The Sacramento Kings are taking over Charlotte, N.C. for the weekend. Four players from the team’s young core are taking part of the All-Star festivities.
De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley will suit up as part of the U.S. Team in the Rising Stars Challenge, which is scheduled for Friday evening at 6 p.m. PST. They’ll face off against teammate Bogdan Bogdanovic, who is looking to defend his MVP title from last season’s Rising Stars win as a member of the World Team.
For Fox and Bogdanovic, they’ve been there before. While they appreciate the honor, it doesn’t have the same freshness that it does for Bagley, who grew up going to All-Star weekend with his family.
“Now to actually be a part of it and play in it and kind of see it from a different point of view now that I’m in NBA, it should be exciting,” Bagley said. “I can’t wait to get down there and experience it and have a lot of fun.”
Bogdanovic has joked in the past about his place in the game. At 26-years-old, he’s been a professional basketball player for years. Being considered a “rising star” is bit confusing for the Serbian-born wing.
In his second NBA season, Fox has his sights set on being a fixture for the annual showcase. While he appreciates the honor of participating in the Rising Stars, he’s just looking to have a good time, not stress over taking home any hardware from the event.
“I don’t care, I go out there and just play,” Fox said earlier in the week. “Of course you’re trying to win.”
In addition to his Rising Stars duties, Fox will also participate in the Skills Challenge, where is a 5-2 favorite to win.
It’s the first event on Saturday evening with a start time of 5 p.m. PST and he’ll compete against Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, Trae Young, Kyle Kuzma, Nikola Jokic, Nikola Vucevic and Mike Conley.
“He has obviously a great chance,” Bogdanovic said. “He’s the fastest player in the league and on that challenge. He’s just got to make the shots and that’s it. Easy win for him.”
Fox’s starting backcourt mate, Buddy Hield, agreed with Bogdanovic’s assessment.
“He’s built for it - his quickness, his passing ability, all he has to do is make the shot and he’ll be fine,” Hield said of Fox.
Hield has aged out of the Rising Stars game, but after shooting the lights out in the first half of the season, the third-year guard will participate in the 3-point shootout against a crowded field of some of the game’s great marksmen.
“I think he can shoot with the best of them, especially if he gets hot,” Fox said Hield. “The rest of those guys can shoot, but Buddy belongs. He definitely belongs in that conversation.”
Hield is having a breakout season for Sacramento, averaging 20.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 31.6 minutes per game. He currently ranks four in the NBA in 3-point percentage at 44.9 percent and only James Harden, Steph Curry and Paul George have hit more triples than Hield this season.
“I’m a big competitor, if I go out there, I might get 30 a couple of times,” Hield said. “But when it comes to All-Star Game, it’s different with anxiety and momentum and everything.”
The 3-Point Contest is the second event on Saturday evening. Hield will compete against Devin Booker, Danny Green, Joe Harris, Damian Lillard, Khris Middleton, Dirk Nowitzki, Kemba Walker and brothers Seth and Steph Curry.
Hield received a huge endorsement as a dark horse in the competition from the Warriors’ Klay Thompson, who took home the trophy in the event in 2016.
Odds makers give Hield the second-best chance of winning the event, behind 2015 champ, Steph Curry.
“I don’t care what Vegas said.” Hield said. “I always bet on myself, no matter what."
The quartet of Kings will return to Sacramento early next week. They’ll have a day to prepare for the final 25 games of the season beginning next Thursday’s big matchup against the Golden State Warriors.