Lakers’ young guns get a close look at ‘The Process’ in Rising Stars Challenge

Philadelphia center Joel Embiid, left, and the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma were part of the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday at Staples Center.
(Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)

That Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram’s team lost to Team World 155-124 in the Rising Stars Challenge Friday night is of little consequence.

That Kuzma, Ingram and the injured Lonzo Ball were on the opposite side of the court of Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric? Well, that might eventually mean something.

Two teams that have been rebuilding for years have started to show signs of a bright future, and the young players involved know that the process could end with a rekindling of one of the top NBA rivalries of the early ’80s.


While none of the key participants Friday was around to see Magic Johnson — who started at center in the NBA Finals as a rookie against the 76ers — there’s a feeling that both teams’ paths could end up pointing at one another.

“As they continue to get better with their thing — ‘Trust the process’ — I think we’re going to match their intensity and the way they play the exact same way,” Lakers wing Brandon Ingram said. “It’s going to be fun to battle against those guys in the years to come.”

Friday, there wasn’t much battle from anyone.

In the exhibition pitting the top domestic and international first- and second-year players in the NBA against one another, defense and effort gave way to deep three-pointers and highlight-worthy dunks without any real roadblocks.

Sacramento rookie Bogdan Bogdanovich won the game’s MVP award after scoring 26 points in just 22 minutes. He made seven three-pointers, including a handful from near midcourt. Kuzma’s 20 points were second only to Boston’s Jaylen Brown (35 points) for the U.S. team.

Ingram played 12 minutes and scored eight points. He was playing for the third time in three nights because the Lakers played back-to-back games heading into All-Star weekend.


The Lakers’ young talent wasn’t at full strength Friday, with Ball still sidelined because of a sprained ligament in his left knee. He’s on track to return to the court in a week when the Lakers play Dallas in their first game after the All-Star break.

“I’ve been working out before the games and in the weight room. It’s been cool, nothing aggravated, and I should be ready to go,” Ball said. “I can still feel (soreness) a little bit — it’s why I didn’t play the last couple of games — but I should be out there versus Dallas.”

Friday, the 76ers’ trio showed why they’re probably closer to being ready for a rivalry than the Lakers, with Embiid, Simmons and Saric all looking like they’re ready for “The Process” to be winding down.

The 76ers are on track to make their first playoff appearance since 2012 while the Lakers won 12 of 16 games before dropping three in a row before the All-Star break.

And with some luck, Embiid sees a future for both teams.

“They’re going to be great,” he said. “That’s going to be a great team. But us, we’re right there. We’re still learning and have a long way to go, but we’ve been doing pretty good this year …

“These two teams, in the future, are going to be some of the best in the league. And I can’t wait to keep going against them.”


Before that can happen, the Lakers have to continue their growth — something that won’t be on display the rest of All-Star weekend.

Their involvement in any of the events ended with Friday’s night game — a sign that the future is both bright and still a little ways away.

But having a chance to get a sniff a taste of All-Star weekend only made Ingram hungrier for a return to All-Star weekend — this time in the big game on Sunday.

“It’s my next goal,” he said. “To make it to the All-Star game would be the most exciting thing that ever happened. That’s my next goal — to go out and be an All-Star.”

Until then, largely like the 76ers, it’s about potential.

“It just shows the future is bright,” Ball said. “For them and for us.”

Follow Dan Woike on Twitter @DanWoikeSports