The Rookie-Sophomore was a fun affair as always. After starting off with a slew of open jumpers (many of which were taken by DeJuan Blair), the players started opening up and slamming it home. The Sophomores had an early lead, but the game quickly evened out because both teams absolutely refused to play any defense.
Harden had a excellent dunk around the 11:30 mark, and also hit an open three a couple minutes later. Ibaka had a wide open dunk and hit one of two jumpers.
But around the 7:50 mark, an amazing thing happened. DeJuan blair is all alone, throws the ball HARD into the top of the glass, catches it with one hand, and slams it home. Someone put this man in the dunk contest!
The Rookies quickly started capitalizing on turnovers, and they took a small lead. The see-saw battle continued, and Harden had a couple of questionable plays (a drive to the rim that looked pretty but just resulted in a foul, and a three that hit the front of the rim), but Ibaka quickly fired things back up with a made three.
In all honesty, there wasn't much competition going on. Any missed shot was the fault of the player who took it, and the only thing resembling defense were guards easily intercepting cross-court passes.
Things almost took a turn for the Sophmores when the Rookies missed a few jumpers. Harden had a nice drive to the basket and a open three that put the Sophomores up by one, but the Rookies quickly charged back and re-took the lead with some easy dunks and missed threes by Harden and Curry.
Below: The Second Half, The Celebrity Game, and the D-League Dream Factory!
Dejuan Blair, Blake Griffin. Those are the only two names you need to know from the early second half of this game. While Griffin was dunking, Blair was making fancy layups, fancy passes, and rebounding. The defense got a bit more intense, but all that lead to was more transition buckets and more outside shots. A particularly impressive play came when John Wall bounced the ball on the floor over Stephen Curry and directly into the hands of Blake Griffin, who slammed it in with ease.
The first sign of Thunder activity came about one quarter into the second half, with Serge Ibaka putting in a put-back slam. Shortly after, Wesley Johnson tried for an open slam, but got stuffed by the rim really badly. But the Thunder players quickly gave their team a bad rap, with Serge Ibaka blowing a jumper and James Harden throwing the ball to nobody at all....before you know it, the Sophomores were up by 8. Ibaka got the deficit back to 6 with a cleanup basket, but he was quickly answered by a tough Gary Neal jumper.
At this point, the game became much more intense. There were no more open layups, shots were contested, and drives to the basket resulted in fouls. Still, that's no excuse for Ibaka blowing an open dunk with 11 minutes to go. With the Sophomores down by 9, Harden finally had an answer for them, going coast to coast for a hard slam. One Jrue Holiday layup later, Harden had an excellent windmill dunk, showing that he really belonged in this game.
Then, a couple of plays later came yet another Harden dunk that put the Sophomores within three. The Rookies were committing too many turnovers and fairing up too many bad shots. After split freethrows from the rookies, Stephen Curry had an excellent catch-and-shoot three to pull the Sophomores within 1. The game quickly became a long-distance back-and-forth contest, but another highlight came when Serge Ibaka faced up Derrick Favors in the triple threat position and nailed a three. Cousins had another nice dunk, but it was followed by James Harden gettin to the line. He split the FT, putting his team back up by 1.
As the half wound down, Cousins and Blair continued to make their cases for MVP, but James Harden hit a step-back three to put his team up by the same amount. The scoring continued, and James Harden drew yet another foul and hit both FT to keep his team ahead by three. Wesley Johnson immediately responded, and tied the game at 130.
After that, the defensive gloves were off. DeMarcus Cousins was stuffed in the lane, and James Harden missed a long-range three. Here, the highlight-reel seekers were pushed aside, and the players from better teams who knew what responsible plays to make in these types of situations (Harden, Neal, Matthews) started rising. Blake Griffin sat on the bench while thousands of kids chanted his name.
Neal hit a couple of nice floaters into the lane to put the Rookies up by about 5 with three minutes to go. Harden missed a long three, and John Wall committed a turnover. Jennings missed an open three really long, and DeMarcus Cousins split the FT, putting the rookies up by 6. It was quickly cut by a sly drive from Harden, making it a 4 point game with 1:41 to go. DeMarcus Cousins responded with an open top of the key jumper. Wesley Matthews blew a layup, and it was rebounded by Landry Fields. Gary Neal rebounded his own three and made a nice floater to essentially seal it for the Rookies, putting them up by 8 with a minute to go.
Jennings missed another three, and it was rebounded again by Fields. But the Sophomores still had fight in them, as Neal missed a three, and Blair looped out his rebound to an open Harden for three at the other end. John Wall was immediately fouled. He missed both freethrows, but Cousins saved his team with a rebound and slam.
But the Sophomores still weren't done. Stephen Curry hit a deep three to put his team within 4 with 30 seconds to go. Harden almost stole the ball on the subsequent inbounds, but Wesley Johnson got the ball and was fouled. He nailed both FT, and it was essentially over. James Harden was fouled on an ensuing three, but it was ignored, and Wall got the rebound. He passed it to Cousins, who threw it off the backboard to Wall for an excellent slam. Wall, after doing all of the passing, finally got his just desserts. Wes Matthews and DeJuan Blair missed a couple of token shots, and it was all over. John Wall gave Wes Johnson a dunk after the buzzer just for fun. The Rookies had won for the second straight year in a row.
