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Talk is cheap

Mouths went faster than feet in rookie game

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Posted: Saturday February 10, 2001 9:19 PM
Updated: Saturday February 10, 2001 9:23 PM

  Darius Miles Rookie Darius Miles did a lot of talking with his six dunks. AP

By Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- They call it the Rookie Challenge. But the hardest part isn't scoring, rebounding or even figuring out how not to get dunked on.

To hear the participants tell it, the real challenge to Saturday's rookie-sophomore game was to not get burned between the ears. In other words, to make sure all the trash-talking didn't throw you off your game.

"There was lots of it out there today," said Rockets guard Steve Francis with a grin, admitting he did his share. "But that's good. It gets your adrenaline going because everybody's out there talking and trying to outdo each other. I think you need stuff like that in a game like this."

Saturday's contest featured enough creative trash talk to fill playgrounds from New York to San Diego. Some of the better examples:

  • As Nets forward Stephen Jackson prepared to line up a 3-pointer over Hawks guard Jason Terry, he hypnotized him by saying: "I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice cream." According to Terry, Jackson then buried the triple in his mug.
  • As Francis prepared a crossover on Magic forward Mike Miller, Hornets guard Baron Davis stood a few feet away on the court taunting the helpless rookie: "It's comin'. It's comin'."
  • After Clippers forward Darius Miles threw down a nasty dunk over L.A. teammate Lamar Odom, he rubbed in it his older teammate's face: "I was telling him, 'I owe ya one. That's for you,'" Miles recalled with a laugh.
  • When Bulls rookie Khalid El-Amin actually tried to play defense, sophomore forward Elton Brand teased his rookie teammate by saying, "Take it easy, Khalid. I know you're excited about being here, but you gotta relax!"
  • After Nets forward Kenyon Martin buried a 3-pointer right in front of the sophomore bench, he turned to several players who had dared him to shoot and said, "What's that? What's were you saying?"

    Not all the trash-talking was of the verbal variety, either. Francis talked a boatload without saying a word when he wrapped the ball around El-Amin's head on one isolation play in the first half.

    Meanwhile, Clippers guard Quentin Richardson dished it out by flashing steely glances with every fancy pass or rebound dunk. "It's just the looks he'll give you," Francis said.

    Richardson saved his best smack for good friend Brand, reminding him during the game that he has outscored him in the three previous All-Star games they had played during their high school and college years.

    Then again, Brand had it coming. After all, the gentlemanly Bulls power forward officially fired the first shot in Saturday's hoops war by rating the Rookie team's chances beforehand as "slim to none."

    "You've got Steve Francis, Baron Davis, Lamar Odom, Andre Miller [on our team]," Brand had said. "Those guys are right there for the big All-Star Game. I don't think there's any way they're going to defeat us."

    After helping lead his team to victory, Brand's teammates said it was all part of their plan.

    "That's what it's all about," Odom said. "It brings out a certain competitiveness. It's fun. And I guess it just makes you want to show them up. Keep them quiet."

    Of course, not all players said they were affected by the trash. Francis, for one, says he couldn't recall anything anybody had said to him during the course of the game. Said Francis: "I covered my ears."


     
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