Utah Jazz: Hayward earns spot in Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz will have at least one participant — and perhaps more — in All-Star Weekend events.
Swingman Gordon Hayward earned a spot in the 2012 Rising Stars Challenge.
Eighteen NBA rookie and sophomore players — nine from each class — were voted by assistant coaches to participate in the Feb. 24 contest (TNT, 7 p.m. MT). The All-Star Game is two days later.
The teams include:
Rookies: Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves), MarShon Brooks (Nets), Brandon Knight (Pistons), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), Markieff Morris (Suns), Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers), Kemba Walker (Bobcats) and Derrick Williams (Timberwolves).
Sophomores: Blake Griffin (Clippers), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Landry Fields (Knicks), Paul George (Pacers), Gordon Hayward (Jazz), Greg Monroe (Pistons), Tiago Splitter (Spurs), Evan Turner (76ers) and John Wall (Wizards).
Hayward, the Jazz's No. 9 pick in 2010, is the first Utah player to earn a spot in the up-and-comers game since Paul Millsap and Ronnie Brewer in 2008. Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko and Bryon Russell also participated.
The Butler product, who's averaged 14.0 points the last seven games, is the only Jazz player to have started in all 24 outings. He's averaging 9.8 points, 3.3 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 28.3 minutes.
The Jazz are still waiting to see if Jeremy Evans will be invited to the Slam Dunk contest and if All-Star reserve bids await Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson. Those announcements come Thursday
A dunk Evans made over 6-1 teammate Earl Watson for a promotional video went viral and was talked about on ESPN. But, Evans said, commentators "were hating on it, something about the goal looked 8 feet, didn't look 10."
Isn't that a compliment?
"You made it look like it was 8 feet," Hayward told Evans. "But I don't think that's how they said it."
As for the Rising Stars Challenge, it has a twist this year. TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal will divvy up the players onto Team Chuck and Team Shaq in a draft next Thursday on NBA-TV.
TNT's Mike Fratello and Steve Kerr will help coach, with the lead assistants from the All-Star Game coaching staffs being the bench bosses.
Other Jazz players eligible for the Rising Stars Challenge included second-year players Evans and Derrick Favors, along with rookies Enes Kanter and Alec Burks.
The Jazz didn't practice Wednesday, but Hayward wrote this on his Twitter account: "So happy to be picked for the #BBVARisingStars game during #AllStar weekend...want to thank my teammates w/o them wouldn't have been picked."
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