Yes, a real All-Star event.
By Ben Osborne
After a quick stop at a charitable brunch Amar’e Stoudemire threw for the Ronald McDonald House, which I’ll be writing about shortly, my first credentialed event was the Rookie-Sophomore practice this morning at the Phoenix Convention Center.
As our man Dave McMenamin writes, the star of the game should be “sophomore” Kevin Durant, he of the red-hot play of late (personal note: dude is on my fantasy team, and I’m in first place. Those two facts are very connected.) But I think the rookies have the fresher team. I’m still a little confused about who the real head coaches are, since they’re still listed as TBD, but I know the “assistants” are Dwyane Wade for the rookies and Dwight Hoawrd for the sophomores. Dwyane spoke at media availability about his confidence. “This rookie class has got the League in good hands,” he said. “Beasley, Rose, OJ and Westbrook, all four of them are really doing well. And I’m glad I’ve got them tonight. I know Dwight’s got a good team, too, but I think I’ve got the more talented group.”
Dwyane didn’t even mention the huge size he’ll be working with tonight; the rookies have Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez and Greg Oden, who I still forget is classified as a rookie.
The “practice” is basically a (sleep)walk-through of how the guys should space themselves on a fast break, a secondary break, and then, on the rare occurrences where the game won’t be in transition, some quick half-court sets with curls at the free-throw line and pick and rolls off the elbow. Despite his having lost a tough one last night and being the last guy to take the floor, the rooks kind of stalled until their designated leader, Derrick Rose, took the floor.
Size or no size, this will be a guard’s game, and in Derrick, OJ and Westbrook, the Rookies have three players who are more than capable of directing the attack, and another guard (Eric Gordon) who has quickly proven he can be deadly from the perimeter. The rookies also have Michael Beasley, yours truly’s pick for Rookie of the Year. I was definitely way off on the pick, but I’m not giving up on the guy last night. Shoot, as DWade pointed out today, he was 9-of-10 from the floor last night, and the Shawn Marion trade will only open things up further for Be Easy. Of course, while I’ve realized he’s probably a tad undersized to dominate the L the way I thought he could, a big part of Mike’s challenge is his attitude. Does he take things serious enough to be great? He was certainly yucking it up at practice today. Maybe he was just happy about the increased minutes that are going to be coming his way in Miami soon.
If Beasley will have a big responsibility tonight it should be on defense, since the sophs are built more around swing guys (Wilson Chandler, Jeff Green, Al Thornton, Thaddeus Young and obviously the aforementioned KD) that Mike might have to check tonight. Maybe his DC-area roots with Durant give him an advantage on how to check him.
One footwear note from practice: the Nike guys were rocking some ill Purple and Orange Hyperdunk/Huarache (?) hybrids that I can’t even find online (though you can see them on OJ’s feet in the current main image on our homepage, and maybe some of you sneakerheads out there and provide a link of a close-up in the comments).
In travel news, Lang and Ryne are here safely and coming downtown soon, so you should be hearing from them, and we should have reports from the Celeb game, the DLeague Showcase and obviously this Rookie Game.
It’s nice to be posting some real stuff. See you soon.