Lauri Markkanen selected for Rising Stars challenge during All-Star weekend

Lauri Markkanen Tuesday in the Bulls 122-117 loss to the Brooklyn Nets again demonstrated his legitimacy as an NBA rising star with a career high 19 rebounds.

The NBA officially agreed a few hours earlier in announcing that Markkanen would be among 20 freshmen and sophomore NBA players selected to compete in the annual Rising Stars challenge during All-Star weekend. The Friday night game features the top first and second year players, and it is the second consecutive appearance for Markkanen.

The format of rookies vs sophomores changed in 2015 to feature teams of U.S. players competing against a team of international players. Last year, Markkanen came off the bench for the victorious World team and had 18 points on seven of 11 shooting and six rebounds. Kris Dunn played for the US team last year. Markkanen was runner up last year in the Skills Challenge to former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie. Markkanen is only competing in the game this year.

"It was fun last year, so I am excited about it," Markkanen said Tuesday. "I feel honored to take part in that game; excited to get to play with a couple of new guys I haven't played with before. Too bad I can't play against anyone like I did last year against Kris Dunn."

"Obviously in LA last year (was enjoyable)," Markkanen said. "I guess this time I'm not doing anything Saturday night, so one day to recover and get ready for the season. I was just trying to have fun last year, enjoy the experience and that's what I will try to do again. Obviously, the game is important and we are trying to win, but the most important part is for everybody to have fun."

Bulls coach Jim Boylen said the All-Star weekend experience also can serve as motivation.

"I'm very happy for Lauri," Boylen said. "He has the respect of the league. It's awesome for him, awesome for the Bulls. Anytime a guy can go to the All-Star game and be part of it, it's a learning moment and something you go to and realize, ‘I'd like to be one of these guys someday on the big team.' So it's really good."

But Boylen also did initiate the first controversy for the 68th All-Star game weekend in condemning the omission of rookie Wendell Carter Jr. for the Rising Stars game. The Bulls are confident Carter is a rising star without the game endorsement, and Carter has been among the best rookies this season, ranking in the top 10 among rookies in scoring, rebounding and blocks, top five in the latter two categories. But Carter now is out for the season after suffering a thumb injury, which might have persuaded league officials in the voting which is among assistant coaches to leave him off the eight-player U.S. team.

"I am disappointed Wendell didn't make it," Boylen said after the game with the Nets. "To me, even with the injury, he should be on that team. I don't understand it. He should be going to that game, at least being a part of it, although in a cast. You can still vote him in. He played 44 games as a starter; as a 19-year-old starter. I am disappointed in it; I don't really understand that."

Carter is traveling with the Bulls on this three-game trip with the team headed for Miami and Charlotte.

He seemed bemused when told Boylen was upset about his exclusion

"Absolutely, I feel I deserved it," said Carter, who was averaging 10.3 points and seven rebounds when hurt. "It's not so much something I am mad about it. It would have been cool being in it. But I am not in it, so move on. It's all good. Just make sure I don't get hurt again next year.

"It's an all star game," Carter said with a smile. "Not stressing it at all; we have bigger problems."