Saturday, February 16, 2008

2008 Rookie Challenge, for those who had something better to do.

by Jason Jones

Most fans would claim that they couldn’t care less about most All-Star festivities. I, personally, am not one of those fans. The key is to go into it knowing full well what ‘it’ is. It is an All-Star event. With that being said, do not expect fundamentals. The fundamentals of the game got checked at the door with everyone’s coats and jackets. If you want fundamental basketball, watch college or pray for a Spurs vs. Pistons final. This is all in an effort to have fun and give the basketball fans with A.D.D. what they want, snappy passes (as risky as they may be), dunks, jacked up 3’s, and all in all reckless play. It’s fun, even if it technically cannot be categorized as basketball.

Starting Rosters:

All Rookie Team

PG-Mike Conley Jr.

SG-Jeff Green

SF-Luis Scola

PF-Al Horford

C-Kevin Durant

Notable Reserves:

Juan Carlos Navarro (MEM), Yi Jianlian (MIL), Sean Williams (NJN), Jamario Moon (TOR)

All Sophomore Team

PG-Rajon Rondo

SG-Brandon Roy

SF-Rudy Gay

PF-LaMarcus Aldridge

C-Andrea Bargnani

Notable Reserves:

Daniel “Boobie” Gibson (CLE), Jordan Farmar (LAL), Ronnie Brewer (UTA), Paul Milsap (UTA)

If it were up to me, and the bias therein, I would have chosen the starters in the following manner:


Mike Conley Jr.

Jamario Moon

Yi Jianlian

Al Horford

Kevin Durant


Rajon Rondo

Brandon Roy

Rudy Gay

Paul Milsap

Andrea Bargnani

The interesting thing that goes along with the idea that this is not true basketball, is that the center position is merely a figurehead title. Both Bargnani and Durant are tall enough to play the 5 spot, but that is where it ends. Both of these players are Small Forwards at heart and by skill set. That's another reason why this game should be fun to watch, as long as you don’t internally combust after a certain number of silly/dumb mistakes.

1st Half (only the fun stuff):

-Bargnani gets the ball on the right elbow and drives completely untouched for an unimpressive (and very white boy-ish) two-handed flush.

-B. Roy underhand lobs the outlet pass to Rondo in full stride who then lobs the ball so high it went off camera and fell into the gliding hands of a streaking R.Gay.

-After fending off a barrage of loose balls and sloppy ball handling, Conley somehow circles around and slaps a Magic Johnson-esque bounce pass through the congestion to a cutting Al Horford for two-handed dunk.

-Horford grabs an uncontested rebound and outlet to Durant in a wide open stride shades of Dr. J if he took off just outside the block as opposed of the free throw line.

-Rondo flips the ball to B. Roy, then once again lobbing the ball into the rafters which eventually fell into the gliding hands of R. Gay, catching it a mere three or four inches short of the top of the backboard bring it down two-handed.

-For those who may think Horford could play football, Durant bounce-passes to Horford as he bumbled and stumbled to drop in lay-up that looked a lot like a pinball game.

-Luis Scola rebounds and chest passes to a cutting Durant who then passes to an equally cutting Horford who then throws it down ala Charles Barkley. Question is, are we beginning to see some fundamentals? I wouldn’t get too excited if I were you.

-Here’s something funny, Lebron looks like Lebron while KG looks like the president of the Mr. Rodgers fan club.

-Navarro sends a bounce pass with “English” to Durant almost 30 feet to a cutting Durant for a reverse two handed dunk.

-Rondo lobs a pass from half court to a streaking B. Roy for a cocked two-handed dunk.

-Durant at the right elbow, shaking and baking, drives down the middle of the paint for an open layup just to be blocked by Bargnani from the weak side. Not to be outdone, Horford comes in from the opposing elbow flies in ala Michael Jordan flying in from outside the free throw line.

-Farmar circles the key and finds a wide open (to the point that he could be sitting in a lounge chair with a glass of tea open) for a three.

-Here’s a sneak peak to the underwhelming dunk contest…Navarro flips the ball up to J. Moon for a double clutched leaner dunk shades of Starks over Olajuwan…if Olajuwan wasn’t there.

-Farmar finds himself almost alone in the paint, then barely dunking by pushing the ball over the rim.

-Who knew that Sean Williams of the Nets had and dribbling skills? After a missed dunk Williams juggles the ball between himself and Durant and pushes the ball uncontested and as if he were T-Mac throws off the glass to himself and dunks it HARD one-handed.

-Once again, relatively alone, Boobie sets up and launches a 3 that slapped the back iron and shoots down with aggression. Cue Lebron jumping up with the “it's good” gesture.

-Farmar drops the ball off to the trailing Boobie (at the 3 point line) for yet another open 3.

