Rookies Give Durant, Sophomores A Run

Mark FodorCorrespondent IFebruary 13, 2009

Thank you, Noffke, for reminding me to watch the NBA Rookie-Sophomore game tonight!

This was the first one of these games that I've really watched since Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, and Noce played back in 2006.

Surprisingly, it was a great game. The coverage was definitely helped out by the presence of D-Wade (channeling his inner Farnsworth Bentley) and Dwight Howard coaching the two squads, as well as LeBron James doing a very entertaining guest analyst spot alongside Kenny Smith.

LeBron showed off his extensive knowledge of the league ("without notes!" as his cohosts noted), commenting on Kevin Durant's improved shooting percentage and comparing Durant's teammate "Uncle" Jeff Green to "that old uncle you played with down at the gym who would always punish you in the low post."

He also talked about the invaluable experience of playing with the Olympic team this summer and how those players have all led their teams during the NBA season. LeBron also shamelessly dodged the inevitable question, "How much do you weigh these days?"

But unlike past years, this season's game didn't need a ton of distracted, Maddenesque side commentary to stay watchable. Durant dropped 46 on the Rookies on his way to the MVP award, showing off an array of sick dunks and his killer deep stroke. He finished 17-of-25 for the evening and his high effort really rubbed off on guys on both sides of the ball. He brought the game up a level from playground-style alley ooping to a truly competitive event.

Watching guys setting screens during an All-Star event was great. Props to Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez for playing hard for the rookies, not to mention Scola and Rodney Stuckey (who finished with a game-high nine assists) for the sophs.

Derrick Rose had a quiet night, which was kind of disappointing for Bulls fans. He's definitely a quiet guy, but he did pick up seven assists (tops for the rooks) throughout a game in which he was hesitant to shoot the rock.

LeBron noted at one point that Rose's reluctance to pull up reminded him of himself as a rookie, which definitely gives us something to look forward to. Meanwhile, Eric Gordon reminded us all why we (at least I) tend to root against him, consistently failing to defend or pass—although he did end up with 19 points on a losing team. That's gotta sound familiar to Clippers fans!

This was such a close game that Howard and Wade were forced to work towards the end, as it stayed within a two-possesion margin thanks to some pretty three-point shooting from the rookie squad.

The rookies actually fouled as time wound down to try and pull the comeback. Michael Beasley, who had a great game, hit a shot from near half court as the clock expired, which didn't end up counting. Too bad, because a three point margin would have more accurately represented how close and entertaining this game ended up. As the commentaters all noted, the future of the NBA is looking pretty good if these kids are any indication.

I expect to see a bunch of them playing in the big All-Star game in the next few years. (Side Picture from