April 19, 2014

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Cavs’ Irving, Thompson, Waiters and Zeller picked for Rising Stars Challenge

INDEPENDENCE — Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving is going to have some company over All-Star Weekend in Houston.

Cleveland power forward Tristan Thompson, shooting guard Dion Waiters and center Tyler Zeller will join Irving in the Rising Stars Challenge, it was announced Wednesday.

The game, which features rookies and second-year players on a pair of nine-man teams drafted by TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, will be held Feb. 15. Irving will also play in the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 17.

“We’re very proud of Kyrie, Tristan, Dion and Tyler and the efforts they are putting in to earn this kind of recognition,” Cavs general manager Chris Grant said.

“Internal growth with our young core is very important to us and this is a good reflection of their development. It is also great they will be able to experience this special All-Star weekend together and we look forward to seeing their continued hard work and progress.”

Thompson, the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, has played in 46 games this season and is averaging 11.0 points on .494 shooting and 9.3 rebounds.

He has 17 double-doubles, third-most among second-year players.

Waiters, the No. 4 pick in 2012, has appeared in 38 games and is second among rookies in scoring, averaging 14.5 points to go along with 2.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Among rookie guards, he ranks second in steals (1.0), third in assists and fourth in 3-pointers made (49).

Zeller, the 17th overall pick in 2012, has played in 42 games and is averaging 8.3 points and 6.2 in 27.8 minutes.

Irving, who could end up starting in the All-Star Game due to an injury to Boston’s Rajon Rondo, has appeared in 35 games and ranks sixth in the league in scoring at 23.9 on .470 shooting.

The head coaches for the Rising Stars Challenge teams will be the lead assistant coaches from the 2013 NBA All-Star Game coaching staffs, which will be determined by the best record in each conference through games played on Sunday. The Chicago and Oklahoma City staffs, by virtue of having coached in the 2012 All-Star Game, are not eligible.

Also Wednesday, the Cavs assigned forward Kevin Jones to Canton of the NBA Development League. Jones has played in 15 games for the Cavs this season and is averaging 1.9 points and 1.5 rebounds. He has appeared in six games for the Charge, averaging 23.8 points and 12.3 rebounds.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.