Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden has been named as a replacement for Friday night’s Rookie Challenge at NBA All-Star Weekend.
Harden will step in for Sacramento guard and reigning Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans on the Sophomore squad. Evans has battled plantar fasciitis for much of this season and missed Tuesday’s game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City because of the injury.
Harden was the next leading vote-getter by the league’s assistant coaches for the game’s 18-man roster. Each team was permitted to submit one ballot.
With his inclusion, Harden now becomes the fourth Thunder player scheduled to participate in events at All-Star Weekend.
Serge Ibaka is also a member of the Sophomore team. Ibaka will compete in Saturday night’s slam dunk contest as well. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were named to the Western Conference All-Star team. Durant, now a two-time All-Star, also is one of six participants in Saturday night’s 3-point contest. Westbrook, a first-time All-Star, will find out Thursday night if fans voted him among four other players that will compete alongside New Orleans guard Chris Paul in the Skills Challenge on Saturday night.
Evans is averaging 18.3 points this season, ranking second behind Golden State’s Stephen Curry’s 18.4-point average among second-year players. In last year’s Rookie Challenge, Evans scored a team-high 26 points and shared MVP honors with San Antonio’s DeJuan Blair after they led the Rookies to a 140-128 win over the Sophomores. It was the first time since 2002 that the Rookies defeated the Sophomores.
Harden, who scored 22 points off the bench for the Rookies in last year’s game, is averaging 10.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals in 25.7 minutes this season.
The rest of the Sophomore team includes Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, Chicago’s Taj Gibson, Philadelphia’s Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings and Portland’s Wesley Matthews.
This year’s Rookie team will include L.A. Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Washington guard John Wall, the last two No. 1 overall selections. Griffin, the top pick in 2009, is considered a rookie this year after missing all of the 2009-10 season because of injury. Joining Griffin and Wall are Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe, Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, New Jersey forward Derrick Favors, New York guard Landry Fields, Minnesota guard Wesley Matthews, Detroit center Greg Monroe and San Antonio guard Gary Neal.