What we all assumed would happen has finally become official, Nikola Vucevic’s fantastic sophomore season (no slumps here so far) is being rewarded with a trip to All-Star Weekend. ‘Vucci Mane’ gets to represent the Magic in the 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. Magic rookie Andrew Nicholson's 7.2 points per game and 3.2 rebounds per game weren't enough to get the Canadian into the game. I can't call it a snub because Tyler Zeller has indeed had a better rookie campaign. However, based on Andrew's 52.6 FG%, a few extra minutes of playing time and Nicholson easily would have been penciled in.
From the team press release:
Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic was named to the 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge to be played Friday, Feb. 15, in Houston during NBA All-Star 2013, as announced today by the NBA. The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge consists of current rookies and sophomores selected to the roster by the NBA’s assistant coaches.
Vucevic leads all second-year players in rebounding at 11.2 rpg., ranking in the NBA’s top five overall. He also ranks in the top ten among all “sophomores” in field goal percentage, shooting .522, and in scoring at 11.9 ppg. Vucevic is the only second-year player in the NBA averaging a double-double.
Joining Vucevic from the Sophomore class are: Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets), Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs), Chandler Parsons (Houston Rockets), Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors), Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers), and Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats).
Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard lead a group of rookies that includes Harrison Barnes (Warriors), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Bobcats), Alexey Shved (Minnesota Timberwolves), Dion Waiters (Cavaliers), and Tyler Zeller (Cavaliers).
This will be the second consecutive season where TNT ‘analysts’ Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal get to play the role of General Managers of ‘Team Chuck’ and ‘Team Shaq’. Kyrie Irving won MVP honors last year when Orlando got to host the event as Irving went off for 34 points and 13 assists in a 146-133 Team Chuck victory. Barring him not participating and only playing in the All-Star Game, Kyrie should be the favorite to repeat as MVP once again.
Shaq and Charles will get to draft their team members on February 7th at 7 p.m. EST. Following the draft, there will be a new twist to this fresh exhibition. Fans will be able to go online and vote what the starting 5s will be when the ball is tipped on February 15th. Just like in normal All-Star Game voting, the Rising Stars voting won’t include an actual ‘center’ position which handicaps Vucevic greatly. 3 frontcourt positions and 2 backcourt spots.
If Vucevic’s popularity is in any correlation to the amount of times he gets to the free throw line, there’s not a chance in hell Nik will get voted as a starter. Even if you advertise how he’s the only sophomore to be averaging a double-double, fans don’t give a damn. Fans don’t view ‘Vooch’ as a flashy Vlade Divac or Arvydas Sabonis type of guy that can entertain them. I do though hope Shaq drafts Vucevic just so the floodgates open for more Dwight Howard jokes. I'll be curious if Jacque Vaughn and the Magic coaching staff give Nik any special instructions, or if they just tell the Montenegrin to have fun. It's a well-earned honor for the 22-year-old. The last Magic man to have played in the Rising Star Challenge was a sophomore Dwight Howard in 2006.
The head coaches for both teams will be the lead assistant coaches from the 2013 NBA All-Star Game coaching staffs. The East and West coaching staffs will be determined by the best record in each conference through games played Feb. 3. The Chicago Bulls’ and Oklahoma City’s staffs, by virtue of having helmed the sidelines of the 2012 All-Star game, are not eligible to coach this year’s game.
PREVIOUS BBVA RISING STARS CHALLENGE RESULTS
1994 - Phenoms 74, Sensations 68
1995 - White 83, Green 79 (OT)
1996 - East 94, West 92
1997 - East 96, West 91
1998 - East 85, West 80
2000 - Rookies 92, Sophomores 81 (OT)
2001 - Sophomores 121, Rookies 113
2002 - Rookies 103, Sophomores 97
2003 - Sophomores 132, Rookies 112
2004 - Sophomores 142, Rookies 118
2005 - Sophomores 133, Rookies 106
2006 - Sophomores 106, Rookies 96
2007 - Sophomores 155, Rookies 114
2008 - Sophomores 136, Rookies 109
2009 - Sophomores 122, Rookies 116
2010 - Rookies 140, Sophomores 128
2011 - Rookies 148, Sophomores 140
2012 - TEAM CHUCK 146, TEAM SHAQ 133