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Friday, February 13, 2009
Rookie Challenge Live Blog


Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

After weeks of anticipation, debate, and hype, All-Star weekend has finally arrived.  The first major event on the undercard is the Rookie Challenge, which is somewhat of a misnomer...or half-nomer, because it pits the league's best sophomores against the top rookies [insert objections here].  David Thorpe has a terrific preview of the game and what to look for here

We'll be live-blogging the event.  Follow along, won't you...

Greg Oden is going to miss the game.  The reason?  He bumped knees last night with Corey Maggette.

The only numeric redundancy is Wilson Chandler and Thad Young sharing #21.

Who would win a cage match between Young and Chandler?  They both list at 6' 8 and 220, coincidentally.

Warmups underway.  I can't emphasize enough how OJ Mayo drains, like, every single shot attempt to perfection.

Oden not playing is a bit of a buzzkill.  He's the super-hybrid Frosh-more, which made for an interesting subplot.

Dwyane Wade is rocking his Nation of Islam ensemble.

Starting Lineup Sophs: Stuckey-Durant-Horford-Young-Greena

Frosh: Gordon-Rose-Gasol-Fernandez-Beasley

Kevin Durant at SG...Carlesimo Lives

Gatorade strikes again.  An NBA representative just came over to peel off the label on my Dasani water. 

Mayo coming off the bench. Innnntersting....

Looks like Rose/Gasol screen/roll is the tactical foundation of Rook

Judging from Horford's quick demand of the ball from the official, the Sophs want to run the Rooks out of the building.

Pace factor: Sophs>Rooks

Sophs: 7 seconds or less

Rudy in the open floor is a thing of beauty.

Eric Gordon is a quality defender, but against Durant, he's in waaay over his head.  That mismatch is working for Sophs.

Lopez and Mayo about to check in

Rudy in the halfcourt is a thing of beauty.

E Gordon: 4/4, 10 pts

Rudy from beyond the arc is a thing of beauty.

Hollinger: Suggests that, long term, Gordon's shot might be too flat -- from a trajectory standpoint -- for him to be a truly outstanding shooter.

Jeff Green's True Position...Discuss

Lopez is a surprisingly agile big man

Beasley and Green...exchange talk of trash.

Not sure Stuckey is a pull-up jump shooter.

Thornton can catch-and-shoot uncontested, but still struggles mightily from 18+

Scola is about 8-9 years older than everyone on the floor, Thornton the exception.

One of the weak parts of Eric Gordon's game is his rebounding rate.  He's strong, but small and, for whatever reason, has compiled abysmal Crawfordian numbers on the glass.

Have gone the whole way thus far: Jeff Green, Beasley, and Eric Gordon

Reduce that list to Gordon.

If Durant weren't putting up insane numbers every night, we might talk about his passing a little more.

Sort of a bailout.  Westbrook's handle still isn't Grade A...and trying to take Durant off the dribble...wellllll....

In one series we saw one of the only flaws in Westbrook [handle] and Rose's [jumper] game respectively.  Two super players with two distinct weaknesses.

Probably the prettiest set of the game .

Westbrook taunting Durant...hilarious.

ignited by the Lovian outlet by Gasol.

Dare I say this game is getting away from the Sophs?

Thornton has a really strong dribble game when he gets a running start.

Beasley is running a little hot.  Now 2-7

Stuckey knows how to deliver the ball to his bigs...now if only they can get him some in Detroit. 

It'll be interesting to see if Beasley develops a real post game as a PF [though as of today, looks like he'll be assuming the SF for MIA].  It's not *imperative* that he do so, but it would add a huge component to his game.

Is there a better practitioner of the PUJIT than Mayo?

Nice to see Beasley find some high % shots for himself.

I wish I could credit Westbrook with that drive, but the welcome mat was out.

The Spaniards almost make tapas.

The Euros have brought a lot to the NBA game, but Bigs-Who-Can-Pass might be the most exquisite.

