The NBA's top young talent was on full display during the Jordan Rising Stars Game at All-Star Weekend in Utah on Friday night. The format for the annual exhibition has shifted over the years in order to make the game more competitive, and this time around it featured four teams coached by prominent former NBA players -- Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Deron Williams served as coaches for the three teams comprised of NBA rookies and sophomores, while Jason Terry led a squad comprised entirely of G League players.
The four total teams competed in a three-game mini-tournament that featured the always-exciting Elam Ending -- the first two games were played to 40 points, and the championship game was played to 25.
Team Pau bested Team Deron 40-25 in the first game of the tournament, thanks largely to New Orleans Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado, who accounted for 13 of his team's 40 points. Led by New York Knicks guard Quentin Grimes (13 points), Team Joakim took down Team Jason 40-32 in the second game to set up a championship battle between Team Pau and Team Joakim. Those two teams engaged in a competitive affair, and ultimately it was Team Pau that pulled out the 25-20 win to claim the crown.
After hitting the game-winning basket in the final game to propel Team Gasol to victory, Alvarado was rewarded with the MVP Award.
Jose Alvarado is the 2023 #JordanRisingStars MVP 🏆 pic.twitter.com/HJnSFryQDw— NBA (@NBA) February 18, 2023
Just as he does during his regular play with the Pelicans, Alvarado's energy and effort set the tone for his team, and he showed exactly why he's become a staple in New Orleans' rotation on the big stage.
The mini-tournament was a great way to kick off All-Star weekend, and the NBA deserves some credit for utilizing a format that promoted engaging, competitive play. We can only hope that the rest of the weekend proves to be equally entertaining.
Here are three key takeaways from the 2023 iteration of the Rising Stars Game:
1. Alvarado called his shot
First, there was Babe Ruth. Now, there's Jose Alvarado. Just before he drilled the game-winning triple in the title game, Alvarado called his shot to Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, who was seated courtside, and the moment was caught on camera:
Jose Alvarado called his game-winner to Spida. That's cold.#JordanRisingStars | #NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/OBsePuuZGS— NBA (@NBA) February 18, 2023
You have to have confidence to thrive in the NBA, and Alvarado clearly isn't lacking in that department. In a contest full of the league's top young stars, Alvarado shined the brightest.
2. Elam Ending = Game winners
The Elam Ending means one thing for basketball fans: game-winners. Every game played with the Elam Ending ends with a made basket, and that adds a layer of excitement to the closing moments. As a result, basketball fans were treated to three separate game-winning shots on Friday night. In the first game, Keegan Murray sank a triple to send Team Pau to the championship:
Keegan Murray called game 🗣️— NBA (@NBA) February 18, 2023
He splashes the 3 to reach the target score and send Team Pau to the #JordanRisingStars final!#NBAAllStar | Live on TNT pic.twitter.com/5SJ0wiDM2Y
In the second game, it was Quentin Grimes' turn to sink a triple to send his team to the title game:
GAME.— NBA (@NBA) February 18, 2023
Quentin Grimes turns defense to offense to reach the target score and send Team Joakim to the #JordanRisingStars final! 🎯#NBAAllStar | Live on TNT pic.twitter.com/5X2ROdOO6s
Then there was Alvarado who hit this shot to seal the deal for Team Pau:
JOSE ALVARADO CALLED GAME ‼️— NBA (@NBA) February 18, 2023
TEAM PAU WINS #JordanRisingStars pic.twitter.com/EqyNmSdlWT
Given how it promotes exciting endings, it's easy to see why the Elam Ending has gained popularity in the basketball world.
3. A glimpse of the future
Scoot Henderson of the G League Ignite is widely expected to be a top-two pick in the upcoming 2023 NBA Draft, and the Rising Stars Game afforded us an early opportunity to see him compete against current NBA players. Henderson didn't play his best ball, as it looked like he was pressing a bit early on in order to make a statement.
He shot just one of five from the floor and he had three turnovers. On the positive side, he also accumulated two steals, two assists and four points in his lone game. It probably wasn't the exact impression Henderson hoped to leave, but it was still neat to get to see him sharing an NBA court with guys he'll be competing against next season.