Rookies Beat Sophomores in 2000
Dunks and Stunts Rock Rookie Challenge
Chicago's Elton Brand was the Rookie Challenge MVP, and Cleveland's Andre Miller took scoring honors with 21 points. But the 2000 Rookie Challenge will be remembered for the electric showmanship of Sacramento's Jason Williams, who wowed an enthusiastic crowd at The Arena in Oakland with mind-boggling passes that seemed to defy both description and some of the laws of physics.
The cheering crowd even found time to playfully boo Miller, who eschewed a showy dunk in favor of a basic layin in the first half, drawing the crowd's attention. Miller turned at least some of the boos into cheers in the second half, as he won the crowd over by tossing in three long three-pointers.
Brand set a Rookie Challenge record with 21 rebounds, including 12 on the offensive end. The powerful Chicago rookie burst through the lane once to power home a dunk and generally played like a veteran in this showcase of 20-somethings.
"When you have a lot of young stars coming together and playing with each other, you want to get an up-and-down pace and just a lot of showtime," said Houston's Steve Francis who had 13 points and tied a Schick Rookie record with a game-high 11 assists.
But it was Williams who captured the imagination of the event. The second-year Kings point guard tried every trick in the book, even bouncing a pass off his own elbow to a streaking Raef LaFrentz. Williams seemed to invent a new pass for every situation, slinging no-look passes crosscourt with ease. He also attempted a few 30-foot three-pointers and ended with nine points and five assists.
"Some of the passes he throws are unbelievable," Boston's Paul Pierce said of Williams. "You never know where it's going to come from. He's an incredible player with some of the things he can do. He brings a lot of excitement."
In the two-minute overtime, the 2000 Rookies scored eight straight points to decide matters, taking an 89-81 lead with less than 30 seconds remaining. Francis scored on fast-break layup, Posey hit a short jumper, then Francis and Brand powered home impressive dunks. Dirk Nowitzki (17 points) made a layup for the Sophomores' only basket in the abbreviated overtime session.
"It was raining in Oakland this weekend, but I think today there was a lot of sunshine in the gym," said Lamar Odom (15 points, eight rebounds, four assists). "It was just a great, great atmosphere and I was happy to be a part of it."
NOTES: Nine players in the game scored in double figures, quite notable considering the game was only 32 minutes in duration, including the two-minute overtime ... Francis' 11 assists tied the Rookie Game/Challenge record shared by Khalid Reeves (1995) and Damon Stoudamire (1996). ... Brand's 21 rebounds eclipsed the record of 12 set by Marcus Camby in 1997.
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