The BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge is one of the more fun events of All-Star weekend. With two NBA legends (Grant Hill and Chris Webber) picking teams and almost all of the league’s high-profile young talent taking the chance to flash their skills, the game is usually an entertaining one. Last night’s event was no different. Team Hill beat Team Webber 142-136, and Andre Drummond took the MVP award home for Team Hill with a 30-point, 25 rebound performance. However, the real story of the night was the unexpected battle at shooting guard between Dion Waiters of Team Hill and Tim Hardaway Jr. of Team Webber.
The battle began in the second half, when Dion and THJ traded three-pointers to get the crowd roaring and start a little one-on-one Irrational Confidence Scorer battle. If you’ll remember, the last time these two met, THJ went nova on Dion, scoring 26 points in a blowout Knicks victory over the Cavs, preventing a Cavs comeback attempt by abusing Dion in the fourth quarter. The two basically froze out every other player on the floor, and went to battle, as Dion scored 15 straight for Team Hill while Hardaway went for 16 of 18 for Team Webber. However, it’s safe to say Dion won this battle tonight, because of the following two things:
Waiters legit stopped so THJ could get in front of him. That was RIDICULOUS
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) February 15, 2014
Then, remember Kyrie’s shake-down of Brandon Knight in this game last year? Well, the Cavs are somewhat making a thing of this:
Dion finished with 31 points, barely being eclipsed by THJ’s 36, mainly due to Hardaway playing more in the first half. Behind Drummond, he was the second-most impressive second year guy in the game, taking command of Team Hill’s offense with some solid passing, and his flurry in the second half with a decent defender in Hardaway guarding him was unreal. Waiters took over this game and balled out. This was made perhaps even more impressive by considering the play of some of the other second years. Anthony Davis wowed early, but got worked by Drummond on the glass for much of the game and just generally looked somewhat passive. And Harrison Barnes? You know, the guy every Cavs fan has spent the last two years redrafting the 2012 draft for? Well:
Harrison Barnes is 1-7 shooting in the Rising Stars game… which is pretty much shooting in an empty gym.
— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) February 15, 2014
Even though Drummond won MVP, I came away from this game with Dion as the most impressive player. Waiters looked poised and locked in, determined to make a name for himself, and especially show Grant Hill, who openly lamented having to take Waiters during the game’s draft, a thing or two. He showed us many things. Granted, this game’s probably meaningless for him, and just something fun he can hang his hat on. But if it gives him a little more confidence as a shooter, and this Dion/Hardaway thing is turning into a real rivalry? That’s going to be fun.