-B. Roy apparently liked the previous Farmar pass. Roy drops to the trailing Boobie for another 3.

-Paul Milsap bounce passes to Boobie in an effort to just get rid of the ball, Boobie hits ANOTHER 3. Welcome to the Boobie Gibson Show.

-Boobie finally missed one.

-Farmar intercepts the outlet pass and instantly lobs it up to an unsuspecting Ronnie Brewer for an impromptu dunk.

-Paul Milsap has had enough of Durant and pins his lay-up attempt on the backboard.

-In a play that you might actually see in a regular season game, the Sophomores get good ball movement that ends with a 3 by who else? Boobie Gibson. Lebron is going to get tired of letting everyone know who Boobie plays with. With 2:45 left in the first, Boobie is one 3 away from tying the Rookie Challenge record for 3’s in a game.

-Farmar feed a cutting LaMarcus Aldridge for a nice long give-and-go (basically the length of the court) dunk.

-Horford gets an opportunity to clean up Durant's attempted garbage dunk with a sure handed dunk of his own.

-Clearly the Sophomores have decided feeding Boobie at the 3 point line is a higher percentage shot than pushing the fast break for a dunk/lay-up. Boobie has tied the Rookie Challenge 3-point mark before halftime.

-Using himself as a decoy, Boobie waits for the double-team on the outside and kicks it to a wide-open Farmar for 3. Boobie could have taken the 3 for the record before the half but defers to Farmar.

-Working for the final shot, Conley plays with his defender until he can position himself, then lobs the ball perfectly to Durant who catches the ball with his elbows at the rim leaving a mere 1.5 seconds in the half.

Just before the commercial, TNT's Craig Sager corals Boobie Gibson for an interview citing that he has tied the record for 3’s of the entire game in one half (more importantly only 10 minutes) of play. Instantly Lebron James comes over to “bogart” the interview. Lebron goes on to animatedly say how no one is ready for the 3-point shoot out tomorrow. When asked if Lebron thought Boobie gets enough shots in the regular season, Lebron responds with, “if he keeps this up he can take all the shots he wants."

Q: How does it feel to have the support of a guy like Lebron?

A: It’s great, you know he doesn’t have to do that. It's the kind of guy he is, he loves his teammates.

Q: We like to see records broken, so stay hot.

A: I will.

Start of the 2nd Half with the Sophomores leading 66-52:

-After a myriad of terrible passes and missed shots, Conley decides to get the rookies on the board by taking the inbounds from the hashmark to the rack, care of the teeth of the non-defense for an open layup showing off his speed.

-Rudy Gay, on the other hand, doesn’t feel like putting that much energy into scoring early, so he spots up for a 25 foot 3 tickling the twine.

-After a turnover, turnover, turnover set of transitions, B. Roy sends a pass splitting the defense to a cutting Rondo for an open lay-up.

-Since this game has felt somewhat like a contest of Pong with the going back and forth with no scoring result for the most part, I have neglected to mention a few dunks that have come from sloppy play.

-Durant gets a steal (only in a literal manner of speaking, Gay bounced it off his foot) and serves it up to J. Green at the hash mark which Green then dunks after leaving from about 8 feet out.

-Bargnani hits a 3 from the corner with the defender running at him like a toddler defending his father in the driveway.

-Green remains hot taking the feed at the elbow to hit a nice 3 with a hand in his face (believe it or not).

-Green again getting a gimme dunk gliding from the left completely uncontested.

-While Rondo is demanding all of the attention with his DribbleFest ’08 in the middle of the paint, no one paid any attention to B. Roy just waiting to get the miss. Instead, Aldridge comes up with it and with one pump fake gives it to Roy who then goes for an up and under razzle dazzle reverse layup.

-After ANOTHER TURNOVER, Rondo receives the outlet pass and attempts something he’s been eyeing for a while. A double-clutch windmill dunk. I know, Rondo and dunk, crazy, huh? Then after corralling the rebound, LaMarcus Aldridge shows Rondo how its done.

-For those who believe white men can’t jump, you must not be considering 7 foot Euro’s. Rondo sends a bounce pass from 30 feet away to a cutting Bargnani for what looked to be an easy lay-up and turned into a 180 degree two handed facial for Luis Scola.

-Scola comes back with a wimpy scoop layup. “This isn’t real basketball, you should be penalized for a layup,” screams the 17 year old punk 3 rows back.

-Almost 9 minutes into the second half and no Boobie, what the hell! Speaking of Cavaliers, TNT keeps going to a shot of Bosh and Lebron separated by a nice looking young lady. According to Craig Sager, she is the same lady made famous for heckling Lebron in Toronto, thus rendering a phenomenal performance from Lebron. Apparently, they have since become decent casual friends since. If Spike Lee should’ve been at every Pacer game, then this young lady should be at every Cavaliers game. I am sure similar results would be rendered in either Lebron’s or Reggie Miller’s case. Only problem is, “would Lebron’s babies momma take issue with it?”

