NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 15, 2008 -- The Sophomores have a five-game winning streak in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam, and this year's second-year class would like nothing more than to keep that streak going, especially after they took a serious beating in the game last year.

Five of the nine guys on this sophomore squad were on the rookie team that got blasted by 41 points last year. And by the way, 41 points make it sound closer than the game actually was. It was out of hand less than 10 minutes into the game, as David Lee squashed the undersized rookies and had his team up 30 before halftime.

"Last year, we started a little late," Rudy Gay admitted. "By the time we started, it was too late."

So, when they take the floor tonight, things need to be a little different.

"Just the intensity," Brandon Roy said. "We came out and we thought it would be kinda fun with some showboating. But the Sophomores came out with intensity and played extremely hard. So, we're gonna approach it the same way they did last year. We're gonna approach this game hard, run our sets, and we're not going to give them anything. We're gonna approach it like a real game."

Taking it seriously seems to be the theme.

"We've got to come out and take this trip as a little business trip," Jordan Farmar said. "There's a financial incentive for winning the game, so we might as well look at it as a business opportunity, just come together and get it done."

And if they do that, they should be successful, because they have a personnel advantage.

"It's our playmakers and our bigs with the ability to space," Roy said. "We've got LaMarcus [Aldridge] and [Andrea] Bargnani. They do a good job of picking and popping. And just our experience. We've been here, we've been through a full NBA season, and hopefully, that can help us out."

"I like our roster a lot, because of its versatility," Sophomore coach Tom Thibodeau added. "Most of the guys are multiple position guys with high skill level. So, it's a very talented group."

But it takes more than talent to win.

"Obviously, this game is about them, to showcase their talent," Thibodeau said. "But not only their talent, their ability to play hard. So, the big thing is to play unselfishly, to play together, make the extra pass and hit the open man. That's basically what we're looking for. We don't want to overcomplicate anything. Keep it simple and just play the game the right way."

Thibodeau, who is considered a great defensive coach (his addition to the Celtics' staff has helped make them the No. 1 defensive team in the league), wouldn't mind seeing his team play a little defense either.

"Why not?"

Putting in Work

The Sophomores had a pretty light shootaround, with the highlight being a somewhat unenthusiastic alley-oop from Daniel Gibson to Jordan Farmar. But the point wasn't to make highlights. The point was to get prepared.

And Thibodeau's offensive focus seems to be drive-and-kick action. They did a drive-and-kick drill to start practice and the first offensive set they went over was drive-and-kick based, with a pick-and-roll variation as well.

Thibodeau had one phrase that he used at least a dozen times during the course of the shootaround: "Make plays."

They went over a few other offensive plays, as well as a couple of out-of-bounds plays, and defending the high pick-and-roll.

Learning From a Legend

One of the cool things about the Rookie Challenge is that each team has an NBA legend as an assistant coach. The assistant for the Sophomores is Willis Reed, he of the Game 7 limp onto the floor in the 1970 Finals and two championships. Reed was seen chatting up LaMarcus Aldridge at the end of practice.

"The first think he told me was, 'If they don't pass you the ball, get in the paint and get every offensive rebound,'" Aldridge revealed.

The young Blazer was definitely going to take advantage of the opportunity to pick the brain of a Hall of Famer.

"I'll ask him certain stuff about movement, about my game and what I can fix," Aldridge said.