Joakim Noah isn’t the only Bulls player who should be in Houston for All-Star Weekend this year. Rookie Marquis Teague and sophomore Jimmy Butler should also be accompanying Jo on the trip down south to compete in the Rising Stars Challenge that kicks off the festivities.
As the Bulls have improved their play of late, so has the play of the two least tenured members of the roster. They may not have earned the right to play in the big game on Sunday evening, but Butler and Teague should both receive an invite for the “JV” all-star game on Friday night.
Jimmy has taken huge strides since the beginning of the season and is starting to show signs of becoming a solid contributor off the bench. His defensive ability on the perimeter, knack for grabbing rebounds on the offensive and defensive glass, and the way he attacks the basket and gets himself to the free-throw line have earned him increased minutes in Thibs’ rotation.
Butler is shooting 52 percent from the field this season and 85 percent from the free-throw line, while grabbing 2.7 rebounds per game, all career highs for the Marquette alum. Making it ever sweeter for Butler is the fact he grew up 35 miles north of Houston in Tomball, Texas. He'd have an opportunity to not only play in the game, but to experience All-Star Weekend at "home" with his friends and family.
As for Marquis Teague, when given the opportunity to play because of the oft-injured Kirk Hinrich, he's shown much improvement from the beginning of the season until now. The rookie is playing with much more confidence of late, he rarely turns the ball over when he’s in the game, and he's slowly showing an ability to run an offense in the NBA.
Teague has also picked up the intensity on the defensive end and is effectively using his speed and quickness to stay in front of his man without fouling. If Marquis continues to play well, Tom Thibodeau will have to find a way to get more minutes for his rookie, at least until D. Rose comes back.
No one knows how the players will be selected for the Rookie/Sophomore game this year. Previously, teams comprised of strictly rookies and sophomores were pitted against each other. But last year, there were some new wrinkles thrown in.
An actual draft was held with Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley acting as GM’s. Each assembled rosters made up of both rookies and sophomores and Barkley proved to be the better executive as ‘Team Chuck’ (featuring MVP Kyrie Irving) defeated ‘Team Shaq,’ 145-133.
Incidentally, O’Neal had Bulls assistant coach Ron Adams and former Bull Steve Kerr as his Co-head Coaches in the game.
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