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All Star Weekend: Rising Stars open thread

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All Star weekend gets under way tonight with the Rising Stars Challenge, pitting two teams selected from among the best first and second year players in the NBA.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I have to admit, I'm having a pretty difficult time getting behind the All Star festivities this year. With Chris Paul having just returned to the Los Angeles Clippers lineup, an MVP-like Blake Griffin and a fully healthy roster coming any day now I'd really rather be watching actual games than a series of contests and exhibitions. It doesn't help matters that this is an FA Cup weekend in England and Tottenham has already been eliminated; basically from Tottenham's win over Newcastle and the Clippers win over the Blazers on Wednesday, until Tuesday's Clippers game against those other Spurs, there are no professional sporting events I really care about. At least I can watch Pepperdine play the other Portland in a game that actually matters tomorrow.

However, we're NBA fans around here and that means we are supposed to care about the NBA's long weekend of festivities down in N'Awluns. The first event is tonight, the Rising Stars Challenge (officially the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge). A few years back the NBA changed the format from rookies versus sophomores (since the sophomores ALWAYS won) and went to a draft format. Former Clipper Grant Hill is one of the coach/GMs this season, and the team he drafted is facing off against Chris Webber's team.

Team Hill Team Webber
Damian Lillard (Portland, Soph.) Anthony Davis (New Orleans, Soph.)
Bradley Beal (Washington, Soph.) Michael Carter-Williams (Philadelphia, Rookie)
Andre Drummond (Detroit, Soph.) Tim Hardaway Jr. (New York, Rookie)
Harrison Barnes (Golden State, Soph.) Trey Burke (Utah, Rookie)
Terrence Jones (Houston, Soph.) Jared Sullinger (Boston, Soph.)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee, Rookie) Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn, Rookie)
Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto, Soph.) Victor Oladipo (Orlando, Rookie)
Dion Waiters (Cleveland, Soph.) Steven Adams (OKC, Rookie)
Miles Plumlee (Phoenix, Soph.) Kelly Olynyk (Boston, Rookie)

Interestingly, although the NBA didn't really like the rookies versus sophomores format, this game has almost turned into that because after picking Anthony Davis with his first pick, Webber went almost exclusively with rookies from there on, while Hill picked almost all second year players. Hill did pick Giannis Antetokounmpo and Pero Antic, but Antic is hurt and wound up being replaced by another sophomore, Miles Plumlee.

(As a quick aside, when I was an AYSO coach, I quickly found out that you should always draft the older kids. In the U12 draft, picking players who are 10 and 11, the rankings were supposedly normalized to account for the age difference. But it never worked. An 11 year old rated a 16 was always better than a 10 year old rated a 16. After my first draft when my son was 10, I picked up on the pattern and my teams won the league in every drafted league from then on. Always draft the older kids people.)

The BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge is on TNT at 6 PM Pacific tonight. All Star weekend continues tomorrow with All Star Saturday and concludes Sunday with the game itself.

Tonight's game marks the start of a very busy weekend for Portland's Damian Lillard. Not only is he playing in the Rising Stars Challenge. He's also in the Three Point Shootout, the Skills Challenge, the Dunk Contest on Saturday and the actual All Star Game on Sunday. It's the first time an individual has participated in five separate All Star Weekend events.

Blake Griffin will start for the West in the All Star Game and Chris Paul will come off the bench. (West coach Scott Brooks today picked his former player James Harden to replace the injured Kobe Bryant in the West starting lineup, despite the fact that Paul would have been the better choice and the more popular choice for a game being played in New Orleans. Oh well.) There are no other Clippers participating in All Star festivities. Reggie Bullock probably belongs with this group of rookies, but on a team as loaded as the Clippers, he simply hasn't had the opportunities that, say, a Tim Hardaway, Jr. has gotten in New York.