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Cunningham’s star scent

El aroma a estrella de Cunningham

All Star Weekend 2022 kicked off, the 71st edition of one of the central events of each NBA season, this is not just any but the 75th anniversary, whose celebration permeates to the bone an appointment that returns to Cleveland for the third time. He was there before when the NBA turned 35 (in 1981, when the Cavs were still playing at the Richfield Coliseum) and, above all, in the 50th anniversary: ​​1997, already in the pavilion of the downtown from cleveland, then Gund Arena and now Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. And, between 2005 and 2019, Quicken Loans Arena. The most resounding name for many due to the memory of its thunderous volume during the four Warriors-Cavaliers Finals in a row (2015-2019).

The NBA put in the scalpel, never afraid to do so, to change the first act, the Friday event that serves as a prologue for what is to come over the next two days. East heating, the night of the rookies and sophomores, of the first and second year players, had fallen too far (even by the very low standards of such a festive date) in his seriousness during the last few years. And just as the League introduced the Elam Ending, the end on points and not on time in the fourth quarter, for Sunday’s All Star Game, in this 2022 edition it has turned a Rising Stars Challenge around whose big change so far had been, basically, the passage of the duel between first and second year players to the United States-Rest of the World. Team USA won the last two, in 2019 and 2020. Last year, in the express edition of Atlanta, this game was not played although the NBA did announce the selections between first and second year players so that consideration counts on the resumes.

Now the bases of the party have been dynamited and the change has been liked. The ratings have been better, the novelty has attracted attention, the duels have had rhythm and the competitive tone has been higher. It hasn’t been bad at all. The new modality is based on 28 players (12 rookies, 12 sophomores and 4 from the Ignite, the G League club linked to the League and thus empowered to attract star projects that prefer to skip the College). And four coaches, chosen this time from the pool of the 75 best ever, an official list that will have a lot of presence all weekend: Rick Barry, James Worthy, Isiah Thomas and Gary Payton. They made a draft to choose seven players each., one of the Ignite per team. And two semifinals and a final were played with the motto Race To 75race for 75 points. In each semi-final the one who reached 50 won and in the final the one who scored 25 points first. Team Barry won: 50-48 in their semifinal against Team Payton and 25-20 in the final against Team Isiah, who had previously won Team Worthy (50-49).

The MVP was Cade Cunningham, the guard of the Pistons who was number 1 in the last draft and who gives off an inevitable superstar aroma. He is the first No. 1 draft pick to win the Rising Stars MVP since Andrew Wiggins (now making his all-star debut) in 2015. Cade added in the semi 13 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists, and in the final 5+2+3. His team was a joy: with him was Evan Mobley, already a local idol (he plays for the Cavs) and the tremendous center who looks like he’s going to beat Cade himself for Rookie of the Year. And there was another of the house, Isaac Okoro, the brilliant Franz Wagner of the Magic (he scored the free throw that closed the final with the 25th point), two of the Rockets (Alperen Sengun and Jae’Sean Tate) and Dyson Daniels, of the Ignite.

In the final of an event that was more fun than many expected, Isiah Precious Achiuwa stood out in Team (12 points and 3 rebounds). He played in another great team with Desmond Bane, Saddiq Bey, Tyrese Haliburton, Isaiah Stewart and the G League Jaden Hardy . And with Anthony Edwards, the number 1 in the 2020 draft who played only the semifinal and fueled rumors that he could be Chris Paul’s replacement in tomorrow’s All Star Game. The base of the Suns has a hand injury that still does not know if it will allow him to be in the game of the stars.

Of those defeated in the semifinals, it is possible to stand out within the Team Worthy to Jalen Green (No. 2 in the last draft), who scored 20 points, Jalen Suggs (No. 5), who went to 16, and Josh Giddey, the brilliant number 6 (2+9+6). And from Team Payton, LaMelo Ball (who will be in the All Star Game: 8 points), Scottie Barnes (number 4 in the last draft, 9 and 4 rebounds), Bones Hyland (10) Jaden McDaniels, the excellent worker of the Wolves (12+2).

There was another novelty, by the way. Between the semifinals and the final, the Clutch Challengea small contest in which four couples competed with the obligation to score five shots from five positions where iconic baskets were achieved: Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Ray Allen, Damian Lillard and Reggie Miller.

The first team had 90 seconds to score them and the players in each pair were forced to alternate shots with no one taking more than one on each attempt. The champion had to be the one who achieved in less time and it was the couple Tyrese Haliburton-Desmond Banetwo of the best sophomores in the NBA and two players who, surely, will one day be in the big game on Sunday.

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