Gasol definitely gets the Effort Award.

Where's Eric Gordon?  In Rambis' doghouse??

Momentum builder for Sophs?

The Under 13 Crowd is very excited for someone named Corbin Bleu, which sounds like a TV dinner entree.

Nice part of beasley's game.  Handle + pass

Eric Gordon: Released from Rambis' doghouse

The Los Angeles Clippers: 10/13 for 23 points in 27 minutes

Gordon mentioned today that he was hoping for a littlematchup time with teammate Thornton.  

Durant is now officially controlling this pickup game.

Kevin Durant knows exactly where to be on the basketball court at every nanosecond of the game.

Dwight Howard is now working the refs.

The less said about Aaron Brooks' atrocious betrayal of Kevin Durant's unselfishness, the better.

The Sam Cassell Special from Gordon.

Young has learned to use his right hand better.

Durant: Absolutely stroking it.  Can shoot over everyone on the floor not named Lopez

To review:  Kevin Durant -- 35 points [14/18]

That little lean-in to draw contact on the jump shot and sucker the defender is always referred to as a 'crafty veteran move.'  But it's being used here by the Rooks to perfection.

I like Russell Westbrook a lot, but this rookie team is better with Rose on the floor.

That's the thing with Beasley.  His skill set is that of a '3', but if you play him at the '4', he's more likely to draw a defender he can take off the dribble along the baseline. 

Counter-argument:  He can't defend the post.

Durant True Shooting Percentage: 86.1%

The Rooks are going with the Twin Tower alignment down the stretch.

Clipper Darryl is in the building chanting Let's Go Clippers, Let's Go.

Gordon draws contact on the drive exceptionally well.

You can sort of see the value of Durant at the 2.  I'm not suggesting that the benefits outweigh the costs, but he's unstoppable against a guy 6 inches shorter than him.

Chandler went to the right spot there...just didn't convert.  But a smart little set.

"Set" being a relative term in this game.

The Sophs got the mismatch there.  Another good set...

Beasley has had a fascinating game, an encapsulation of all his strengths and weaknesses.

You sometimes forget he can stop on a dime and step back like that, as if here were a 6' 4 guard. 

Winners get $15K each.  Losers get $5K.  $10,000 difference if my math is correct.

Aaron Brooks: Keeping the Rooks in the game.

Hollinger, re: brooks:  As Ramon Sessions sits at home and says, 'really??

44 pts...Easily a Rookie Game Record.

Only 2 Rookies in + territory:  Rudy Fernandez with a +10; Marc Gasol with +5. 

The best rookie/soph game to date?  Yes.


Kevin Durant wins the 5-0 unanimous vote for MVP.  Go figure.

Amare held the previous record: 36 points in the '04 game at Staples. 

Some unsung heroes: I thought Rodney Stuckey had a solid game for the Sophs.  He navigates the floor really well. I don't like platitudes like winning ballplayer, but Gasol has the patina of a guy who's going to help some good teams win some games before his career is over.

Brook Lopez needs some refinement, but also played a strong game.

As someone who watches Al Thornton on a regular basis, I can say that he's a guy who benefited greatly from this track meet.  He played a relaxed brand of basketball, and seemed very much in his element.   He even delivered a couple of smart interior passes on the drive. [!]

Final takeaway: Durant is a freak.  But we knew that.

Beasley's maturation will be fascinating to watch, even more so with the Heat's acquisition of O'Neal today, which will move Beasley out of the post. 

Eric Gordon should factor more prominently in the conversation as an elite rookie guard.

Jeff Green does everything very well, but nothing exceptional.    That's not intended as an insult.  There aren't 20 guys in the league you can say that about.

Thad Young's game has come along nicely.  I know he had a rough time earlier this season, but his athleticism is starting to round out into a more complete player.

See you tomorrow night for the Skillz Competition.