-Yi Jianlian quickly jab steps Aldridge from about 19 feet and puts up a dagger of a jump shot, to no one’s amazement. Almost as if everyone knew it was going in.

-Jamario Moon tells B. Roy “NO” as he sling the lay-up to a teammate, which somehow finds Durant who goes for a right hand—no left handed switcheroo dunk in the open court.

-Rudy Gay tries the old pass-the-ball-through-the-leg-of-your-opponent-to-receive-it-on-the -other-side. Luckily Yi was there to intercept, and give a facial expression that reads, “I may not be American, but I ain’t stupid either."

-Boobie Gibson checks back in, and consequently bricks his first record-breaking attempt.

-Clearly, the record is not the only thing on Boobie’s mind. During the halftime analysis, Kenny Smith claimed that Boobie needed to learn to play the point, considering his size (wow, did you come up with that on your own, or did an intern feed you that gem?). Boobie just sliced through defenders tossing up an oop pass from the 3 pt line to a streaking Rudy Gay.

-Boobie, after passing up another shot at the record, gets stuck defending Jamario Moon a couple of times. One of which had Moon dropping a 3 in Boobie’s face. Next time down, Boobie gets the ball and decides to toy with Moon before hitting the record-breaking 3. Almost as if to say, “I’ll be the one hitting 3’s tonight, thank you very much”.

-…And Boobie Gibson for number 9, number 9, and extends the record.

-Its seems that short of the reserves who haven’t had much time in the second half, no one is really trying anymore. John Navarro feeds Sean Williams for a big-man-sized tomahawk dunk.

-Farmar dribbles and spins his way to a nice scoop layup.

-Not to be outdone, Juan Carlos Navarro dribbles and jabs his way to a nice teardrop layup.

-Farmar casually takes the ball from the 3 point line and lobs it to Ronnie Brewer to throw it down getting back into the action.

-Karl Malone interviewed on the sideline by Craig Sager echoes what I have been saying over the last season and a half. “Seeing these young guys is really refreshing. They are doing it the right way on and off the court. I will be bringing my son to watch these guys often." We are witnessing a resurgence of the NBA. We as fans are always looking to see who will replace the Michael Jordans, Larry Birds, Karl Malones, and Jason Kidds. We are seeing now (even though the All-Star Rookie Challenge is not the idea venue) a large group of talent who will drastically reshape the current NBA. In the future we will not be looking for 3-5 players to transcend the game, but 10 or 20 that make the game better and more fun to watch. A couple are in this game and some are not. Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Andrew Bynum, and so on. You can say that the NBA is a shell of its former self, but I believe on the contrary. The NBA is on the upswing. We may never again see a Michael Jordan, but there should be plenty of Lebrons and Dwayne Wades to get used to in the future.

-Boobie came down the court pushing the break and threw up what looked to be an uncharacteristically bad shot hard off the backboard. It actually was just a really ugly pass off the backboard for LaMarcus Aldridge.

-Jamario Moon still trying to create some hype for the dunk contest, takes the ball in the left corner and cups it a la Vince Carter for a nasty one-handed dunk.

-49 seconds left and its time for the guys who didn’t do much to get involved. Farmar passes up a clean path to the basket to unload the ball to Ronnie Brewer for a nice cocked-windmill dunk.

-Boobie gets the ball with time running out in the attempt to take the last shot, while Lebron James is up on the court screaming to take the deep 3. Boobie shoots it but misses from about 30 feet.

-With the final stats in, Boobie has the largest point total by +10 with 33. He also shattered the previous 3 point record by +4, and as Kenny Smith said, “the only shots he missed were the shots he should’ve missed”. Again, this is an All-Star Game festivity. You should never expect a good shooting percentage, but Boobie delivered. Not to over-extend my own personal bias, but if Boobie Gibson does not get game MVP (even though it really doesn’t mean anything) I will be FUMING PISSED.

Daniel “Boobie” Gibson is your All-Star Rookie Challenge Game MVP.

Q: Do you have anything left for the second half of the regular season?

A: As long as we have Lebron on the team, I think I will manage a few open looks.

Q: You hit 11 three’s, that’s a record. You were one point off the record for most points scored in this game (A. Stoudamire 34) and tied with you teammate Lebron James for second (L. James 33).

A: That’s a big accomplishment, I mean I never imagined I would make it this far and make it so quick. I’m just counting my blessing and I’m very thankful. Thankful for everything.

Q: What does it mean to play in the NBA?

A: It means the world. Its everything, this all I know since I was kid. I am thankful for this opportunity and I’m gonna cherish every moment of it.

