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All-Star Weekend rookie/sophomore game to go playground

T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 18: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards and the Rookie Team reacts in the second half during the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam at Staples Center on February 18, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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There’s always a bit of a playground element to the NBA Rookie Challenge — what you and I call the rookie/sophomore game — on Friday night of All-Star weekend. Remember last year John Wall threw a bounce-pass ally-oop last year, it’s all about as playground as it gets.

So this year they decided to take the thing all the way playground.

Now called the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, there will be a pool of rookies and second year players and TNT Analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal will draft them. Just like on a schoolyard. Or the NHL All-Star weekend, they’ve been doing this for a while.

I like it. This game can get stale, this shakes it up a bit. It can mean some interesting players combos, and we can get things like John Wall getting benched for Kyrie Irving.

The pool of players will be announced this Thursday (Feb. 8). Don’t expect Blake Griffin to be part of it — he’s been voted in a starter for the big show on Sunday, not likely to play here, too — but there should be Wall, Irving, Ricky Rubio, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Brandon Knight and plenty more talent.

The draft will take place Feb. 16 on TNT. The game itself is Friday, Feb. 24, also on TNT.