Lakers’ Russell, Clarkson play like stars on rise in Rising Stars Challenge
D’Angelo Russell would prefer his subsequent All-Star weekends be centered around Sundays.
Playing in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night was great and everything, but the Lakers’ rookie point guard sounded eager to move on to something more substantive.
“Top young guys doesn’t really mean anything,” Russell said. “The main event is where everybody wants to be, so I’m just trying to get to that point.”
Russell and fellow Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson certainly looked like two of the NBA’s top young players while helping the U.S. team hold off the World team, 157-154, at the Air Canada Centre.
The biggest drama might have come when Clarkson interrupted a halftime television interview, tapping teammate Devin Booker on the chest with the back of his hand to make a prediction.
“Three-point champion,” Clarkson said of the Phoenix guard, a participant in the long-range shooting contest Saturday. “I’m calling it.”
Clarkson looked worthy of competing in the contest in the first half when he twice made back-to-back three-pointers, before cooling a bit and finishing five for 14 from beyond the arc. Russell made four of seven three-point attempts.
“There’s no 150-point games in a real season, so it says a lot about defense, honestly,” Russell said. “But it’s just a confidence-builder.”
Zach LaVine of Minnesota was selected the game’s most valuable player after collecting 30 points, seven rebounds and four assists for the U.S. team. New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis had 30 points for the World team.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is congratulated by teammate Kevin Durant after winning the All-Star game MVP award.(Elsa / Getty Images)
Clippers guard Chris Paul collects a pass on a fastbreak before scoring between Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (3) and Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) in the second half.(Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images)
Warriors guard Stephen Curry of the West brings the ball up court against Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas during the second half.(Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images)
Bulls center Pau Gasol of the East gets tangled with Kings center DeMarcus Cousins during first-half action.(Elsa / Getty Images)
Cavaliers forward LeBron James of the East is all smiles as he defends Lakers guard Kobe Bryant of the West during the first half.(Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images)
Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine attempts a reverse dunk during the contest Saturday in Toronto.(Warren Toda / EPA)
Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine and Toronto native Drake check out the score after one of LaVine’s efforts in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday.(Elsa / Getty Images)
Minnesota guard Zach LaVine puts down a reverse dunk during the contest Saturday night in Toronto.(Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images)
Magic forward Aaron Gordon throws down a reverse windmill dunk after snatching the ball from the claw of the Magic mascot Saturday.(Elsa / Getty Images)
Orlando forward Aaron Gordon reacts, along with the Magic’s mascot, after making a reverse windmill dunk on Saturday.(Elsa / Getty Images)
Minnesota guard Zach LaVine is presented the Slam Dunk Contest winner’s trophy on Saturday in Toronto.(Elsa / Getty Images)
Golden State guard Klay Thompson takes aim during the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest on Saturday night.(Elsa / Getty Images)
Warriors point guard Stephen Curry takes a shot during the Three-Point Contest on Saturday. The defending champion would be beaten by teammate Klay Thompson.(Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images)
Golden State guard Klay Thompson is congratulated by teammate Stephen Curry after winning the Three-Point Contest on Saturday.(Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images)
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson shares a laugh with Pelicans forward Anthony Davis and Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns during the Skills Challenge on Saturday.(Elsa / Getty Images)
Minnesota forward Karl-Anthony Towns weaves his way through the Skills Challenge course on Saturday.(Elsa / Getty Images)
Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns holds his Skills Challenge trophy while taking a photo with (from left) Warriors forward Draymond Green, Pelicans forward Anthony Davis and Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.(Warren Toda / EPA)
Timberwolves teammates Zach LaVine of the U.S. and Andrew Wiggins of the World embrace after the NBA All-Star Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night in Toronto.(Elsa / Getty Images)
Bucks forward Jabari Parker of the U.S. team after finishing off a dunk against the World team in the Rising Stars Challenge.(Elsa / Getty Images)
Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell of the U.S. team drives around Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay of the World team during the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night in Toronto.(WAarren Toda / EPA)
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) and Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine (8) helped the U.S. team defeat the World team, 157-154, in the Rising Stars Challenge.(Elsa / Getty Images)
Forward Kristaps Porzingis of the World team is congratulated by Knicks teammate Carmelo Anthony during the first half of the Rising Stars Challenge.(Elsa / Getty Images)
76ers forward Jahlil Okafor of the U.S. team tries to block a shot by Timberwolves forward Andrew Wigging of the World team during the Rising Stars Challenge.(Elsa / EPA)
Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) and Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) celebrate after a score during the Rising Stars Challenge.(Elsa / Getty Images)
Canada’s Stephan James tries to get a shot off between the United States’ Joel David Moore (22) and Nick Cannon (2) during the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.(Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant listens to a question from a reporter during his media session Friday at NBA All-Star weekend.(Larry W. Smith / EPA)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is engulfed by members of the media for his interview session Friday in Toronto.(Larry W. Smith / EPA)
San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard fields a question during his NBA All-Star game media session on Friday.(Larry W. Smith / EPA)
A three-point plan
Stepping on or over the line wasn’t J.J. Redick’s only issue in failing to make it out of the first round of the three-point shooting contest last year.
The Clippers shooting guard said he also noticed he grabbed balls from the wrong side of the rack.
“Depending on which side of the rack you grab the ball from, your footwork is a little different,” Redick said. “Not that shooting threes off a rack is an exact science or anything. Ultimately the ball just needs to go through the net.”
Redick said he analyzed a shot chart to determine where he was best shooting the ball and decided to finish the contest with his “moneyball” rack in the right corner, the same as last year.
An already impressive list of participants got even stronger Friday when Portland’s C.J. McCollum replaced Miami’s Chris Bosh, who withdrew from both the three-point contest and the All-Star game because of a strained calf. Atlanta’s Al Horford replaced Bosh on the Eastern Conference roster for the All-Star game.
McCollum has made 39.2% of his three-point shots this season compared to Bosh’s 36.5%.
The Big Hall of Famer?
Shaquille O’Neal was among the finalists for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016, allowing the colorful former Lakers star who retired in 2011 to share some of his favorite memories during a news conference.
O’Neal thanked his late stepfather for teaching him the jump hook so he could “be dominant like Wilt” Chamberlain and San Antonio Spurs legend George Gervin for steering him toward basketball instead of football, his first sports love.
O’Neal took a playful jab at Yao Ming, saying the former Houston Rockets center “used to travel all the time, would shoot the fadeaway and they never called that.” He also said former Golden State star Rick Barry once came to Louisiana State and encouraged O’Neal to shoot free throws underhanded.
“I’d rather shoot zero percent,” O’Neal said. “I can’t do it. I’m too cool for that.”
The other NBA finalists were Yao, Allen Iverson and Kevin Johnson. The inductees will be announced April 4 and enshrinement ceremonies will be Sept. 9.
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