Once upon a time, the NBA’s All-Star Rookie Challenge was easy to call. The rooks would have their highlights here and there, but inevitably the Sophomores — older, stronger, more accustomed to the NBA grind, not yet burned out after 40-something games, plus a year of experience after playing together in the previous year’s Challenge — would take control and turn it into something like a Harlem Globetrotters game.
That’s not the case this year. Or at least nobody thinks that will be the case. Because of Blake Griffin, because of John Wall, because of Landry Fields and DeMarcus Cousins, the Rookies appear to have a shot to not only make it competitive, but actually score a win. However, they’re up against a Sophomore squad that won this game last year as Rookies and has those advantages I mentioned earlier.
Then again, the biggest name on the second-year team, reigning Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans, is out with a foot injury. And DeJuan Blair and Taj Gibson just played last night. And Brandon Jennings has been somewhere between inconsistent and invisible with the Bucks since returning from foot surgery last month. And Stephen Curry can’t seem to be on a basketball court for 48 minutes without turning an ankle. (I think he even got hurt in that “Where Amazing Happens” commercial; we didn’t see the part where he landed on Dell Curry‘s foot.) But I’m still gonna predict a Sophomores win.
* The TNT intro was kind of cool, except the actor they had playing the “actor” looked just a tad too insane.
* Chris Webber is introduced to the child-filled crowd and gets a lukewarm response. I just realized how old I am when there is a generation of kids who have no idea how nasty C-Webb was at Michigan or even with Sacramento.
* Sophomore roster: Taj Gibson, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings (“born in Compton, California!”), Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Jrue Holiday, Wes Matthews, DeJuan Blair (more popular than you’d think in L.A.) and DeMar DeRozan. Coached by Lawrence Frank.
* Rookie roster: Greg Monroe (wake up!), Eric Bledsoe (big pop from the crowd), Wes Johnson (probably the oldest guy on the court), Derrick Favors, Landry Fields, DeMarcus Cousins, Gary Neal (no wait, he’s the oldest guy), John Wall and Blake Griffin (HUGE crowd pop). Coached by one of the Spurs assistants.