For those who haven't seen Raptors rookie Jamario Moon in action, All-Star Weekend will be your chance to see what all the fuss is about.
Moon got word last Friday from the league that he'll participate in the Slam Dunk contest Feb. 16 in New Orleans, and he'll most likely play in the rookie-sophomore game as well. Moon is the first Toronto player in the dunk contest since 2000, when Vince Carter beat out teammate Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis for the title.
"He had some of the craziest dunks, man," Moon said of Carter in comments to the Toronto Star. "I hope I can go to the dunk contest and beat some of his dunks. I know if I beat some of his dunks, I can bring the trophy back to Toronto."
It won't be easy for Moon, though. While the field has yet to be announced, Orlando's Dwight Howard -- who wowed fans last year (remember the sticker on the backboard?) but ultimately lost to then-Celtic Gerald Green -- has already said he wants to compete if the league allows him.
And Moon might not even be the only rookie in the Big Easy. Wizards guard Nick Young, who showed off this sweet behind-the-back 360 at USC, has been gathering hype from at least one pro-Wizards blog. Sean Williams, the Nets' high-flying shot-blocker who's already shown off several highlight-reel tomahawks, would also be a solid candidate.
So how excited is the 27-year-old rookie?
"Everybody likes to dunk, everybody who has a dream to play in the NBA and can dunk the basketball always wanted to be in the dunk contest," Moon said. "It's going to be great."
(Send comments, complaints or hype for your favorite rookie to Drew Packham at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
|NBA Rookie Rankings|
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Durant got his first one-on-one lesson with his mentor last week. LeBron James, who became friends with Durant last summer while working out with Team USA in Las Vegas, got the best of the rookie in the players' first meeting. James scored 22 points and rested in the fourth quarter of the Cavs' blowout win. Durant, who keeps in regular contact with the Cavs' star, had 24 points on 10-for-20 shooting. "He's been like a big brother to me," Durant said. "I'm very fortunate to have a relationship with probably the best player in the world, and I'm going to take advantage of it."
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After a slow start to the new year, Horford bounced back last week to average 8.6 points and 14.3 rebounds (including a 19-board performance in a loss to the Wizards) in three games. But Horford's biggest lesson came thanks to former Florida teammate Joakim Noah, whose Bulls teammates voted to bench him for a second game after his confrontation with an assistant coach. "I just feel it's a learning experience for everyone in general," Horford said. "If you cross a line in something like that, there's consequences to it. ... He wants to win really bad. I think people will figure him out as time goes on."
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While his dunking ability is getting him in the headlines, Moon's defense has been his biggest asset to the Raptors. Moon had two defensive gems last week: First he had five blocks in a win against the Sixers (one shy of his career high). Then Moon had a career-high four steals as the Raptors ripped the Knicks. If he's invited to play in the rookie-sophomore challenge, Moon could have a busy weekend, but he's not worried. "I always get my rest," he told the Toronto Star. "I'm not the type to hang out and party, and try to go sightseeing or whatever. I'm always in my room with my video games."
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For just the second time in his young career, Yi was held without a field goal (0-for-7 shooting) in the Bucks' 87-83 win against the Sixers last Tuesday. In the four-game week he averaged 7.2 points and 3.5 rebounds, well below his season averages of 10.3 and 6.0. Maybe Yi was shell-shocked from his near-encounter with the Denver Nuggets' dance team.
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The Rockets' five-game winning streak ended Sunday with a loss to the Hornets, but Scola was a big part of the team's hot start to 2008. During the streak, Scola averaged 13 points while hitting 61 percent from the field. The power forward is shooting 52.8 percent for the season. |
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The Nets entered the week having won six of their last eight games, and a big reason has been the move by coach Lawrence Frank to start Williams and second-year center Josh Boone. "Me and J.B., we'd always go up against each other in training camp," the power forward told The New York Times, "and we'd tell each other we couldn't wait until we could play next to each other, that we couldn't wait to get started. We wanted to make each other better, and we feel like we're better on the court when we're playing next to each other."
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Navarro entered Sunday's game with the Lakers shooting 86.5 percent from the free throw line. So with the Grizzlies nursing a one-point lead with 1:16 left, it was hard to believe that a guy who'd missed seven free throws all season would miss not one, but both attempts. (The Grizzlies lost 100-99.) The good news for the week: Navarro had 20 points in a loss to the Warriors, and averaged 10.2 points in four games while hitting 9-of-24 threes.
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Since taking over as the starting point guard, Conley has done an admirable job in almost every category but one -- field goal percentage. Last week he shot only 16-for-42 (38 percent) while averaging 10.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Conley excels when he can use his quickness to get to the rim, but defenders are learning to give him the outside shot until he proves he can make it consistently.
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Like most Sonics fans, coach P.J. Carlesimo is trying to be patient with the team's two rookies. "You try to temper your demands a little bit," Carlesimo said of Green and Durant. "Every once in a while, one of these [assistants] will tell me, 'Hey, [Durant's] 19 years old.' Or, 'Jeff is 21. Just chill. They're doing OK.' " Still, Green showed last week that he's got a long way to go, averaging 5.6 points and 3.0 rebounds and hitting only 5-of-19 shots (31.5 percent).
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Young, a 19-year-old out of Georgia Tech, has averaged 10 points and 5.6 rebounds in his last five games. Hey may find his way into Maurice Cheeks' starting lineup. "Whether he plays two or 25 minutes, Thaddeus has an impact on the game," Cheeks said. Young is definitely on the rise, but just how hot is he right now? As Sixers GM and president Ed Stefanski told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Thaddeus, if he was a stock, I wish I bought him."
|Honorable mention: Carl Landry, Rockets (career highs with 15 points and 11 rebounds against Timberwolves in first game since Dec. 10); Daequan Cook, Heat (15-point game in loss to Wolves); Jared Dudley, Bobcats (six points, three rebounds against Pistons in fifth start of season)