Courtesy of MCT
As the NBA All-Stars took to the court Sunday night in Orlando, none of them were clad in wine and gold. Nonetheless, the Cleveland Cavaliers youth shined in the All-Star festivities.
Kyrie Irving, the 2011 NBA draft’s No. 1-overall pick, and Tristan Thompson, fourth overall selection, represented the Cavs in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge Friday night. In the game, which pits first- and second-year players against each other, the pair of rookies actually took the court against each other.
As the Cavs have not had a single nationally-televised game before the All-Star break, the duo got their first chance to show the nation what’s going on in Cleveland.
Thompson represented Team Shaq, selected by Shaquille O’Neal, and Irving was the first selection of Charles Barkley, leader of Team Chuck. Sharing the court with up-and-coming stars such as the Clippers’ Blake Griffin, Knicks’ Jeremy Lin and Wizards’ John Wall, the competition was stiff. But the Cavaliers rookies put on a show.
Thompson, who will turn 21 in a little more than two weeks, clocked 27 minutes and led Team Shaq with 20 points on 10-of-11 shooting from the field. Considering he was sharing time with established young big men Griffin and Detroit’s Greg Monroe, the performance was impressive.
But the real star of the show was Irving. After starting off slow in the first 15 minutes, the rookie drained all four of his 3-point attempts in the last five minutes of the first half and went into the break leading his team with 16 points. The 19-year-old was far from finished as he went on to score 18 points in the second half, to bring his total to 34 on the night. The shooting clinic he put on was the highlight of the night, as he sunk 12-of-13 field goal attempts, including a perfect long-range shooting display finishing 8-for-8 from 3-point range.
His shooting stroke was not all that was showcased though, as he also recorded nine assists to display his play-making ability. His athleticism shone on the receiving end of an alley-oop pass from Wall.
In the end, Team Chuck defeated Team Shaq, 146-133, and Irving deservedly walked away with his first MVP trophy, albeit in a game known for its lackadaisical defense.
That being said, Thompson and Irving’s performances were encouraging and showed the country that the Cavs’ future is bright, something that Cleveland fans have already seen in the first half of the year.
It’s not out of the question to say that when the 2013 NBA All-Star teams take the court in Houston Feb. 17, the city of Cleveland might have a representative or two.
And while that event is still a year away, Irving and Thompson certainly proved ESPN should at least consider airing a Cavs game before the end of time.