NBA: Irving the star in Rising Stars Challenge - Poughkeepsie Journal

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ORLANDO, FLA. — Cleveland rookie Kyrie Irving made eight 3-pointers and finished with 34 points, helping Team Chuck beat Team Shaq 146-133 in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday.

Indiana's Paul George added 23 points but the night belonged to Irving, who picked up where another rookie point guard left off in the NBA's showcase game for its first- and second-year players. Wizards point guard John Wall earned MVP honors last season when he was a rookie.

Cleveland's Tristan Thompson scored 20 points to lead Team Shaq. Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin had only two points.

This year's Rising Stars Challenge had a different format, with the rookie and second-year players mixed together on teams for the first time. The league also inserted a little more name recognition with former stars Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley serving as GMs and drafting the teams.

While the teams had a different look, there was once again no real defensive effort and plenty of fan-pleasing fast breaks and flashy play.

Irving opened the game with an alley-oop to George, and Minnesota rookie Ricky Rubio turned routine passes to his Shaq teammates into behind-the-back and between-the-leg looks.

It was part of an acrobatic early tone that was fast-paced and allowed the next generation of stars to showcase open-court and aerial skills that have already made many of them fan favorites on their respective teams.

Lin had a relatively quiet night. His biggest highlight came early in the second half when he took a pass from Rubio and drove it underneath for a reverse layup.

He played just nine minutes before heading to the bench midway in the second half, and instead mostly yielded to the more high-flying players on his team. He took just four shots.

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin had several highlights while playing for Team Shaq, catching several alley-oops and even throwing his own pass off the glass and catching it for a dunk.

Hall of Fame finalists: Former Indiana Pacers great Reggie Miller was announced Friday as a first-time finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He is one of 12 finalists for the Class of 2012.

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"When you're in the backyard and you're trying to play the 3-2-1 game, and you're trying to be the Iceman (George Gervin) and do the finger roll. ... Now to be on the same stage with these guys. It's just a great honor," Miller said.

Miller, a five-time All-Star, was joined as a first-time finalist by five-time NCAA Final Four coach Rick Pitino, former NBA coach Bill Fitch and two-time Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain.

On the ballot again are Don Nelson, Maurice Cheeks, Bernard King, Dick Motta, Hank Nichols, Ralph Sampson, Jamaal Wilkes and the All-American Red Heads, known as the female version of the Harlem Globetrotters and the first women's professional basketball team.

Miller and Cheeks were the only finalists in attendance for Friday's announcement.

"I also played against these guys and it's the highest honor And to be selected would be an honor," Cheeks said. "To get to the NBA was special for me. To have an opportunity to be elected to Hall of Fame would just be an honor."

The 2012 class will be announced April 2 at NCAA Final Four in New Orleans. A finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election.

Also honored Friday were five direct elections, who will serve as the initial 2012 inductees: Mel Daniels, voted by the American Basketball Association Committee; Don Barksdale from the Early African-American Pioneers Committee; Lidia Alexeeva from the International Committee; Chet Walker from the Veterans Committee; and Phil Knight from the Contributors Committee.

25 Feb, 2012

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