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Friday, February 17, 2006
Training Day: Iguodala's 30 leads sophs past rookies

Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Andre Iguodala says he still has some dunks saved for Saturday. The rookies might not believe him.

Iguodala broke out his dunking repertoire Friday night and scored 30 points, leading the sophomores over the rookies 106-96 in the Rookie Challenge.

The Philadelphia swingman is one of the four players in Saturday night's slam dunk contest, and he had a chance to show his leaping skills Friday. All three of his first-half field goals were dunks, then he helped the sophomores break open the game early in the second half with a few more.

"Tomorrow is going to be a fun day," Iguodala said. "I've got a couple of things under my sleeve. I want to try something new. Everything I did today, you've seen before. I am going to try some new things tomorrow."

He even added four 3-pointers and shot 13-of-17 from the field to win MVP honors.

"The main focus of All-Star weekend is the fans," Iguodala said. "Once you step onto that court, you want to put on a good show for them. I got open on a lot of breaks, got some easy dunks and from there, got some outside shots."

Ben Gordon added 17 points for the sophomores, who led by as much as 23 points.

Rockets guard Luther Head and Toronto's Charlie Villanueva each scored 18 points for the rookies, who were 7-for-26 (27 percent) from 3-point range. Chris Paul, the likely Rookie of the Year, had 11 assists and five steals but scored only eight points.

"I thought Chris had a good game because he had 11 assists, but sometimes Chris can get 11 assists and still get you 20 points," sophomores coach Del Harris said. "So I thought our guards ... did a nice job with him."

The rookies were within four points early in the second half, but then Gordon made a 3-pointer. Iguodala followed with a dunk and a jumper, then gave up a dunk to let Dwight Howard have it as the sophomores pushed the lead to 15 points.

"The first half we came out I think guys were a little nervous," Gordon said. "We got the kinks out after the first 10 minutes or so. It just carried over to the second half. We were able to get out to a big lead and the game was pretty much over after the first 5 minutes."

Iguodala picked up a loose ball less than a minute later and threw down a one-handed dunk. He added another one after Devin Harris threw the ball off the backboard for him, and he got another easy slam after the rookies' botched alley-oop attempt led to a fast break.

His most impressive dunk was one that didn't count. He made a steal along the sideline and was fouled while heading in for a dunk. He kept going anyway, putting the ball between his legs before throwing it down.

"We've got a dunk contest coming tomorrow, so they can see the guys do their thing there," rookies coach Sidney Lowe said. "The games, you can't allow that. But he had a couple and he took advantage of it."

Harris put Iguodala back in the game after the rookies got within single digits in the closing minutes, and Iguodala responded with two more dunks to end the rookies' hopes.

"He ran the court, he rebounded," Harris said. "But I'm glad he did, because when we played in Philadelphia Iguodala did about the same thing to us during the season. So I just wanted to make sure it wasn't anything personal on his part."

Among those in the crowd for the opening event of All-Star weekend were Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Bryant entered midway through the first half and walked to the opposite end of the arena to take a seat behind the basket. He stopped by on his way to shake hands and say few quick words to his former teammate, who ended their feud before Miami played in Los Angeles last month.

The sophomores won the game for the fourth straight time despite playing without Houston native Emeka Okafor, last season's Rookie of the Year who is injured.

The rookies were 1-for-11 from 3-point range in the first half.

"Everybody wants to win. I don't think anyone went out there thinking they were going to lose," Head said. "They just proved that they're a year ahead of us. During the season, you're focusing hard and competing hard. Here, you're competing, but you're looking to have a little fun, too."