All Nine Rookies Competed in 2009 NBA Summer League

By Art Garcia,

The Sophomores own the Rookie Challenge. Seven consecutive wins and an 8-2 overall records suggests that one year of NBA seasoning makes plenty of a difference when the league’s brightest youngsters clash each All-Star weekend.

This rookie class, though, isn’t about to accept the status quo. They didn’t accept all the talk that they would make up one of the weakest drafts in recent memory. And they’re not going to accept defeat before the ball is tossed for the opening tip Feb. 12 at American Airlines Center in Dallas.

“I know the Sophomores have a strong roster,” Warriors rookie guard Stephen Curry said, “but my teammates and I will work hard to put on a great show for the fans and hopefully come away with a win.”

Curry is one of the nine first-year standouts selected to Rookie Team roster, which was announced Wednesday. Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, the reigning Rookie of the Year, heads up the competing nine on the Sophomore Team squad.

The rest of the Sophomores: Heat forward Michael Beasley, Clippers guard Eric Gordon, Timberwolves forward/center Kevin Love, Nets center Brook Lopez, Knicks forward Danilo Gallinari, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, and two Grizzlies: center Marc Gasol and guard O.J. Mayo.

Rounding out the Rookie roster: Kings guard Tyreke Evans and forward Omar Casspi, Bulls forward Taj Gibson, Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko, Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, Timberwolves guard Jonny Flynn, Thunder guard James Harden and Spurs forward/center DeJuan Blair.

The 18 players were selected though voting by the NBA’s assistant coaches, with each team submitting one ballot. The two teams will be coached by the lead assistant of the All-Star Game coaching staffs. The team with the best record in each conference as of Jan. 31 gets that honor, though Phil Jackson (Lakers) and Mike Brown (Cavaliers) aren’t eligible after coaching last year.

Last season, the assistant coaches for the teams were actual All-Stars themselves. Orlando’s Dwight Howard was the assistant for the Sophomore Team while Miami’s Dwyane Wade was the assistant for the Rookie Team.

Curry likes the Rookies’ chances despite a roster that’s void of the top two picks — injured Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Grizzlies center Hasheem Thabeet — and five of the top 10. The first-year squad isn’t hurting for star power with scoring whiz-kids Evans and Jennings. Blair and Jerebko — a pair of second-rounders — also made it, further illustrating the depth of last June’s haul.

“It’s really a great honor to be selected to play in the Rookie Challenge, especially when the rosters were selected by the assistant coaches around the league,” Curry said. “I’m looking forward to representing the Warriors and having the opportunity to play with some of the talented rookies in the NBA.”

Halftime of the Rookie Challenge also features the inaugural NBA All-Star Slam Dunk-In between Gordon and Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan. The winner of the single-round slam competition advances to the Slam Dunk the following night.