Ben McLemore rises for a jam on Derrick Favors of the Utah Jazz. (Photo: Tobin Halsey)Ben McLemore may not be in the initial pool of rookies and sophomores headed to New Orleans for the annual Rising Stars Challenge. But that doesn’t mean his hopes of heading to All-Star Weekend are totally dashed.

There’s still a chance the 20-year-old guard could make it to the Big Easy. Since the format of the game changed in 2012, the NBA has made surprisingly late additions to the player pool for the annual rookie/sophomore showcase. Two years ago, then second-year guard Jeremy Lin and first-year guard Norris Cole were late adds to the game. And last year, Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio and the Kings’ own Isaiah Thomas were added to the pool just days before All-Star Weekend.

“It’s a possibility (or a) chance that they still can add me,” McLemore said when asked about the idea of being selected to participate in the game a few weeks from now. “At the same time, they made their decision on who they got. And I’m still going to be the same guy that’s still going out there performing every night, getting better each and every night.”

Like McLemore, Thomas’ absence from the initial pool of players for the rookie/sophomore game was a shock. However, his invitation was even more surprising considering the timing. Just moments before TNT began their broadcast of the Rising Stars Challenge Draft, Thomas received word that he was in from former Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie.


“It was a surprise because I didn’t know,” Thomas said of last year’s experience of being a last minute addition to the Rising Stars Challenge. “I mean when they named that group of players, I thought it was over with. I was very upset, but then they made a phone call and I got to be in the game so I was happy about that.”

Thomas is surprised that his rookie teammate wasn’t chosen to the game. He hopes that McLemore gets the same opportunity he did last year. The Kings starting point guard believes that his first-year teammate is worthy of an invite to the game.

“I could name a couple of players on there that shouldn’t have made it, but I’m not going to do that,” Thomas said last night. “Hopefully, I mean like they did me last year – they didn’t name me at first and then they put me in a week or two later – hopefully they do that to Ben. He’s played better than a lot of the rookies that’s in that game except the ones that play 40 minutes a game and that’s (Victor) Oladipo and (Michael) Carter-Williams.”

The Kings have had representation in the game for the last four seasons. Tyreke Evans (2010, 2011), Omri Casspi (2010), DeMarcus Cousins (2011, 2012) and Thomas (2013) are the last four Kings to represent Sacramento in the NBA’s yearly rookie/sophomore showcase. Since its debut in 1994, the Kings have had 11 players play in the game.

If McLemore doesn’t make it as a last minute addition to the Rising Stars Challenge, he’s hoping for an invite to the dunk contest. If invited, McLemore would be the first Kings player to participate in the slam dunk competition since Gerald Wallace did in 2002.

“That I don’t know,” McLemore said of possibly being invited to the dunk contest. “Hopefully if it is (something that happens), I can try to go out there and do that,” “But if not, like I said, it’s just moving forward.”