Expect a spirited contest between talented newcomers and confident vets
ATLANTA, Feb. 7 --
No matter how much fun they're supposed to have on All-Star Weekend, some players are intent in taking the break out of All-Star break.
The Nets' Richard Jefferson is prepared to help the Sophomores stand steadfast against the Rookies.|
Andrew D. Bernstein
Take, for instance, Golden State point guard Gilbert Arenas
, who will play for the Sophomores in the got milk? Rookie Challenge on All-Star Saturday (4 p.m. ET, TNT). The No. 31 pick in the 2001 Draft, Arenas is intent on working hard and showing his stuff.
"There's a lot of pride," Arenas said. "No one in the world thought I would be here. So I'm coming in with a lot of heart and a little chip on my shoulder."
Arenas, who is quick to smile when answering any other question, was all business when it came to talking about the game.
So was Nets forward Richard Jefferson, who is using Jason Richardson's unprecedented double-double (Rookie Challenge MVP and slam dunk champion) from last year as inspiration for this year.
"Yes, I have," Jefferson said when asked if he's thought about winning both. "And you can thank Jason Richardson for that. He came out and really made a name for himself on this weekend and it shows you need to take it seriously.
"As much fun as it is, it can do a lot for your career, it can do a lot for you, your team and your name. I'm definitely not going into that rookie game just to have fun. I'm going out there to compete, to play, to win and to play extremely hard. And I'm going to do the same thing in the dunk contest."
Another member of the Sophomore squad, Tyson Chandler of the Bulls, is looking forward to playing on the national stage.
The Cavs' Wagner hopes to ice a win for the Rookies.|
Andrew D. Bernstein
"This is big for me," Chandler said. "I really wanted to be here last year. And I didn't get the opportunity to play and for me to come back the second year and try again and make the team it's a great accomplishment for me."
It could be quite an accomplishment if the Sophomores win. They are expecting a serious challenge from a talented Rookie squad, which includes Rookie of the Year candidate Amare Stoudemire, Denver forward Nene Hilario and Cavs' sharpshooting guard Dajuan Wagner, who's also looking forward to doing a little catching up with friends.
"It feels good," Wagner said of participating in All-Star Weekend. "The last time we were together was September for rookie orientation, and now here we are playing in the rookie all-star game."
Miami rookie forward Caron Butler is also thinking about having a good time.
"I just want to go out there and have fun," Butler said, "and win the game."
Like Arenas, Cleveland rookie Carlos Boozer slipped to the second round in the 2002 Draft. He wants to prove that he can help the rookies to a win.
"I'm honored to be one of the top rookies. There are a lot of great rookies out there and to be one of the top nine is fantastic.
"I want to beat the Sophomores. That's what I want to do. They're a very talented group of guys, too, but I think we have a great group of guys too. And I think we're up for the challenge."
Arenas is ready.
"I want to win MVP," Arenas said. "I'm going to try to do everything I can. If I have to rebound 20 times and have 20 assists, that's what I'm going to do."