Future Stars

Monroe, Knight do Pistons proud in Rising Stars Challenge

Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight represented the Pistons at the Rising Stars Challenge game Friday.
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Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight are diligent students who adhere religiously to the tenets of winning basketball. So the real challenge for the young Pistons stars in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge game, as it turned out, was figuring out how to steer a free-for-all game into something more closely resembling the basketball they know.

Maybe the most telling moment of a night designed to inspire “SportsCenter” Top 10 fodder came in the final seconds, when Monroe drew boos from the Orlando crowd because he had the audacity to intercept a John Wall pass intended to set up his own dunk.

Monroe filled up the stat sheet across the spectrum of categories, not merely the points and shot attempts that generally reflect the emphasis of All-Star games. He had 19 points, a team-high 10 rebounds, a game-high five steals and four assists.

Knight, who leads all rookies in 3-pointers made this season, didn’t have his usual stroke from the arc, hitting 2 of 9. He finished with 14 points and seven assists as their Team Shaq lost 146-133 to Team Chuck, led by 2011 No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving, who hit 8 of 8 from the arc and won MVP honors in scoring 34 points.

“It was a lot of fun,” Monroe said. “I wish we could have gotten the win, but it’s just a show for the fans, a chance to highlight the young players coming up in the league. I had a lot of fun and I’m pretty sure everyone else did, too.”

Monroe and Knight re-entered the game with Team Shaq trailing 121-102 with 9:03 left and immediately sparked a comeback that saw the deficit shrink to 11. Knight scored on a fast-break dunk and hit a 3-point shot while Monroe cleaned up defensive rebounds when Team Shaq managed the rarest of Rising Stars game feats: consecutive stops.

Monroe and Knight were starters for Team Shaq in a point-guard heavy lineup that also included Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio and Jeremy Lin. Knight took turns handling the ball with Rubio and Lin but guarded Team Chuck small forward Evan Turner.

Knight played a little more than 11 minutes in the first half and finished with nine points and five assists. Monroe played more than 12 minutes and contributed seven points, three rebounds and three steals, more than anyone on either side.

“It was a lot of fun,” Knight said. “Playing with all of these guys – a lot of guys you grew up playing with – and sharing this experience with them and sharing the All-Star atmosphere was a lot of fun. Playing with Greg made it a lot more special. Just him being there made the event that much better.”

Some of Knight’s best moments included a backward bounce pass to a trailing Kemba Walker for a layup and a pretty cross-court feed to Monroe for another easy score. Monroe knocked down a few perimeter jump shots, including a 3-pointer.

“Just being out there, getting up and down, being among young players – the best young players in the league,” Monroe said. “This is the only time when we’re all together on one court, so it was a lot of fun.”