While the Rising Stars Challenge only features players in their first two seasons in the NBA, there is some serious star power on display at the start of All-Star Weekend.
Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis both earned spots in Sunday's All-Star Game, while a number of other players will almost certainly reach that stage eventually.
This event used to be a battle between the rookies and the sophomores, but now it is a mixed bag of the two. This year's version pits former NBA stars and current analysts Grant Hill and Chris Webber against each other after the two drafted their teams live on television:
Although not many will care about who earns bragging rights between these two, the game will be an enjoyable look at some of the best young stars in the sport.
When: Friday, Feb. 14
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Live Stream: TNT Overtime
|Rising Stars Challenge|
|Team Webber||Team Hill|
|Anthony Davis||New Orleans Pelicans||Damian Lillard||Portland Trail Blazers|
|Michael Carter-Williams||Philadelphia 76ers||Bradley Beal||Washington Wizards|
|Tim Hardaway Jr.||New York Knicks||Andre Drummond||Detroit Pistons|
|Trey Burke||Utah Jazz||Harrison Barnes||Golden State Warriors|
|Jared Sullinger||Boston Celtics||Terrence Jones||Houston Rockets|
|Mason Plumlee||Brooklyn Nets||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Milwaukee Bucks|
|Victor Oladipo||Orlando Magic||Jonas Valanciunas||Toronto Raptors|
|Steven Adams||Oklahoma City Thunder||Dion Waiters||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|Kelly Olynyk||Boston Celtics||Miles Plumlee||Phoenix Suns|
Damian Lillard Starts His Busy Weekend
Some players use the All-Star break to get some much-needed rest during the long season. Damian Lillard decided to go the other way and participate in as many events as possible.
NBA.com notes that his three days will be historic:
Lillard will start the weekend in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday before competing in three events on Saturday night and eventually the All-Star Game on Sunday. As if that was not enough, he is also hosting an Adidas party on Saturday, according to Allan Brettman of The Oregonian.
While this will expend plenty of energy, he should do well in all competitions. He is the defending champion of the skills challenge, and his 40.4 shooting percentage from behind the arc will help him in the three-point contest.
As for the dunk contest, he has a good strategy. Lillard told Mike Tokito of The Oregonian his secret: "Make dunks. There are some guys that are probably more athletic than I am, probably got a little more tricks in them than I do. At the end of the day, you gotta make dunks."
No matter how he fares, he will certainly become a household name by the end of the weekend.
Michigan Backcourt Reunited
No one should be all that surprised that former Michigan star Chris Webber selected both Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to his team.
The pair helped lead the Wolverines to the national title game a year ago, which was the deepest run for a Michigan team since Webber's Fab Five squad in 1993.
They were also both selected in the first round of the NBA draft, something that brought their coach great joy, according to Nicole Auerbach of USA Today:
This year, both Burke and Hardaway have gotten off to great individual starts with their new teams, although they have not seen too many wins. They will hope that playing next to each other again will lead to more success.
At the very least, we should see some more of this:
Plumlee vs. Plumlee
There are a number of brothers in the NBA, but it is always fun when they compete against each other. Doing it in a relaxed exhibition should make things even more interesting.
Mason Plumlee was originally selected to Team Webber after a solid start to his rookie year with the Brooklyn Nets. However, Miles Plumlee only got an invite to the game as an injury replacement for Pero Antic.
Still, Miles is deserving of the honor as a starter for the surprisingly good Phoenix Suns. He has 10 double-doubles this season and has been an anchor in the middle of the defense.
He discussed what it means to make this team and compete against his brother, via Paul Coro of AZCentral.com:
It’s big step for me, but I’ve learned not to validate myself by other people’s standards. When they didn’t pick me, I wasn’t going to let it get to me. When they did pick me, I’m not letting it bother me. ... It’s an honor to be in it, but it makes more special to against my brother for sure. I think it’s more exciting to go against him because we haven’t had the opportunity in a long time.
After the two competed on the same team throughout high school and at Duke, you can expect some sibling rivalry in the matchup.
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