The Los Angeles Lakers have no All-Stars or players even on the fringes of the All-Star Game, but their young talent will be on display in the Friday Night All-Star Rising Stars Challenge, which is intended to be a precursor to the main event and is slated to tip-off at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.
Second-year D'Angelo Russell, who also appeared at the same event a year ago, and rookie Brandon Ingram will represent the Lakers in New Orleans.
"It's a great opportunity to represent the organization," Russell spoke about the selection a couple days before boarding a flight to Louisiana. "We got two Lakers in there that are young guys and went high in the draft (and) still have a lot to prove in this league. So, (you're) trying to go out there and dominate guys at your age."
A year ago, Russell played a shade over 16 minutes off the bench for Team USA, while teammate Jordan Clarkson started and played 24 minutes. Russell finished the night with 22 points and seven assists in a 40-minute game that is known far more for its offense than defense. With rosters comprised exclusively of rookies and sophomores, the 2016 Rising Stars Challenge finished with a score of 157-154 in favor of Team USA.
While the game itself may not exactly be worth studying on film, Ingram and Russell's selections do speak highly of the Lakers' future.
"We got some good young talent," Lakers coach Luke Walton explained what he took away from the selections. "That's what happens when you're trying to climb back up after you lose Hall of Fame players. We got some young guys that obviously are playing well. It's nice of them to be recognized by the other coaches in the NBA as far as being at All-Star Weekend."
In addition to Russell and Ingram in the Rising Stars Challenge, Lakers guard Nick Young, who is shooting 41.3 perfect from distance on the season, also a contestant in the three-point shootout on All-Star Saturday night. Young ranks 10th in three-pointers made but shoots higher percentage than six of the nine players ahead of him.
Notes: LA Clippers center DeAndre Jordan will take part in the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest and also take part in the main event on Sunday.