Michael Carter-Williams, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard all in All-Star Weekend Rising Stars Challenge

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While the All-Star Game itself is an exhibition for the biggest names in basketball, a sneaky fun part of All-Star Weekend is always the Rising Stars Challenge — watching the games best young players put on a little show.

And there are plenty of good young players to showcase this season.

Last season’s Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard of Portland will be joined by the guy leading that race this season — Michael Carter-Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers — in this year’s edition of the Rising Stars Challenge. The game takes place Friday night of All-Star weekend, Feb. 14, in New Orleans.

Lillard likely will pull double duty on the weekend, playing in the All-Star Game on Sunday as well (it’s likely the coaches select him as a reserve). It’s possible Anthony Davis of the Pelicans, who has put up monster numbers the last couple games, will join him – Davis also is scheduled for the Rising Stars Challenge.

Joining Davis and Lillard as second-year players with an invite are (Harrison Barnes (Warriors), Bradley Beal (Wizards), Andre Drummond (Pistons), Terrence Jones (Rockets), Jared Sullinger (Celtics), Jonas Valanciunas (Raptors) and Dion Waiters (Cavaliers).

Other rookies in the game besides Carter-Williams are Steven Adams (Thunder), Pero Antic (Hawks), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), Trey Burke (Jazz), Tim Hardaway, Jr. (Knicks), Victor Oladipo (Magic), Kelly Olynyk (Celtics), and Mason Plumlee (Nets).

How Miles Plumlee of the Phoenix Suns got snubbed is an interesting question. For that matter Draymond Green has played better than Barnes in Golden State.

Eventually the rookies and sophomores will be drafted into teams, then once those teams are set fans will be able to go online at NBA.com and vote for what players should start on both teams. The coaches for the teams will be an assistant from the staff of Scott Brooks of the Thunder and Frank Vogel in Indiana (those are the two All-Star Game coaches, their lead assistants have to work Friday night, too).

The game will be broadcast by TNT on Feb. 14 starting at 7 p.m. Eastern.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.

Kings hire former WNBA Seattle coach Jenny Boucek as assistant

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The NBA now has a third female assistant coach.

The first was Becky Hammon, who has been part of Gregg Popovich’s Spurs staff for several years (and has coached their Summer League team). The second was Nancy Leiberman, who has been on the staff in Sacramento for a couple of seasons now.

Now the Kings have hired former Seattle Storm coach Jenny Boucek as an assistant coach on Dave Joerger’s staff. She will work as an assistant player development coach.

A former WNBA player in the league’s inaugural season, the past three years she has coached the WNBA’s Seattle Storm (she was fired midway through the last season), and prior to that had been the head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs from 2007-09.