Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rookie-Sophomore Game

Another All-Star Weekend, another Rookie Challenge. I don't know how many more 35-point blowouts we have to suffer through before they blend the teams, but whatever. Tonight's game featured all the usual components of this event: terrible defense, lots of dunks, a handful of surprising performances, and a bunch of screaming kids. To the latter point, let me say that I think it is great that they let the kids come to these games, but is there something that can be done about the mics? Two years in a row now, you can't even here the announcers over the wailing coming from the crowd. It shounds like people riding on a rollercoaster or being hung off a balcony.


Here is a quick 1-through-18 breakdown of the players involved in this game. It isn't a list of the who played the best, but rather who made the strongest impression (although, granted, those are sort of the same things):

1. Jordan Farmar. The Sophomores "let Boobie spin" (see my Eastern Conference Finals posts from last May for more information) to the tune of 11 threes tonight, but I thought Farmar was the guy that really impressed. He went for 17 and 12 with 3 steals while shooting a terrific percentage, playing good defense (!), and running the team. All in 21 minutes.

2. Boobie Gibson. Speaking of 21 minutes, that is how long it took Gibson to drain a Challenge record 11 threes and score 33 points en route to the MVP award. I thought Farmar played even better, but man, Boobie was raining jumpers from all angles. His 5-of-6 stretch to break the game open in the first have was mighty impressive. Lost in all the hoopla was his usual fantastic body control and instintive ability to track down loose balls.

3. Rudy Gay. Gay's jump shot is one of the prettiest in the game and his athleticism is out of this world. Tonight he barely had to break a sweat on his way to 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting.

4. Al Horford. He would be even higher, but for some reason he only played 21 minutes in the contest. Horford was a beast while he was out there though, going for 19 and 7 on 8-of-10 shooting. If only Kevin Durant and Jeff Green were interested in passing, he might have had 30. Horford looked even faster and more agile than normal tonight and probably helped his Rookie of the Year campaign by outplaying Durant.

5. Brandon Roy. I'm sure Nate and the rest of the Portland staff/front office is thrilled by Roy's 25 minutes, with more to come on Sunday. While he didn't play quite as well as the guys ahead of him on this list, Roy certainly didn't disappoint. He got others involved with 7 assists and managed to score 17 points of his own while also throwing down a sick dunk early in the contest. He looked every bit like the most accomplished NBA player on the floor.

6. Sean Williams. I've seen him play a lot this year so I wasn't terribly surprised to see Williams perform well. That said, I had no idea he was that fast or could handle the ball that well. The play where he grabbed a rebound, went through his legs to gather it, travelled the length of the court, and then threw it off the glass to himself with the highlight of the night. He had 17 and 10 in just 18 minutes and looked like a tremendous prospect. Why are the Nets playing Josh Boone and Nenad Kristic over him, again?

7. Rajon Rondo. I'm a Rondo homer, but he quitely had a really nice night for the Sophs. He had six assists to go with his usual three steals and was a catalyst in turning the contest into a running game. The Rookies had 24 turnovers (against only 9 for the Sophomores), which was due in large part to Rondo's defense.

8. LaMarcus Aldridge. He spent much of the game looking a little skittish and playing a step behind, but he really found his range in the second half and used his speed and height to crash the glass and get out in transition. He went for 18 and 9 with 4 assists, 3 steals, and no turnovers while logging 34 minutes.

9. Jamario Moon. He actually defended the rim on ocassion while also attacking the basket on offense and even hitting a three. Nothing amazing, but a solid performance.

10. Kevin Durant. Durant really disappointed me. He finished with a very nice stat line of 23 points (on 10-for-19 shooting), 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals, but he also had 5 turnovers and more terrible shots than I could count. Plus, he was really the only guy on the floor that totally stopped the ball when it came to him, choosing to dribble around for upward of 10 seconds before hoisting a fadeaway off of one leg. I know he's going to be amazing at some point, but the light bulb still needs to come on for him.

11. Ronnie Brewer. He used his athleticism to make some plays on the glass and at the rim, but was mostly pretty quiet.

12. Juan Carlos Navarro. Wound up with pretty nice stats and some sweet jumpers, but literally did all his damage in the last five minues during garbage time.

13. Mike Conley. Great speed and unselfishness which led to 8 dimes, but also committed five turnovers and seemed to be a bit out of control at times.

14. Yi Jianlin. Not his kind of game at all, but that step back jumper he had was pure in the third quarter. That play alone keeps him out of the bottom four.

15. Paul Millsap. Didn't do much of anything out there but the Sophs made some big runs while he was on the court.

16. Luis Scola. Same story, different team. He didn't do much at all, but had the best +/- of anyone on the Rookies team.

17. Andrea Bargnani. I'm just not impressed by his three-point jacking ways.

18. Jeff Green. How he made this team over Al Thornton is a mystery. How he played a whopping 34 minutes is utterly perplexing, when you consider that he was probably the least effective player on the court. Even with a 7-point flurry in just under a minute, he still finished 4-of-12 against no defense with 3 turnovers and 3 fouls.

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