Young All-Stars embrace international stage
Posted: February 16, 2013
HOUSTON -- For young players, the dream of being selected to represent one's team at NBA All-Star Weekend is omnipresent.
For the select few who see that dream actualized, their focus typically turns quickly to proving that their appointment was deserved.
Sixer point guard Jrue Holiday is one of six first-time All-Stars on the East's 12-man squad. Of those six first-timers, four are under the age of 25 – Tyson Chandler (30) and Joakim Noah (27) are the exceptions. For Holiday (22), Indiana's Paul George (22), Brooklyn's Brook Lopez (24), and Cleveland's Kyrie Irving (20), this weekend will serve as a fantastic opportunity to showcase their talents in front of a not only national, but international, audience.
"I think [this is a chance to show what I can do]" said Holiday. "I feel like the veterans, their demeanor is kind of 'been there, done that.' I think all the younger guys are definitely trying to come out and show what they can do."
In Friday night's BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, a game coached by legends Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley and played between teams comprised of the league's top rookie and second-year players, sophomore, and first-time All-Star, Kyrie Irving followed through on that approach.
The 20-year-old Cavalier phenom scored 32 points (14-20 FGM-A, 4-8 3PM-A) and added six assists and six rebounds, all while turning the ball over just once. Beyond his pure statistical proficiency, though, Irving's individual performance down the stretch of his team's 163-135 defensively scant loss to Team Chuck had players and fans alike buzzing.
With just over five minutes remaining in the game, Irving found himself matched up with high school rival and Detroit Pistons point guard Brandon Knight. What ensued was two minutes of back-and-forth isolation ball between the two, with Irving coming out the clear victor following three straight one-on-one buckets, including a crossover and stepback jumper that ended with Knight on the floor and the ball in the basket.
"For me, it only being my second year in the NBA and being [an All-Star], it's truly an honor and a testament to the hard work I've put in this season," said Irving. "[While I'm here], I just want to learn how to compete at the highest level."
The young Cavalier's eye-opening performance Friday was not lost on Holiday, who watched the game on television. Of primary concern for the young Philly floor general, though, is making sure he savors the experience in and enjoys himself.
"I'm really excited for the game tomorrow," he said. "You know, man, I'm just looking to have some fun. Whatever happens, happens. Obviously, I'll try to showcase as much as possible, but I just want to have a lot of fun."