HOUSTON — Kenneth Faried was a Manimal among boys in the Rising Stars Challenge.
Faried had 40 points and 10 rebounds and entertained the crowd at the end with a series of dunks, leading Team Chuck to a 163-135 victory over Team Shaq on Friday night.
Nicknamed “Manimal” for his physical style of play, Faried made 18 of 22 shots and was selected the game’s most valuable player. He’ll also compete tonight in the dunk contest at All-Star Weekend and offered a sneak preview of what he has planned with several powerful jams.
“It was more of a tease,” Faried said. “Tomorrow is a lot different, a lot bigger stage. I have a lot of different types of dunks and moves. Keep people guessing.”
For the second straight year, the rosters of both teams were a mix of rookie and second-year players and former stars Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley served as opposing general managers.
Sacramento point guard Isaiah Thomas had 18 points and 10 assists for Barkley’s team. Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving, last year’s MVP, scored 32 points and rookie Dion Waiters, Irving’s Cavs’ teammate, added 23 for Shaq’s team.
The last few minutes of the meaningless game devolved into a spontaneous dunk contest, with players taking turns showing off their acrobatic moves while the others stood and watched. Faried drew the biggest cheers with four thunderous slams.
“I just went out there to have fun,” said Faried, the 22nd overall pick in the 2011 draft by Denver. “I guess that is a regular game for me, enjoying myself and having fun.”
He cradled the crystal MVP trophy after the game, an unexpected bonus to his busy weekend in Houston.
“I didn’t come into the weekend thinking, ‘Oh, I want all of the attention,” Faried said. “I just came in to have fun, no matter which way you try to put it or what people try to say, ‘Oh, he wanted the MVP.’ I didn’t want it. I couldn’t care less. As long as I have fun playing the game, to me, that’s all that matters.”
The average score of the game over the past five seasons was 138-131, and New Orleans rookie Anthony Davis set the tone with an alley-oop pass to San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard for a dunk 20 seconds into the game.
Barkley’s team finished virtually all of their first-half possessions with uncontested 3-pointers or dunks and led 90-66 at halftime.
Team Chuck went 12-for-18 from 3-point range in the first half and Thomas hit his first four tries. Cleveland forward Tristan Thompson was the only player on Barkley’s team who didn’t hit a 3 in the half, but he made up for it with four dunks.
Leonard sank two 3-pointers, and Davis converted Ricky Rubio’s 10th assist into another dunk early in the second half as the offensive showcase resumed. Leonard blocked Waiters’ dunk attempt at the other end, one of the few displays of individual defense showed all night.
Late in the game, an individual duel developed between Detroit guard Brandon Knight and Irving, stirring the indifferent crowd. Knight sank a 3-pointer and a step-back jumper, but Irving then made Knight stumble with a crossover dribble and a jumper of his own.
“Just happened, honestly, a couple of plays going down the court with him,” Irving said. “He’s a good friend of mine, it’s great competition.”
Players on both teams stepped aside for a while to let Irving and Knight go at it. Irving blew by Knight for a layup, and Knight returned the favor with a quick drive at the other end. He missed the shot, though, and Faried was there for the offensive putback as he was most of the night.
The last few minutes devolved into a spontaneous dunk contest, with players taking turns showing off their acrobatic moves while the others stood and watched. Faried drew the biggest cheers.
“I do have a hard-working style and just a ‘grind-it-out, never quit’ attitude,” he said. “Tonight was just more of a fun game to me. I just enjoyed myself, smiling, and then we wanted to win. That was the conscious decision we all made.
“There wasn’t prize money, but we had fun doing it.”
Leonard scored 20 points and Thompson finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Barkley’s team went 17 for 32 from 3-point range and shot 64 percent (69 of 108) overall in the game. Team Chuck also had a 51-24 rebounding edge and finished with 42 assists.