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Rodions Kurucs awaits Rising Star Challenge call

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Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Rodions Kurucs should make the Rising Stars Challenge, says his coach ... and a lot of Nets fans.

“He should. I’m partial,” said Kenny Atkinson Sunday about Kurucs’ chances. “The guy’s starting on a team that’s above .500 and fighting for a playoff spot. That’s pretty big stuff, and contributing, having big games and playing big minutes.”

Atkinson also lobbied for his 6’10” wing when talking to Mike Francesca, saying Kurucs had “come out of nowhere,” but is the “the re-incarnation of Andrei Kirilenko.”

The 20-year-old Latvian was taken 40th in the Draft, but according to this week’s rookie rankings by NBA.com and CBS Sports, he’s performing at lottery level.

In this week’s NBA rankings, Kurucs is ranked 9th by NBA.com’s Drew Packham and 13th by CBS Sports’ Collin Ward Henninger.

Writes Packham...

The Nets have won five straight, and although Kurucs has seen his playing time dip, he’s still producing and doing all of the little things. Kurucs scored 13 points with a steal and block Wednesday as Brooklyn beat Orlando to keep its win streak alive. That showing followed a 16-point outing by Kurucs in Monday’s win against the Kings.

Ward-Henninger doesn’t provide details of his ranking beyond the top 10, but he does have Kevin Knox of the Knicks at No. 10. The numbers suggest that Knox might be benefiting from what he had done earlier in the season ... or being picked at No. 9.

Over his last five games, Knox is averaging 7.2 points on 13-of-51 shooting (25 percent) while Kurucs is putting up 10.6 points a game on 25-of-42 shooting (59.5 percent). In their match-up at Barclays Center Friday, Kurucs recorded eight points on 4-of-9 shooting to go along with three rebounds and an assist while Knox finished with seven on 2-of-11 shooting. He also had three rebounds and an assist.

And in the player efficiency ratings, posted Sunday by Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, Kurucs is listed at No. 9 for the season.

Knox isn’t even listed in the top 20, although two other Knicks, Mitchell Robinson, another second rounder, and Allonzo Trier, who went undrafted, are.

Expect the NBA to come up with Rising Stars rosters in the next week or so.