(J Alexander Diaz/Lakers.com)
Ingram, Kuzma Ready for Hometown Rising Stars Challenge
Two of the NBA’s most promising young players are ready to put on a show on their home floor.
Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma will represent the Lakers at the 2018 Rising Stars Challenge, suiting up for the USA Team in the annual All-Star Weekend exhibition between top rookies and sophomores.
Ingram will become just the third Laker — along with Jordan Farmar and D’Angelo Russell — to compete at the Challenge multiple times.
It’s been a leap of a season for the 20-year-old, who leads the Lakers in scoring (16.2) with an average that also ranks third among sophomores.
The second-overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft has built upon his slashing talent this year, mixing in some playmaking at point forward and, recently, a confident stroke from 3-point range.
This game will be Ingram and Kuzma’s third in as many days, but B.I. is ready to let it fly.
“I’m gonna go as long as my body can take after these back-to-backs,” Ingram said. “I’m gonna definitely put up a lot of shots tonight. I’ll live with the results.”
Ingram is looking forward to playing alongside guys from around the league like Jaylen Brown, Dennis Smith Jr. and Kris Dunn.
But he’s most excited about facing off against lifelong friend Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets.
“I’ll take him to the post,” Ingram laughed. “He’s too small for me.”
Meanwhile, Kuzma has been a lightning bolt for the Lakers’ offense, as the 27th pick unpredictably ranks third among rookies in scoring (15.7) thanks to his crafty inside play and ability to knock down triples.
“Growing up I was always that kid that watched All-Star Weekend from the TV, every single event,” Kuzma said. “Now that I’m playing in it, it’s pretty surreal.”
The 22-year-old was named November Rookie of the Month thanks to a blistering start to the season, and has kept up his production, already tallying the most 20-point games by a rookie Laker since Magic Johnson 38 years ago.
At the Rising Stars Challenge, he’s hoping to make amends for his near-poster slam on Philadelphia center Joel Embiid from earlier this year.
“I tried to dunk on him last year and missed,” Kuzma said. “I’ve got some payback for him, hopefully.”
The Lakers also have a third Rising Star who will not lace up at STAPLES Center.
Lonzo Ball was selected to the game, but has missed the last month of action due to a left MCL sprain. He was replaced on the USA Team by Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox.
Ball has been a do-it-all point guard for the Lakers, averaging 10.1 points, 7.1 assists and 7.1 rebounds.
If he had played enough games to qualify for the league leaderboard, the second-overall pick would rank seventh in the entire NBA in dimes and third among all guards in boards.