Poor grammar aside and with the Houston Astros logo shaved into his head, Boobie Gibson is your MVP and very gracious to be so. Joining four other Cavalier All-Star winners:

-2008 Boobie Gibson Rookie Game MVP

-2006 Lebron James All-Star Game MVP

-1998 Zydrunas Ilgauskas Rookie Game MVP

-1994 Mark Price 3 PT Shootout Champion

-1993 Mark Price 3 PT Shootout Champion

Lebron joins the TNT Post Game show.

Q: So, Lebron you had to love what you saw from Daniel Gibson there in the Rookie Challenge?

A: I told him, I hope he saved something for tomorrow with the 3 PT Challenge.

Q: …You’ve seen him up close, you know what he can do.

A: His shooting ability is pretty good. He showcased his shooting ability tonight and showed what he can do. It was electrifying tonight.

Q: He doesn’t really have a traditional shooters stroke.

A: I’ve been watching him since before he was playing, back before Mike Brown let him in the game. And as Kenny and Chuck know, if you can shoot, you deserve to play.

Q: First off, you need to be playing at a faster tempo, but why hasn’t he progressed enough as a player. Why isn’t he starting?

A: Well, I don’t know if he’s comfortable coming off the bench or if he would be comfortable (clearly, Lebron is not comfortable answering this question) as the starter. He’s still a young guy, even with the playoff experience and getting to the Finals. We don’t know if he’s ready to step in and be the starting point guard for this team yet. The way he is progressing, he will be the starting point guard of this team soon.

Q: If it ended today, you are a four seed going into the playoffs, but with all of the talk surrounding the Celtics and the Pistons…convince me of how you are going to return to the NBA Finals.

A: It's gonna be tough, we know that. To see how Boston reloaded, a team that didn’t make the postseason last year. And Detroit is always going to be ready. Orlando is another good team, but it's going to be tough for us. We know how to get to the playoffs and we know how to win playoff games, we’ve been in that situation.

Q: Do you need to make a deal, you’ve kind of thrown it out there?

A: I do think we need to get better…and it starts with hopefully making a deal before the trade deadline. If that doesn’t happen, the guys we have are going to be ready for the last 30 games of the season and then get ready for the post season.

Q: How frustrating has it been, you’ve seen Gasol going here, you see Shaq going here, you guys have been trying to get Jason Kidd, it has to be somewhat frustrating for you

A: As a competitor in anything you do, you want to get better. As being the ultimate competitor in my sport along with Kobe Bryant, I want to get better. Let's get on paper first, and then hit the gym and make it happen. You can see how…(he might want this one back)…Kobe Bryant spoke up about the situation going on in L.A. and now he got Pau Gasol and when they get Andrew Bynum back, they are the team to beat.

Q: Taking the East out of it, looking just at the West, as Ernie pointed out we could have a 50-win team not make the playoffs. When you look at all of the deals, who’s the one you look at and say, wow I can’t believe they got this guy?

A: Gasol. Just for the simple fact of what they gave up. They didn’t give up much to get a guy who has averaged 20 and 10 his whole career, shot over 50% his whole career, and has been a good player…hasn’t had many injuries at all. And then he goes to a team that has the most dominant player in our league, Kobe Bryant, the best closer in our league. When I saw the Lakers and the Grizzlies make that deal, I was like WOW, just like everybody else.

Q: I’ve been saying, I can’t believe you said that but, I’ve been saying Lebron’s game is approaching Kobe’s and I think someone’s tuggin’ on Superman’s cape. I can’t believe you would say someone is a better closer than yourself.

A: I believe it, I think Kobe Bryant is the best closer in our game and the best player in our game.

Q: (directed at Charles Barkley) Knowing you are one of the best 50 and clearly Lebron will be one of the best 50, would you have said Michael Jordan was a better closer than yourself?

A: Yes, I told Michael---

Q: While you were playing?

A: Oh, while I was playing…I never would’ve admitted that!

Q: He’s a young guy (Lebron). I do believe he is tuggin’ on Kobe’s cape. You know we are talking MVP, the MVP is up for grabs, I do agree with Doug Collins…I would vote for Lebron James because he has to do more than any other player in this league for his team to win. You’ve had a great deal of success winning games coming back from being down in the 4th quarter. How much longer can you do that?

A: We don’t like going into the 4th quarter being down. We’ve done a great job, I’ve done a great job of getting victories. We have had 4 of our top 7 guys out, there is no team that can gather from that. First we have to get healthy before this stretch run leading to the playoffs, so we’ll see.

…much later in the post game show, Karl Malone crashed the party demanding that Charles Barkley apologize for giving Malone a hard time about the suit he wore on Draft Day, then insinuating that Charles has no business talking trash about Draft Day suits when Charles wore a brick red one.

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