Without Pablo, the Rising "Stars" Challenge is a Sham

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

An injustice done to Pablo is an injustice done to us all.

Pablo Prigioni, much to our dismay, has been excluded from the "Rising Stars Challenge". We'll have a thread up for the Friday night All-Star events later, but until then, Joe and I have declared today Pablo Day, a.k.a ¡Día del Pablo! Below, Joe explains why this year's Rookie-Sophomore game is a despicable travesty. -Seth

Commissioner David Stern has long been a popular target among NBA conspiracy buffs. He allegedly rigged the NBA Draft selection process so that the Knicks got Patrick Ewing (thanks, Dave) and forced Michael Jordan out of basketball until he could control his gambling (thanks again, Dave), and then he did a bunch of other stuff that didn't involve the Knicks, so I didn't care. But this time, he's gone too far!

The Rookie Challenge / Rookie-Soph / Future Stars game dates back to 1994. In that time, the Knicks have sent 8 players to the game, among the lowest in the NBA. Hard to believe that the Knicks haven't had a lot of quality rookies, isn't it? Right? Anyway, here's the list:

No Knick has been selected to this year's team -- and that, to me, is a goddamn Greek tragedy. The rejection of Pablo Prigioni by the NBA is egregious, outrageous, preposterous. If I was in the habit of watching the Rising Stars Challenge before (I'm not), I sure-as-hell wouldn't watch it this year. If I knew what Rising Stars Game sponsor BBVA was (I don't), I would boycott them. My anger is that deep! Considering the fact that the All-Star Game is already a sham, and the Rising Stars Challenge is a sham-within-a-sham, then the exclusion of Pablo lowers the event to some kind of three-level-deep Inception-style sham.

Let's get this out of the way right now -- strictly based on performance, Pablo deserves to be in this game. The NBA chooses nine rookies for the game. Pablo has played 49 of his team's 50 games, and he's been one of the nine best rookies in the league. Check the rookie ranks:

  • 2nd in True Shooting Percentage
  • 1st in Assist Percentage
  • 5th in Steals Per Game, 6th in Steals
  • 4th in Assists, Assists Per Game
  • 12th in PER

Some people might argue that Pablo isn't exciting enough. Who are these people? SHOW YOURSELVES! YOU HAVE INSULTED PABLO'S HONOR! PISTOLS AT DAWN!

First of all, if playing exciting style of ball is a prerequisite for playing in an All-Star Game, then what the hell is Brook Lopez doing in the main event? Before you yell at me, Net fans, I believe he should be there based on merit...I'm just saying the guy plays a boring game, is bland as hell, and has a stupid perm. Second, I wholeheartedly disagree with this notion that Pablo isn't exciting. The man has been directly involved in three of the most exciting plays of the Knicks' season:

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And, just in case you think all the guy does is pass...

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Smooth, papi, smooth.

So what's the deal here? Pablo is, by definition, a rookie. I've searched the Rising Stars Challenge bylaws for some kind of age limit, and I've come up empty. Perhaps there is an unwritten rule keeping the old rookies away from the young rookies - segregating them, if you will. That is a damn shame. You know who else was pretty old for a rookie? Jackie Robinson. There, I said it. Hey NBA, if you're going to keep out Pablo because of his age, why not change the name from "The Rising Star Challenge" to "The Barely-Legal Challenge" -- I'll wager good money that page views on NBA.com will surge almost immediately.

If not ageism, then could good, ol' fashioned racism be at play here? Now, I'm not implying that the NBA is racist against people from Argentina - Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni and Luis Scola have all made the Rooke Game before - but let us remember that Argentina is a very big place. I couldn't help but notice that no player from Pablo's home province of Cordoba has ever been selected - Ginobili and Scola are from Buenos Aires, Nocioni is from Santa Fe. What does the league have against the decent, hardworking people of Cordoba? If anybody has ever caught Stern on tape making some tasteless, "People from Buenos Aires drive like this, people from Cordoba drive like this" jokes, please put it on YouTube immediately. The truth must be told!

All of these are worthy theories, but the simple truth is that Pablo is being kept out of this game due to a concerted effort by none other than TNT talking heads Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal. As the two coaches of the Rising Stars Challenge - and two of the NBA's all-time primae donnae - they were both worried that they'd be upstaged by Pablo's luminescent, irresistible charm. Also, they were both jealous that Pablo speaks English way better than either of them. So they pulled a power move and kept him out of the game. Where's my evidence, you ask? Oh, I have evidence. I have so much evidence, that I feel comfortable enough not showing any of it...that's how much evidence I have.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you what to do, dear reader. If you want to watch the game, and sully the name of a beloved Knick, then feel free. I only ask you to celebrate Dia del Pablo in your own way. As the old saying goes, living Pablo is the best revenge.

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