CLEVELAND – Nuggets rookie Bones Hyland was supposed to be back at VCU this weekend.
After his initial snub from the Rising Stars game, Hyland made tentative plans to watch his Rams host Richmond on Friday night. But those plans changed, quickly, when Hyland got a call from Nuggets president Tim Connelly while on the bus to Golden State’s Chase Center on Wednesday evening.
“He’s like, ‘Hey Bones, what’s up?” Hyland said Friday ahead of the Rising Stars game. “What are you doing over All-Star break?’ I’m like, ‘I’m going back to my college over at VCU to watch one of the rivalry games.’ He’s like, ‘How would you like to be in the Rising Stars game?’ I said, ‘That’d be dope, for sure.’”
It was, according to Connelly, almost a foregone conclusion that Hyland would be a late invite as an injury replacement. Once Hyland arrived at the arena and got to the locker room, Nuggets coach Michael Malone was there with a congratulatory hug. Malone told him he should’ve been included from the outset.
Nonetheless, Hyland called it a “surreal moment.”
Late Wednesday night, after Monte Morris’ game-winning 3-pointer against Golden State earned him a locker-room dousing from his teammates, the Nuggets had even more reason to celebrate.
“When they poured water on Monte, then out of nowhere, they (were) just like, ‘Hey, Rising Star,’ …” Hyland said laughing from the All-Star podium. The rookie got his shower, too.
Two chaotic days later, Hyland was in Cleveland playing on Gary Payton’s Rising Stars team alongside Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball and Golden State’s Jonathan Kuminga. To no one’s surprise, Hyland was on a mission.
“I’m coming in here to make a name for myself and go worldwide,” he said.
Even though Team Payton lost in Friday night’s semifinal, Hyland didn’t disappoint. He drained two 3-pointers, danced with the ball to the crowd’s delight and even grabbed a defensive rebound, likely to Malone’s delight.
“This is a big moment for me,” he said.
And of Payton’s advice to him throughout the game? “Go get a bucket,” Hyland reiterated. “‘They can’t guard you, go get a bucket every time.’”
Always competitive, Hyland was mad at himself for missing the would-be game-winning 3-pointer, but regardless of the outcome, he soaked in the experience.
Hyland had a treacherous path just to make it to Cleveland in the first place. After arriving home late from the euphoric win over Golden State, Hyland caught a little bit of sleep Thursday morning. But following a quick haircut, it was back to the airport.
“Boom we catch our flight,” Hyland said. “We’re on the flight for like an hour and some change. This is not working already. They kept delaying the flight because I guess the weather was bad here in Cleveland. We get off that flight because they kept pushing the time back hours and hours. … We catch a 5 o’clock flight, but mind you our bags are on the other flight. So we don’t even have our bags.”
Those bags only showed up Friday afternoon. Hyland wasn’t complaining. Per usual, he made the most of his chance.