SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen has been selected to his first NBA All-Star Game.
Markkanen was picked by NBA coaches as a Western Conference reserve, and will play in the game February 19th at Vivint Arena.
“I was at home with my family and my agent watching it on TV,” Markkanen said. “It was a little nerve-racking experience, but I’m glad we’re here.”
Acquired in an off-season trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, along with Collin Sexton, Ochai Agbaji and three first round draft picks, for Donovan Mitchell, Markkanen is having the best season of his 6-year NBA career.
There was fear that after the Jazz traded Mitchell and Rudy Gobert during the off-season that the team would not have a representative at the game. But Markknan has come through wtih the best season of his career.
Markkanen is averaging 24.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, while shooting 52.1% from the floor. He is currently on a streak where he has scored at least 20 points in 19 straight games, including a career-high 49 points against Houston on January 5th.
Markkanen said he is looking forward to talking with his parents in Finland on Friday, but he was happy to celebrate with his teammates.
“I’m extremely happy having those teammates around me, Markkanen said. “It’s a big deal for them too because they’ve been a part of it. So, I wouldn’t be able to do this without them.”
“He’s been everything,” said point guard Mike Conley. “He knows it. Lauri has carried us in so many different ways this season, and I’m glad that he’s getting the recognition that he deserves.”
He is currently on pace to become the 12th qualified player in NBA history to average over 20 points on better than 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from downtown, and 85 percent from the free throw line in a single season (Larry Bird – three times, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant – twice, Jeff Hornacek, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, Drazen Petrovic, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Kiki Vandeweghe).
But being an all-star was not at the top of his goals coming into this 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.”
Markkanen joins rookie Walker Kessler as Jazz players to partake in All-Star Weekend. Kessler was selected to play in the NBA Rising Stars Challenge on February 17th.
He becomes the 15th Jazz player to be selected as an All-Star, joining Carlos Boozer (2007-08), Adrian Dantley (1980-82, 1984-86), Mark Eaton (1989), Rudy Gobert (2019-22), Rickey Green (1984), Gordon Hayward (2017), Andrei Kirilenko (2004), Karl Malone (1988-98, 2000-02), Pete Maravich (1977-79), Donovan Mitchell (2019-22), Mehmet Okur (2007), Len “Truck” Robinson (1978), John Stockton (1989-97, 2000), and Deron Williams (2010, 2011).
“Oh, it’s everything,” Markkanen said about playing at Vivint Arena. “I’m extremely happy to represent the Jazz here, so I’m looking forward to it.”
The rest of the Western Conference reserves include Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies, former Weber State star Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, Jaren Jackson of the Grizzlies, Sacramento’s Domantus Sabonis, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of Oklahoma City, and Paul George from the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Eastern Conference reserves include Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan, Boston’s Jaylen Brown, Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat, Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday, New York’s Julius Randle and Tyrese Haliburton of the Indiana Pacers.