For Los Angeles Lakers second-year point guard D’Angelo Russell, being selected to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend presents a significant opportunity. It’s his second consecutive year participating in the event, and after all the critiques, criticisms and praises he’s received since being selected with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, it’s also a stage.
A stage to showcase his talents, prove his worth, and signal to current NBA All-Stars that his goal is to play in the “real” All-Star game someday.
“Try to go out there and dominate guys your age, so guys that are superstar caliber guys that are playing in the real game (NBA All-Star Game), you’re letting them know, that you’re trying to get there one day,” Russell said about the upcoming Rising Stars Challenge.
Last year, despite not seeing any time in the fourth quarter, Russell made the most of his 16 minutes, scoring 22 points (9-15), dishing out seven assists and finishing with two steals. While fellow Laker Jordan Clarkson (who was also selected to participate in last year’s challenge) finished with 25 points (8-20), five rebounds, five assists and four steals.
This year, Russell’s also got fellow Laker and 2016 No. 2 draft pick, Brandon Ingram, by his side.
“(There is) a lot of pride, especially in the game,” Russell said of having two Lakers selected by the league’s assistant coaches for the Rising Stars Challenge. “We’ve got two Lakers in there, that are young guys who went high in the draft and still have a lot to prove in this league.”
While Ingram becomes just the 10th Laker in franchise history to be selected, Russell joins Jordan Farmar as the only Lakers in franchise history to participate in the game twice. Following up his All-Rookie Second team selection last season, Russell is averaging 14.2 points, 4.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.2 steals this season and ranks second on the team in scoring.
“(It shows) that we got some good young talent, that’s what happens when you’re trying to climb back up when you lose Hall of Fame players,” Luke Walton said of Russell and Ingram’s selections. “We’ve got some young players that are obviously playing well.”
The game will be played on Friday, February 17 during NBA All-Star 2017 in New Orleans.