NEW YORK — The Rising Stars Challenge kicked off the All-Star weekend festivities as usual, but a first-time format change made things slightly more interesting.
Instead of the rookies facing the second year players, this time they split the teams into a USA-born roster facing one comprised of players born in other countries.
The World team appeared to be stacked once the rosters were announced, and behind a 22-point MVP performance from Andrew Wiggins, pulled away for a 121-112 victory in the predictably high-scoring contest.
Wiggins’ Timberwolves teammate Zach LaVine led the way for the USA squad with 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting, and both players finished with plenty of uncontested dunks in what is traditionally a run where defense is optional.
Minnesota had four players in total participate, with Shabazz Muhammad chipping in 10 points for team USA, and Gorgui Dieng finishing with 14 for the winning World squad.
“It just shows the future,” Wiggins said of having so many guys from his team participating. “The future is bright for us. It shoes us rising, and it shows what we can be in the future.”
Other notable performances included 18 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots from Rudy Gobert; 12 points, 10 rebounds and five assists from Giannis Antetokounmpo; and 22 points on a game-high 21 shots — seven more than any other player — from an aggressive Victor Oladipo.
Warriors assistant coach Alvin Gentry coached the losing USA team, and while he was nothing but complimentary to the overall group of young talent that participated, he did have a suggestion for tweaking the format of the game in order to help others who follow in his footsteps in the future.
“I think it’s a great group of guys,” he said. “I spent more time with the USA team obviously, but if you look at the World team and the talent that they have, I think our league is in great shape.
“I also would like to say that I think we’ve got to rearrange this game,” he continued. “I think it should be North America against the World. And then that way, we get Canada. We’d have Wiggins on our team.”