SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Lauri Markkanen won’t just be playing in his first NBA All-Star Game, he is going to be a starter.
With the injury to New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, Markkanen has been elevated to the starting lineup for the All-Star Game at Vivint Arena on February 19th.
“Extremely happy,” Markkanen said. “Excited. That’s kind of, on a personal level, what you’ve been working for. You remember everything you’ve gone through in your journey, and everything happens for a reason. I was so happy when it happened, but then slowly started thinking of the stuff I had to go through to get here.”
With Williamson, Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Phoenix’ Kevin Durant all out with injuries, Toronto’s Pascal Siakam, Sacramento’s De’Aron Fox and Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards were named as replacements for the All-Star Game.
Markkanen, Joel Embiid and Ja Morant have all been elevated from reserves to starters. Captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo will pick the teams the night of the game.
Markkanen is having the best season of his 6-year NBA career, averaging 24.7 points and 8.6 rebounds, shooting 51.8 percent from the field, including 42.3 percent from three-point range.
He recently had a streak of 20 consecutive games of scoring at least 20 points snapped, including a career-high 49 points against Houston last month.
When originally selected as an All-Star Game reserve last week, Markkanen said that wasn’t one of his goals coming into the season.
“I had a high level of confidence coming in after the summer I had,” Markkanen said. “But I didn’t really write down all-star as my goal for the year. It was more just kind of going day by day and build this thing with this team.”
He is extremely excited about playing his first All-Star Game in Vivint Arena.
“Oh, it’s everything,” Markkanen said. “I’m extremely happy to represent the Jazz here, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Markkanen is the 15th NBA All-Star in Utah Jazz franchise history.