The NBA is trying to change the fortunes of what used to be the overlooked and uninteresting All-Star weekend Rookie Challenge (where the rookies played the sophomores).
This year TNT’s Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal are picking teams playground style (Team Shaq and Team Chuck) from a pool of rookies and sophomores — and the pool is a deep one, the league announced Wednesday.
Blake Griffin — last year’s Rookie of the Year — will be joined by the two clear frontrunners for the award this year, Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio. I thought because he was a starter on Sunday’s big game Griffin would beg off this event, but the league has twisted his arm and gotten him to play.
The other sophomores in the event are: DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings), Landry Fields (New York Knicks), Paul George (Indiana Pacers), Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz), Greg Monroe (Detroit Pistons), Tiago Splitter (San Antonio Spurs), Evan Turner (Philadelphia 76ers), and John Wall (Washington Wizards).
The other rookies will be MarShon Brooks (New Jersey Nets), Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs), Markieff Morris (Phoenix Suns), Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats), and Derrick Williams (Minnesota Timberwolves).
Those guys will essentially (not literally) line up against the gym wall and be chosen one-by-one by Shaq and Barkley. That will make a mixed team for the Friday night of All-Star Weekend in Orlando.
If you’re looking for snubs from the list, Norris Cole and Jimmer Fredette come to mind, but not sure I’d bump any of those rookies on the list off for them.
This game will take place Feb. 24. The All-Star Game itself is Feb. 26. The reserves for the All-Star Game (all chosen by the coaches) will be announced on Thursday.