The Nets are on the rise. Officially, that is.
The team next month will be well-represented at the NBA Rising Stars Challenge, ahead of the All-Star Game in Charlotte, with both Rodions Kurucs and Jarrett Allen making the cut.
Barring any injury replacements, they’ll be the only New York-area players in the rookie/sophomore game, which shut out the Knicks Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina, among others. Kurucs, who hails from Latvia and will play on the World Team, is the lowest-drafted player to be selected in this year’s challenge, having been drafted 40th overall last year. Allen, in his second year in the league, will play on Team USA. The teams are made of 10 players each.
Kurucs has been a revelation for the Nets this year, has started the last 23 games and before Tuesday was averaging 9.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 0.6 steals. Allen’s season has been a fiery baptism — routinely pitted against the best bigs in the game, and maturing step by step. He is averaging 11.3 points and 8.8 rebounds.
The announcement came during the Nets game against the Bulls, and the duo found out in the second quarter.
Before even knowing for sure that Kurucs and Allen had been selected, Atkinson said that a Nets presence at the All-Star Game has been the goal all along. The rebuild has led to lean years, and the Nets are now seeing the fruits of their labors.
“I think it’s great and I think it’s a starting point,” he said of the All-Star chatter. “We obviously want guys in the game. That’s the goal and I think maybe we’ll have a possibility there, but that’s the goal. And, you know, three-point shooting contest, skills — we value all those things. I think it’s a great thing for the program, great opportunity for our guys to be with the best players in the league. So, nice that they’re being mentioned and, like I said, our goal is to get our guys in the main game and I think it’ll happen.”