The Rookie-Sophomore Challenge is no more.
The annual wide-open dunkfest pitting first-year players against second-year players will have a different format this year in Orlando, the NBA announced Tuesday.
And under the new format, you might see Ricky Rubio throwing lobs to Blake Griffin.
The Friday night affair will now be called the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, and each team will have rookies and sophomores. Each team also will have GMs who will pick from a pool of players selected by NBA assistant coaches.
The GMs will be TNT studio analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal. Fellow analyst Kenny Smith will serve as honorary commissioner and “Inside the NBA” host Ernie Johnson will oversee the draft, which takes place on NBA TV on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. ET.
That should be somewhat interesting, as we will find out which rookies and sophomores Barkley and O’Neal like the most – and the least.
This year’s Rookie Class is dominated by point guards. Of the five rookies scoring in double digits, four - Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker and Rubio – are point men.
Believe it or not, there also are only five second-year players averaging double figures – Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Paul George and Jordan Crawford.
The game was introduced in 1994 and featured only rookies for the first five installments. In 2000, the format was changed to Rookies vs. Sophomores. The Sophomores won eight of those matchups, including seven in a row from 2003-09. But the Rookies have won the last two.
And while the format for selecting players and teams will change, the format for breakneck basketball will not. The game usually has less defense than a conventional All-Star Game.
The first game in 1994 saw the Phenoms defeat the Sensations, 74-68. Last year’s game doubled that total, with the Rookies defeating the Sophomores, 148-140.
Over the last nine years, the average final score for the 40-minute game has been 130.4-115.4