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Griffin, Irving headline pool of players for Rising Stars game

Feb 8, 2012, 2:38 PM EDT

Rookie John Wall, of the Washington Wiza

The NBA is trying to change the fortunes of what used to be the overlooked and uninteresting All-Star weekend Rookie Challenge (where the rookies played the sophomores).

This year TNT’s Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal are picking teams playground style (Team Shaq and Team Chuck) from a pool of rookies and sophomores — and the pool is a deep one, the league announced Wednesday.

Blake Griffin — last year’s Rookie of the Year — will be joined by the two clear frontrunners for the award this year, Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio. I thought because he was a starter on Sunday’s big game Griffin would beg off this event, but the league has twisted his arm and gotten him to play.

The other sophomores in the event are: DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings), Landry Fields (New York Knicks), Paul George (Indiana Pacers), Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz), Greg Monroe (Detroit Pistons), Tiago Splitter (San Antonio Spurs), Evan Turner (Philadelphia 76ers), and John Wall (Washington Wizards).

The other rookies will be MarShon Brooks (New Jersey Nets), Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs), Markieff Morris (Phoenix Suns), Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats), and Derrick Williams (Minnesota Timberwolves).

Those guys will essentially (not literally) line up against the gym wall and be chosen one-by-one by Shaq and Barkley. That will make a mixed team for the Friday night of All-Star Weekend in Orlando.

If you’re looking for snubs from the list, Norris Cole and Jimmer Fredette come to mind, but not sure I’d bump any of those rookies on the list off for them.

This game will take place Feb. 24. The All-Star Game itself is Feb. 26. The reserves for the All-Star Game (all chosen by the coaches) will be announced on Thursday.

  1. Josh - Feb 8, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    Nikola Pekovic objects. 15/9 over past 8 games on 64% shooting. If Griffin decides to bow out, Pekovic should be his replacement

  2. jthammerstix - Feb 8, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    ^that guy blows

  3. dsimp724 - Feb 8, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    This game sucks throw a couple big macs on the floor and have barkley and shaq fight it out. Thats entertainment

  4. dougmanoh - Feb 8, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    This format doesn’t save this game. The slam dunk contest will also be a disappointment this year. I say, create a one on one veteran format instead of the rookie game and make a small tournament out of it. First to 21 winner’s ball. I’ll take 30% of all the revenue generated for my idea, thank you very much.

    • czakobry - Feb 9, 2012 at 8:57 AM

      People have suggested this many times before and the same conclusion is always reached – no one wants to be beaten one on one on national television and so no one would ever participate. Do you really think Kobe and Wade want to risk one of them beating the other one on one? Talk about embarrassment.

  5. iambadkid2 - Feb 8, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    I’d love to see Rubio, the league leader in alley-oop assists, paired up with Griffin.

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