If the 2016 NBA Rising Stars Challenge on Friday showcased anything, it was that the next generation of basketball stars are exciting, eager to prove themselves and are ready to keep the NBA relevant for years to come.
But as it tends to be, the game itself was merely a glorified scrimmage with any and all defense clearly getting stuck in customs between the United States and Canada border. Team USA ended up with the victory over Team World, winning 157-154 in Toronto.
For the second straight year, the game went away from the traditional rookie vs. sophomore competition, instead opting for the local and international teams. The NBA keeps churning the wheel that is All-Star Weekend, trying to find the right combination that will make these classic events feel fresh and original, but this might not be it. Rookies and sophomores always seemed to give the game just a bit more of an edge.
For Team USA, it was Zach LaVine who tallied 30 points on 13-of-20 shooting, hitting a couple long balls and even nabbing seven rebounds -- enough to earn the MVP title for the game. Kristaps Porzingis led the way for Team World with 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting, including five triples in eight attempts, while Andrew Wiggins poured in 29 of his own.
Although there were plenty of dunks, there were no defenders in sight to put on any posters. Instead, the overly ambitious alley oops that sailed over the heads but also showed how athletic some of these youngsters are were the most entertaining part of the game. If there was one standout jam of the evening, it was Jabari Parker sneaking past Porzingis.
Both sides stiffened slightly on defense with about two minutes to go, but Team USA's 10-point lead was a big enough cushion to hold onto the win, even as Team World began intentionally fouling to prolong the final seconds in a desperate comeback bid that fell just short.