In the new tournament format of the Rising Stars Game, Team Payton, featuring Golden State Warriors rookie Jonathan Kuminga, fell to Team Barry in their first game, 50-48. Kuminga scored two points off the bench, generally displaying the same effort level that got him benched in the G League. He missed both of his three-point attempts and despite playing with lob maestro LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets, he didn’t dunk once.
It really felt like Rick Barry’s team had a level of intensity and seriousness that the other four squads lacked. They were running actual NBA sets, and reportedly had a very long practice to get ready. The initial games were played to a score of 50, and yet when the first game was tied at 46, Jalen Suggs was throwing lobs off the backboard to Cole Anthony.
Of course, what Team Barry also had was Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons, last year’s top pick, who won Rising Stars MVP honors after his team prevailed in the final, 25-20. Against Kuminga and Team Payton, Cunningham had 13 points, five rebounds, and six assists, including the game-clinching dime to Houston’s Jae’Sean Tate with the game tied 48-48 late. Team Payton made a furious comeback late, led by Ball, and even took the lead 47-46 briefly. But Cunningham had a “Kobe assist” - missing so badly it led to an easy putback - and then Ball split two free throws.
Kuminga wasn’t in for the final moments, and in fact, played very sparingly in this game. Maybe Steve Kerr asked Payton to rest the 19-year-old, as he might have to be the backup center for another month. If you have ten seconds, check out the highlight video of all two of Kuminga’s points and all one of his assists.
In all seriousness, Kuminga was just fine in this exhibition, and if his intensity was a little lacking, well, he didn’t even expect to be playing in this game until a few days ago. He’ll now head to spend his time off with his parents, who recently moved to Orlando from Burundi. For a teenager who didn’t see his mom and dad for years at a time while playing basketball in America, that’s clearly a lot more important.
In the other games, Team Isiah prevailed over Team Worthy when the Grizzlies’ Desmond Bane hit two free throws to clinch the game, after Saddiq Bey of the Pistons blocked the Rockets’ Jalen Green’s three-point attempt. Bey and his Detroit teammate Isaiah Stewart scored over half of Team Isiah’s points, the best Detroit basketball moment in years. Besides the Pistons filling up the box score, the game was primarily a showcase for uncontested dunks and the playmaking of the Thunder’s Josh Giddey.
“They went out and played the game the way it should be played,” said Rick Barry after the game, and refrained from telling the crowd to “show some class.” Barry’s team closed the final game on a huge, 13-2 run. Barry clearly imparted the winning spirit that fueled the Warriors to a title in 1975, and to his own pickle ball triumphs. It’s also nice to see that Rick has finally stopped dying his hair orange!
Ultimately Kuminga had the correct perspective on this event. “It’s part of the journey. It’s something you add up in your book. It’s a good thing to just come out here and play. Something to add to your resume. That’s it.”