Lakers’ Russell, Clarkson play like stars on rise in Rising Stars Challenge

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.

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)

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.

Russell scored 22 points on nine-for-15 shooting to go with seven assists in a game featuring little defense, and Clarkson was strong across the board with 25 points, five rebounds and five assists.

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.

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 WiltChamberlain 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.

Twitter: @latbbolch


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