Los Angeles Lakers guards D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson are headed to NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto. The Lakers backcourt duo were two of 10 American rookie and sophomore players selected to participate in this year’s Rising Stars Challenge, by the league’s assistant coaches.
“You see who’s really separating themselves from the younger guys in this league and to be listed as one of them is a heck of an experience,” Russell said on Wednesday.
“It’s humbling for sure, especially coming from the 46th pick to playing in this game, it’s definitely a cool accomplishment,” Clarkson said of his jump from being a 2014 second-rounder.
Clarkson is averaging 15.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.2 steals per game since his All-Rookie First Team selection last season. He’s currently on a 15-game stretch of scoring in double-figures and is second among sophomores in scoring, starting all 45 games he’s played this season.
Russell is averaging 12.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.2 steals per game in 45 contests, ranking third amongst rookies in assists and steals and fourth in points, leading all rookies with 70 three-pointers made.
For the second consecutive year, the Rising Stars Challenge will feature 20 first and second year NBA players, 10 picked for the U.S. Team roster and 10 chosen for the World Team roster, with Andrew Wiggins to headline the latter. Russell is ready for another stage to prove himself.
“Some people will be competitive and some people won’t be. I know I’m going to be competitive and try to win,” Russell said.
Clarkson called the selection “cool” and “humbling,” but also made it clear that he’s not in the NBA to receive any awards. He’s got bigger plans for his future.
“I’m not here for the rewards, awards, or any of that,” Clarkson said. “I’m coming here to hoop and play and I just want to be good.”
“I just want to be great one day, that’s all I work for. The biggest award I want is a championship one day.”
There was also some talk about forwards Julius Randle and Larry Nance, Jr. being left off the selection. Randle is leading all sophomores in rebounding this season and is ninth overall in total rebounding. Additionally, he’s leading the team in double-doubles this season (16), despite coming off the bench in 21 games.
“He’s almost averaging a double-double,” Byron Scott said of Randle not being selected. “So, I don’t know what else it is that he had to do. Maybe they just felt they could only take a certain amount from one team.”
“I feel like [Larry Nance, Jr. and Julius Randle] should have made the game as well,” Clarkson said. “They were playing really good this year, definitely sad they didn’t get the opportunity.”
Russell echoed the same sentiments as Clarkson and said maybe Randle can use it as extra motivation.
The Rising Stars Challenge kicks off Feb. 12 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.