Overall, I liked the performance of Ibaka and Harden. They both provided something different to what other players were doing by driving to the basket and hitting tough jumpers, while other players were just dunking and chucking up threes. Harden was also instrumental in getting the Sophomores back in towards the end of the game, and Ibaka helped keep them in. They missed a few shots, but without them, this would have been a Rookie blowout. So hats off to ya, guys. John Wall won the MVP award with 12 Points and 22 Assists.
Ibaka finished with 14 Points and 5 Rebounds, while Harden finished with 30 Points (2 more than Blair!).
The BBVA Celebrity All-Star Game
What can you say about this event? Doing a quarter-by-quarter recap would be a useless venture, so I'll just throw in a few tidbits about this game....
-The East dominated the game most of the time, but the West got back in because of Jalen Rose and Scottie Pippen not playing defense. The East won in the end though, with Bieber missing the potentially game-tieing three, and the rest of the team failing a couple of other opportunities as well.
-Scottie Pippen can still ball. No question. He went something like 7-8 on threes, and hit a couple of jumpers as well. Jalen Rose tried to defend against him as hard as he could, but Pippen found ways around him....when he wanted to. I wanted really desperately for Pippen to try to dunk the ball, but I suppose he didn't want to embarrass himself. Had this not been a serious affair, he would have wiped the floor with these other fools.
-Bieber can play basketball, to everyone's surprise. It's the type of basketball that's played by kids living in the middle of suburbia everywhere: dribble it around a lot, make stylish passes, and chuck up threes. He was allowed to chuck up these threes probably because Bieber's posse told the rest of the team before the game that if they layed a finger on him, bad things would happen. His game was pretty embarrassing though, as he went something like 2 of 8 from beyond the arc, made some terrible turnovers, and yelled at Scottie Pippen for playing defense on him too hard. Fan voting decided the MVP, so he won by virtue of his massive amount of twitter followers....Pippen was a much more deserving MVP, though. He also acted like his team won after the game, and interrupted a interview with Trey Songz. Eh, BIEBER ALERT!
-Jalen Rose can still ball too. Just not as well as Scottie Pippen. Lots of nice drives to the basket.
-Mitch Richmond has gained some weight. Actually, I think he stole all of Jason Alexander's weight before the game. He basically played the game like a post player who could shoot and scored a few points. At least he's still got the skills.
-Chris Mullin was horrible. His shot is gone, and it's never coming back.
-Romeo Miller (Known to me and many other youngsters as Lil' Romeo) was pretty terrible. He played for USC for two years, but he was dropped off of scholarship, and I can see why. He can dribble it around all day, but he can't shoot worth a darn, and committed a few turnovers. He kept trying to dunk it, but fell short twice and ran out of energy once.
-There was this huge ESPN thing about Michael Rapaport training to be the MVP again in this game, even though his last MVP was a farce. I don't even know who this dude is outside of the Celebrity All-Star game (yes, I'm out of tune with pop-culture, I know), and he's not really that funny.
-The Assistant coaches were a joke. I hardly knew Jimmy Kimmel was there, I didn't even know who that other actor guy was, and Jason Alexander basically sat on a high chair all game and talked about Jenny Craig. Thankfully, I didn't notice Bill Simmons at all.
-Arnie Duncan (The Secretary of Education) was a nice addition to this event. He obviously knew how to play basketball, and had a few nice jumpers and behind the back passes.
-Everyone else was forgettable. Honestly, I would have liked to see more of Nick Cannon, Common, Rick Fox, A.C. Green, and some of those random celebrities. This game should be split into celebrities, and NBA Legends so there's not such a clash of cultures going on. Then again, that's what makes the All-Star game so insanely awesome to watch, so I think we should keep it just the way it is....that is, through changing it up in some random way again next year like they do every single year.
The D-League Dream Factory Presented by Haier
Shooting Stars Competition
Even in the NBA, the Shooting Stars competition is not something to get hugely excited about....in the D-League, it's just as un exciting, but even moreso because you hardly know the guys who are playing. If you don't know, Shooting Stars is a competition where players have to shoot from 6 spots on the court (the sixth of which is the half-court line), and the team that completes it in the shortest amount of time is the winner. Almost always, the competition comes down to the half-court shot, and more often than not, it's decided by luck.
The first team was extremely lazy, and the second team was only slightly less so. The third team actually tried and got a decent score (like :45), but by far the most interesting moment in the competition came with the fourth team. They nearly perfectly hit all of their first 5 shots (the last one evilly rimmed out). Then, on the third or fourth half-court shot, Shane Edwards threw one up. It hit the top of the backboard, so everyone dismissed it and the next shot was taken. But the shot wasn't actually done yet. After bouncing off of the top of the backboard, it bounced off the top of the shot clock and went in. You never know where you'll find greatness like that. It was not counted initially and they finished out of the second round, but with the crowds begging, it was counted as in and they moved on to the finals. The third team finished far back after missing many of their easy shots, and had a time upwards of :85. The fourth team (Jeremy Wise, Orien Greene, and Shane Edwards) then finished a decent round of around a minute and won the contest. They deserved it.
