Ben McLemore wanted to be a part of NBA All-Star Weekend, and he believed he’d done enough to earn a spot in the Rising Stars Challenge, which features first- and second-year players.
But when the rosters featuring 10 American players against 10 international players were announced Wednesday, the second-year Kings guard was not included.
It was disappointing news for McLemore, who has improved statistically in several categories this season.
“I think everybody was surprised about that,” McLemore said. “I thought I was going be able to participate, but it is what it is.”
Assistant coaches vote for the participants.
Entering Wednesday’s game against Toronto, McLemore was averaging 11.7 points, up from 8.8 points last season, when he also was bypassed. He participated in the Slam Dunk Contest last year but will not this time.
McLemore was shooting close to 50 percent from the field in November and December, but his accuracy tailed off in January. Entering Wednesday, he was shooting 38 percent this month and 45.3 percent for the season.
“I think he’s having a great year for a second-year guy,” Kings coach Tyrone Corbin said. “He’s played a lot of minutes for us, and he’s done a good job.
“I think he’s grown his game from last year, but you never know how those things go. But I love the improvements he’s made in a year’s time, and we look forward to him continuing to improve.”
The last King in the Rising Stars game was Isaiah Thomas in 2013. Thomas was a late addition to the roster, and McLemore said he would be willing to go under those circumstances.
Homecoming – The most popular King at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday was rookie Nik Stauskas.
Stauskas grew up in nearby Mississauga, Ontario, and was playing his first game in Toronto as a pro.
The guard said there were “probably a couple hundred” family members and friends at the game. He said he didn’t have to pay for everyone to see his first regular-season NBA game in his homeland.
“My mom bought about 50 tickets for close family and people like that,” Stauskas said. “All my friends from high school, they kind of just bought their own tickets.”
Stauskas said Mississauga is about 20 minutes from Air Canada Centre, where he watched his favorite NBA stars before he went to the United States to attend prep school and the University of Michigan.
“Growing up, I used to go to a lot of games at the ACC when I was a kid, probably five games a year,” Stauskas said. “Whether it was LeBron (James) playing or Kobe (Bryant) playing, I would try to come see them, so to actually be here to play in a game is pretty cool.”
Not on the bench – Forward Quincy Miller, who signed a 10-day contract with the Kings, was not at Wednesday’s game because his deal expired.
The Kings plan to sign Miller to another 10-day deal and have him available for Friday’s game at Cleveland.