ORLANDO, Fla. -- When the Eastern Conference needed a substitute for Joe Johnson in Sunday's All-StarGame, Rajon Rondo was named as a replacement. Kyrie Irving's performance in Friday night's Rising Stars exhibition proved that might have been a mistake.
Irving had 34 points on 12-of-13 shooting and nine assists to win the Most Valuable Player award in Team Chuck's 146-133 victory over Tristan Thompson and Team Shaq. On a night that began with Jeremy Lin holding his own news conference -- the only player to do so this weekend -- it ended with Irving making all eight of his 3-point attempts and dazzling a crowd that came to cheer Lin and left remembering the same guy drafted No. 1 overall last summer was the one carrying out the MVP award.
"It means a lot," said Irving, who was the first pick in the draft for Team Chuck. "I worked my butt off during the lockout. It feels good to finally be here playing with these guys."
Thompson had 20 points for Team Shaq, giving the Cavs a great showing with a combined 54 points in the game. Thompson and Irving combined to shoot 22-of-24 from the field, but the night belonged to Irving, who shined brighter than Lin and Minnesota Timberwolves rookie guard Ricky Rubio.
"I just came to have fun and enjoy myself with all these young guys," Irving said. "It'll been exciting to see where we wind up five years down the line."
Jazzmen Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors scored 14 points apiece for the winning team.
Irving scored 11 consecutive points and 14-of-15 during one stretch in the first half, finishing the half with 18 points. In a game where defense is a rumor, Irving made four 3-pointers in the first half and three more in the second. The Rising Stars game is divided into two 20-minute halves.
As sparkling as it was, Irving's performance didn't set any records. Teammate Daniel Gibson made 11 3-pointers in 2008 (11-of-20 shooting), and Kevin Durant holds the record for most points in the Rising Stars game with 46 in '09.
"Big Time game by a Big Time player," Gibson tweeted right after the game. "Had me sweating over here for a minute."
Irving was thrilled just to be part of All-Star weekend, but the first half of his season certainly presented a strong case for inclusion in Sunday's main event.
Irving has averaged 18.1 points and 5.1 assists. Rondo has averaged 14.8 points and 9.5 assists, but missed 10 games to a wrist injury and then a suspension.
After Lin packed the media interview room, he had just two points and an assist in only nine minutes. Rubio had 12 points and seven assists as his teammate for Team Shaq.