Drew Packham
Monday February 11th, 2008

Well, I promised my faithful readers (Hi, mom!) that I would give my breakdown of the upcoming Rookie Challenge (Friday, 9 p.m., TNT), so here goes.

My heart is with the rookies (how can it not be when I'm writing about them every week?), but I have to admit, this looks to be a daunting task in the Big Easy. The sophomores have won the past five years, and unless the rookies play a perfect game, it looks like a sixth straight L.

The sophomores have a solid trio in first-time All-Star Brandon Roy, Grizzlies leading scorer Rudy Gay and Portland big man LaMarcus Aldridge. Point guard Rajon Rondo has proven, especially over the last few games, to be a reliable point guard for the Celtics. And the bench should be deep with Utah's Ronnie Brewer, Toronto's Andrea Bargnani and the Lakers' Jordan Farmar providing scoring.

Still, don't count out the rookies quite yet. They certainly have the talent and depth to win this glorified pickup game. Unfortunately, their strength is in their defense (shot-blocker Sean Williams, Jamario Moon and Al Horford, specifically), but there's rarely any defense played in these games, so the onus will be on the scorers.

Unfortunately again for the rookies, the sophomores have the edge on the offensive end. Looking at the rookie roster, Kevin Durant is the only true scorer (Al Thornton could have helped, no doubt), and he'll get his points, but who else will step up? Can Juan Carlos Navarro hit the open three-pointers he'll certainly see? Can Yi Jianlian break out with millions of Chinese fans watching? Will the game be the start of a big weekend for Moon, who will also get a chance to shine the next night in the Dunk Contest?

We'll find out Friday night, and you can bet I'll be paying close attention. And if you know of a good bar in Atlanta to watch the game, let me know and we can share a drink.

(Send comments, complaints or hype for your favorite rookie to Drew Packham at drew.packham@turner.com.)

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