Cavaliers Irving and Thompson chosen to play in Rising Stars Challenge Game (CLEVELAND, OH) - Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving and forward Tristan Thompson were selected to participate in the 2012 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge to be held on Friday, Feb. 24 in Orlando during NBA All-Star Weekend 2012, the NBA announced today. The participants in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge were selected by the NBA's assistant coaches, with each team submitting one ballot.
Irving, the number one overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, currently leads all rookies in scoring (18.0) and field goal percentage (.492) while ranking second in assists (5.1) and free throw percentage (.830) and third in three-point field goal percentage (.413) in 29.8 minutes per game through 23 games. He was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for games played in the months of December and January.
The 19-year-old point guard has topped the 20-point mark 11 times and dished out five or more assists in 14 games. He scored a career-best 32 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter, on Jan. 27th against New Jersey and on Jan. 29th, made the game-winning layup against Boston while posting game highs in points (23) and assists (6).
Thompson, the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, has played in 18 games for the Cavs this season, averaging 7.1 points on .458 shooting, 4.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 17.3 minutes per game. Among all rookies, he currently ranks first in the league in offensive rebounds (1.9), third in blocks (1.1) and sixth in total rebounds (4.7) per game.
He came off the bench to score a career-high 16 points and pulled down a career-high nine rebounds (five offensive) in 24 minutes against the Bobcats on Jan. 3. His five offensive rebounds were, at the time, the most by a rookie this season and his nine total rebounds were, at the time, tied for the rookie-high. Thompson also scored a career-high tying 16 points on 6-7 (.857) shooting and added five rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench against Atlanta on Jan. 21.
Irving and Thompson become the first pair of Cavaliers rookies to participate in the rookie challenge since 2003 when Carlos Boozer and Dajuan Wagner represented Cleveland. They also become the first Cavaliers to be selected to the rookie challenge since 2008 when Daniel Gibson won MVP honors as a sophomore in the game.
Irving and Thompson are joined by fellow first-year players MarShon Brooks (New Jersey Nets), Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs), Markieff Morris (Phoenix Suns), Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves), Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats), and Derrick Williams (Minnesota Timberwolves).
Making up the sophomore class are DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings), Landry Fields (New York Knicks), Paul George (Indiana Pacers), Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers), Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz), Greg Monroe (Detroit Pistons), Tiago Splitter (San Antonio Spurs), Evan Turner (Philadelphia 76ers), and John Wall (Washington Wizards).
This year, a new format is being implemented to a game that has historically featured NBA rookies facing off against sophomores. For the first time, rookies and sophomores will be mixed together on teams. TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal will serve as the general managers of the two opposing teams - TEAM CHUCK and TEAM SHAQ - each with nine man rosters, drafted from the aforementioned pool. TNT's Kenny Smith will serve as the honorary Commissioner and Ernie Johnson will host the live BBVA Rising Stars Challenge Draft on Thursday, Feb. 16, on NBA TV at 7 p.m. ET.