Team World (1-1) vs. Team USA (1-1)
Radio: NBA SiriusXM
Time: 8:00 PM CST
The Oklahoma City Thunder have had an extremely rich history in the Friday night game that usually starts All-Star weekend. From 2008-2011, the game was structured as a Rookies vs. Sophomores games. From 2012-2014, the game still featured rookies and sophomore, but they were “drafted” by two of the analyst from TNT (either Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Grant Hill, or Chris Webber). In 2015, the format changed to its current structure of the USA vs. the World, while still featuring rookies and sophomores.
In 2009, the game featured Kevin Durant and Jeff Green on the Sophomore team and Russell Westbrook on the Rookie team. Durant was the leading scorer in that game with 46 points. The following year saw Westbrook on the Sophomore team, James Harden on the Rookie team, and Durant on the Rookies’ bench as an assistant coach. In addition, Anthony Morrow also participated on the Sophomore team, but was a member of the Golden State Warriors at that time. Westbrook was the leading scorer in that game with 40 points.
In 2011, Harden and Serge Ibaka were on the Sophomore team, with Harden leading the team in scoring with 30 points. The following year, the Thunder had no players in the game, but assistant coach Maurice Cheeks was the head coach for Team Chuck.
After a two year lull, a Thunder player once again returned to the Rising Stars Challenge. That player was Steven Adams, who was a member of Team Webber in 2014. The coach for Webber’s team was former Thunder assistant coach Rex Kalamian. In 2015, Adams was a member of the World team, but was unable to participate due to injury.
This year’s game feature two Thunder rookies. Domantas Sabonis and Alex Abrines will both participate as members of the World Team. Sabonis was an original selection, while Abrines was an injury replacement for Joel Embiid.
3 Big Things
1. Alex Abrines….the play-maker?
Outside of Dante Exum, the World Team is devoid of play-makers. Emmanuel Mudiay was supposed to be a part of the team, but an injury has forced him to sit out. Abrines has shown a knack for getting into the lane and may be tasked with being a play-maker on Team World.
2. Sabonis – Post player
Sabonis’ role on the World Team is going to look completely different than his role on the Thunder. He won’t be floating around the perimeter awaiting a pass from Russell Westbrook. Instead, Sabonis will spend most of his time in the paint, battling against the likes of Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Myles Turner.
3. High-scoring affairs
Defense is usually not at a premium for these types of games. Which is a good thing because Abrines and Sabonis are not yet defensive stalwarts. Let ’em fly, boys. Let ’em fly.