right ACL injury on Jan. 25.
Aside from the disappointment of the loss, both Rondo's body and spirits were in a good place afterwards.
"I felt pretty good," said Rondo, who didn't have any significant pain but knows that could change within the next 24 hours. "When I got back in the second quarter I got pretty winded, but that was expected. Other than that, I didn't feel like I was limited to anything tonight."
Rondo has reiterated time and time again that his conditioning, more than anything else, remains his biggest hurdle.
For the 19-plus minutes he played, Rondo didn't appear to show any concern or apprehension on the floor relative to his surgically repaired right knee.
In fact, the biggest issue facing Rondo going forward doesn't appear to be what he's doing on the floor.
It has to do with what happens when he's not on the floor for long stretches of time, something that will inevitably happen as long as he has to play with minute restrictions.
Prior to Rondo's first game, head coach Brad Stevens said he would be limited to 18-20 minutes per game.
It is unclear how long he will have minute restrictions.
"Coach (Stevens) and I talked about my minutes, how we were going to spread it out, you know, five minutes a quarter," Rondo said. "I think that's the best way to do it."
But the challenge in doing it that way was evident on Friday.
Rondo's third quarter stint was arguably his best of the night, a stretch in which he tallied three of his four assists.
But after he was taken out at the 7:03 mark of the third, he didn't return until there was 4:53 to play. In actual game time, that's more than 14 minutes on the bench. Realistically, it was closer to a half hour.
"Even though I sat for a while I tried to stay ready mentally, pay attention to the game, the flow of the game," Rondo said. "And before, two or three minutes before I was going in, I went and rode on the bike a little bit, but that's the best that I can do; you can't really go about it any other way."
Friday night was just the first step in Rondo's return to being the player that he and the Celtics expect him to be.
And while there are many who still see the Celtics among the NBA's cellar dwellers with or without Rondo, naturally he has a more optimistic outlook on the short-term future of this franchise.
"I expect to win every night, I compete," Rondo said. "I think we have a lot of guys on the team that compete the same way I do. We're going to be great. We are still finding a rhythm ... you know it starts with the point guard."