The NBA announced the names of participants in its annual Rookie/Sophomore Game for All-Star Weekend (officially known as the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge Game) Wednesday afternoon. As a shock to nobody, Damian Lillard was among the group of first-year guys who will be drafted (along with a handful of second-year players) by Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal to compete in a totally meaningless, fun-filled, basketball extravaganza.
The Internet’s most famous anon-o-bot pretty much nails the overall significance of this game before the game featuring All-Stars before they’re All-Stars:
Nobody cares about the rookies/sophs young starstravaganza. Not even the players.
— Mr. Sports Journo (@BIGSPORTSWRITER) January 30, 2013
As true as that sentiment is, Kyrie Irving demolished the Rising Stars game last season as a response to not being selected for the Big Boy All-Star Game (of which he is a participant in 2013). Lillard may or may not be deserving of an All-Star nod in his rookie season. Either way, he’s not an All-Star this season. He’ll likely take the chance to show a national television audience why it is that every child born in Portland since the end of October has been named Damian.
Kyrie went 8-of-8 from three in this game last season. I’m guessing Damian goes 10-of-10.
Here’s the release from the team:
DAMIAN LILLARD NAMED TO BBVA RISING STARS CHALLENGE GAME AT NBA ALL-STAR WEEKEND
Lillard leads all rookies in scoring and assists
PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Trail Blazers rookie guard Damian Lillard was selected as a participant in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge game at NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston by a vote of NBA assistant coaches, it was announced today by the league.
Lillard leads all rookies in scoring (18.1 ppg) and assists (6.5 apg) to go with averages of 3.3 rebounds, 1.04 steals and 38.4 minutes in 45 games (all starts).
“It’s exciting to be a part of All-Star Weekend, and I appreciate the assistant coaches including me on the roster,” said Lillard. “I’m happy to be named to the team and look forward to the experience.”
The two-time Kia NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month ranks 18th in the NBA in scoring, 13th in assists, seventh in 3-pointers made (102) and his 21 games of 20-plus points rank 12th among league leaders.
“Damian has been an integral part of our success this season and I’m glad his efforts were recognized by opposing assistant coaches,” said Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey.
This year’s rookie-sophomore game will feature two teams drafted by TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, who will serve as the opposing general managers. Each team will have nine-man rosters, consisting of both NBA rookies and sophomores drafted from a pool that was previously selected by the NBA’s assistant coaches.
“Damian has been a crowd-pleaser for fans in Portland night in and night out this season,” said Trail Blazers President and CEO Chris McGowan. “I’m thrilled that he’ll have an opportunity to do it on a global stage at All-Star Weekend.”
Lillard’s appearance in the game is the 10th by a Trail Blazer, joining rookies Arvydas Sabonis (1996), Kelvin Cato (1998),Alvin Williams (1998), Brandon Roy (2007), Greg Oden (2009) and Rudy Fernandez (2009). Roy (2008), LaMarcus Aldridge(2008) and Wesley Matthews (2011) were voted to the game as sophomores.
The game will tip-off at Houston’s Toyota Center on Friday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m. (Pacific) and will be broadcast live on TNT.