Utah Jazz forward Trey Lyles will replace an injured Nikola Mirotic in the 2016 NBA Rising Stars Challenge, the league announced Wednesday.
Mirotic, 24, remains hospitalized after undergoing two surgeries for acute appendicitis. He underwent an appendectomy Jan. 27, which was followed by a hematoma removal last weekend.
Lyles, 20, is in the midst of a promising first season with Utah. The former Kentucky star is averaging 4.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 18.1 minutes per game, emerging as a heady two-way player with knack for spreading the floor.
“I think his confidence is coming,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said last month, per Jody Genessy of the Deseret News. “Some of that’s from playing. He spends a lot of time on it. We spend a lot of time with our guys in the developmental stuff. He’s a guy that’s embraced that and we’re seeing some results early on.”
For those wondering why Lyles would get the nod over youngsters like Devin Booker, Julius Randle and others, it comes down to the game's format. Lyles, a Canada native, will be taking the place of Montenegro-born Mirotic on the World roster. Barring the NBA going with the idea floating around Basketball Twitter—making Karl-Anthony Towns, who plays international basketball for the Dominican Republic, part of the World Team—this is the only solution.
Lyles is the third Canadian on the World roster, joining Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins and Mavericks forward Dwight Powell. With the game being held in Toronto, few fans are going to have many quibbles with another Canuck being added to the contest.
Lyles will also be joined by teammates Raul Neto and Rodney Hood, who were previously selected for the game. The Timberwolves, who have Wiggins, Towns and Zach Lavine in the game, are the only other team with three representatives.
As it stands, the Rising Stars Challenge isn't going to do much to boost Lyles' stock around the league. It's just a nice distinction that will make fans north of the border and in Salt Lake City happy.
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