Three Point Contest
There are two things separating the D-League three point contest from the NBA one. The first is that there's only four contestants, but the second and more interesting difference is that there is a rack consisting entirely of moneyballs that a player can move around before the contest. It always sat on one of the "between" racks and was never moved. I didn't necessarily like the rack (since it relied on players getting hot at random times), but it did help ramp up the excitement.
Scottie Reynolds capitalized on his moneyball rack, allowing him to finish with 17.
Marcus Landry looked average at best, finishing with 16.
Booker Woodfox started off atrociously, but had a huge comeback on the last two racks going 3/5 on the first, and then 5/5 on the second. He finished with 16.
Andre Ingram didn't look horrible, with lots of shots barely rimming out. But way too many of them rimmed out. He finished with 13.
With both Landry and Woodfox tied at 16, they had to do a tiebreaker. Which consisted of doing the exact same thing all over again.
Marcus Landry's second run started off well, but f finished terribly, and he finished with 17.
Booker Woodfox heated up as it went on again, but he heated up way earlier than last time. He had essentially beaten Landry by the fourth rack, but he had a basket disallowed, so he had to finish him off in the fifth rack. He never finished the fifth rack, and had 20.
Scottie Reynolds had a terrible final round, blowing an entire rack and failing to complete his final rack, finishing with 7.
Booker Woodfox won the competition before the end of the second rack, and finished with 16.
Overall it was a fairly exciting three point contest, but it climaxed horribly with Reynolds going cold. But my desire for excitement was answered in....
The Dunk Contest
The dunk contest here functions exactly the same as it does in the NBA. There's 5 judges, they give scores up to 10 for each dunk, and the score of each judge is combined into a score for that dunk. There are two dunks per round, and two round. The judges were all semi-notable former NBA players, except for Donnie Nelson, who probably forced his way into judging by owning a D-League team. Or got offered the job when someone was a no-show. Either way....
Round 1, Dunk 1:
Derrick Byars kicked it off with a reverse dunk while he kicked his legs around in the air. Not overly impressive, and it appropriately got a 40.
Chris Johnson had a really nice (NBA dunk contest worthy) dunk where he hit it off the backboard, put it in-between his legs and slammed it home. Smooth, and awarded an acceptable 47.
Marqus Blakely did a simple one-handed 360. How it got 40, I don't know.
Dar Tucker did the same thing as Chris Johnson, except he did it much lower to the ground and earned a 50. Fair? Probably, considering how much longer he hung in the air.
Round 1, Dunk 2:
Derrick Byars rocked the cradle and fell away from the basket, running from one side to the other. Decent enough. He got a 45, earning him a total of 85.
Chris Johnson threw it up to himself, jumped under the basket, caught the ball, and braught it far inbetween his legs before reverse slamming it home. It got him a 45 as well, making it a 92. Probably deserved a bit more though.
Marqus Blakely tried desperately to do a between the legs off of the side of the backboard (assisted by a teammate), but he failed several times and had to settle on an off-the backboard windmill that didn't impress anyone, especially after he took the full minute and a half to do it. He got a 36, and totaled 76.
Dar Tucker just finished off the round with a basic off-the-backboard two-handed windmill that spent a lot of time in the air. Knew what he had to do, and played it safe. He got a 41 and finished with a total of 91.
Final Round, Dunk 1:
Dar Tucker started off this round with a bounce pass to himself for a between the legs dunk. It was basic, but solid enough to set himself up well for his final dunk. He earned a 46.
Chris Johnson's first dunk was spectacular, throwing it up from behind the backboard, catching it, putting it between his legs, and reverse slamming it home. He earned a 50, and had the best dunk to date.
Final Round, Dunk 2:
But Dar Tucker would not be shown up. He finished his contest with a Alley-oop play over a tall teammate, where he actually windmilled it before slamming it in. It sounds boring in description, but in real life, it looked amazing. Part of the dunk contest is showmanship, and Dar definitely brought it here. Obviously he got a 50, and finished with 96.
Chris Johnson didn't have to kill it to win, but he still had to do a reasonably good dunk. He threw it to himself from half-court, had it bounce near the middle of the paint, caught it mid-air, put it between his legs, and finished at the rim. It was probably good enough to win, but it didn't sit fantastically with the judges, so it only got a 43. Robbed? A little bit, but as I said above, you have to be a showman to win the dunk contest. And while Chris Johnson had some fundamentally good dunks, he never once used an assist man or a prop. So he probably deserved the loss.
What did you think of Friday's events? Vote in the poll, post a comment! And stay tuned for more All-Star Coverage!