Rising Stars Challenge Kicks Off NBA All-Star WeekendDate Posted: 20 February 2012 2 Comments
The NBA All-Star Weekend kicks off in Orlando with a game involving the league’s best rookies and sophomores. However this year’s edition will see rookies and sophomores play together instead of playing against each other.
The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge is a new format where two teams handpicked by none other than TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley play against each other in a 40-minute exhibition contest that will showcase their skills in front of nearly 20,000 fans. The draft was held last Friday morning (Manila time) at the NBA TV Studios in Atlanta, and Shaq and Chuck had the honors of drafting from a pool of rookies and sophomores selected by the NBA’s assistant coaches.
At the last minute, ‘honorary’ commissioner and TNT analyst Kenny Smith added Miami Heat point guard Norris Cole and popular New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin to make it a 20-player field. The selection of Lin came after scoring 136 points in his first five starts, in addition to increased media and fan interest on the Taiwanese-American. Cole, who is playing well as Miami’s backup point guard, was then added to even the field.
The selection process then got underway. O’Neal won the coin toss and selected first by drafting the Clippers’ high-flying All-Star forward Blake Griffin, after which he added Lin, perhaps the most popular of the field. His third pick was Minnesota’s sensational point guard Ricky Rubio, followed by Detroit’s Greg Monroe, Phoenix’s Markieff Morris, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, Lin’s Knicks teammate Landry Fields, Miami’s Norris Cole, Monroe’s Detroit teammate Brandon Knight, and Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson.
Looking at Shaq’s team, he seems to add more entertainment value with the addition of the high-flyer in Griffin, the Spanish Maravich in Rubio, and the overnight sensation in Lin. If all three are on the floor at the same time, expect the fans to get crazy with their skills. He then added more muscle with Monroe, Thompson and Morris. Cole, Walker and Knight are decent playmakers, though more dependent on scoring. Fields is more capable shooter, though in this event, shooting isn’t that important.
Barkley’s first pick was the 2011 top overall pick Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, followed by Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, Indiana’s high-flying guard Paul George, Minnesota’s Derrick Williams, New Jersey’s MarShon Brooks, last year’s Rookie Challenge MVP John Wall of Washington, Utah’s Gordon Hayward, San Antonio’s Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard, and Philadelphia’s Evan Turner.
Looking at Barkley’s team, adding a pair of point guards picked No. 1 in Wall and Irving aren’t bad at all, considering they’re capable of being both a pure and a scoring ‘one’. He had pretty good picks too, with George and Williams (both of whom will participate in the Slam Dunk Contest) looking to please the fans with their rim-rattling skills. Barkley focused on the basics more than the flair, as evidenced with his selection of shooters in Brooks, Turner and Hayward. Splitter and Cousins are more willing to bang the board and score down low, while Leonard is an efficient field goal shooter and a defensive-minded ‘three’.
Catch the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge on February 25 at 10 am on BTV
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