Friday , Feb , 13 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

LeBron, Carmelo highlight NBA’s Rookie Challenge

(Sports Network) – The young stars of the NBA will be on display Friday night
at the Staples Center, as the 2004 Rookie Challenge kicks off the league’s
All-Star Weekend festivities.

The contest features this year’s top rookies against the league’s best second-
year players.

Cleveland’s LeBron James, the top overall pick in the 2003 Draft, will
highlight a squad of nine first-year pros consisting of Carmelo Anthony of
the Denver Nuggets, Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors, Udonis Haslem and
Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat, Jarvis Hayes of the Washington Wizards, Kirk
Hinrich of the Chicago Bulls, Josh Howard of the Dallas Mavericks and Chris
Kaman of the Los Angeles Clippers.

The emergence of both James and Anthony has been one of the league’s most
entertaining story lines this season. The 19-year-old phenoms, both of whom
should probably be playing in the “varsity game” on Sunday, have lifted
their respective franchises from the depths and have made both teams as fun to
watch as any in the league.

James, possibly the most hyped player to ever enter the league, has more than
lived up to his advanced billing and leads the Cavs at 20.4 points-per-game.
He has also posted 5.8 assists and 5.7 rebounds-a-game, while helping
Cleveland pull within just 3 1/2 games of the final playoff spot in
the relatively weak Eastern Conference.

The third overall pick in this past June’s draft, Anthony has transformed the
Nuggets from perennial doormats in the West to a legitimate playoff contender
in the conference. A pretty impressive feat considering he is still less than
a year removed from leading Syracuse to the NCAA championship as a freshman,

Anthony, who leads Denver with 19.4 ppg, has been the catalyst behind his
team’s 31-23 mark and has the Nuggets poised for their first trip to the
playoffs since the 1994-95 campaign.

Houston’s Yao Ming, who will start at center for the Western Conference in
Sunday’s All-Star Game after edging Shaquille O’Neal by just over 30,000
votes, will head up the sophomore squad. He will be joined by Carlos Boozer of
the Cleveland Cavaliers, Mike Dunleavy of the Golden State Warriors, Manu
Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs, Marko Jaric of the Los Angeles Clippers,
Ronald Murray of the Seattle SuperSonics, Nene of the Nuggets, Tayshaun Prince
of the Detroit Pistons and the reigning Rookie of the Year, Amare Stoudemire
of the Phoenix Suns.

Yao, who also started last year’s All-Star Game, did not play in this contest
a year ago since the NBA never required players chosen to the All-Star Game to
play in the Rookie Challenge.

This is the fifth year of the rookie versus sophomore format, with the series
knotted at two games apiece. The game will be played in two 20-minute halves,
with each team allowed one full timeout and one 20-second timeout per half.

Individual foul totals will be kept, but a player cannot foul out. A team
will be in the penalty situation after 10 team fouls or after the second foul
in the final two minutes of each half. In the event of a tie game, there will
be a two-minute overtime to determine the winner.

Last year, the sophomores defeated the rookies, 132-112, with Gilbert Arenas
of the Golden State Warriors earning the Most Valuable Player award.