Posts Tagged ‘Dunk Contest’

Morning shootaround — Feb. 14


VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from All-Star Saturday Night

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LaVine, Gordon wow in Dunk Contest | Hack-A-Gone? | Splash Brother vs. Splash Brother | Horford embraces uncertain future

No. 1:  LaVine, Gordon wow in Dunk Contest For years, the Verizon Slam Dunk was All-Star Weekend’s marquee event. The electricity surrounding the event may have waned in recent years. But last season, Timberwolves rookie Zach LaVine gave it a jolt of excitement, notching his first win. And Saturday night in Toronto, a couple of 20 year olds, LaVine and Magic forward Aaron Gordon, took turns making jaws drop, posting alternating perfect scores in the contest’s final round until LaVine was ultimately able to grab the win in arguably the greatest dunk contest in All-Star Weekend history. And as Lang Whitaker writes, with the contest on the line, LaVine went to the free-throw line

High expectations? No problem.

After bringing the Dunk Contest back to prominence one year ago with a series of electrifying dunks, Minnesota’s Zach LaVine picked up where he left off, with help from Orlando’s Aaron Gordon.

And with the Verizon Slam Dunk on the line, Zach LaVine went to the free throw line. Well, almost.

With a through-the-legs dunk from just inside the charity stripes, Zach LaVine earned his fifth score of 50 on the night, making him the 2016 NBA dunk champ. The 20-year-old LaVine became the first back-to-back winner since Nate Robinson in 2009 and 2010.

Going against Magic forward Aaron Gordon in the contest finals, LaVine and Gordon got locked into a heavyweight bout where they traded incredible body blows. After the contest, LaVine said, “We should share the trophy, because [Gordon] did some stuff I’ve never seen before.”

To begin the final round, Gordon completed a dunk with an unbelievable degree of difficulty, snatching the ball from Orlando Magic mascot Stuff — who was spinning on a hoverboard — and throwing down a twisting dunk. This earned a 50. LaVine countered by throwing himself an alley-oop and floating through the air for a one-handed finish, earning another 50.

Gordon then again used Stuff, this time clearing the mascot with his rear end while passing the ball below for a lefty finish. That earned another 50, putting the pressure on LaVine.

LaVine responded coolly, with a windmill from just inside the free throw line, for another 50. This marked the first time in Dunk Contest history the final round saw four scores of 50.

They didn’t stop. In the first dunk-off, Gordon enlisted teammate Elfrid Payton to throw an alley-oop off the side of the backboard. Gordon caught the ball and completed a reverse dunk while flying through the air. 50. LaVine responded by throwing an alley-oop to himself from the baseline, catching the ball and passing it through his legs for a reverse dunk. This earned another 50.

On the second dunk-off, Gordon ran along the baseline and did a two-handed double-pump reverse reminiscent of Dominique Wilkins. Gordon scored a 47. To win it, LaVine went back to the free throw line.

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No. 2: Hack-A-Gone? A Q&A with the Commissioner of the NBA has become a staple of All-Star Saturday Night, and last night Adam Silver faced the assembled media to address several topics. As Steve Aschburner writes, among the many topics addressed, one change Silver is clearly looking to implement is an end to the Hack-A- intentional fouling that has become en vogue around the NBA lately …

If the Hack-A-Whomever strategy currently raising such a ruckus in some NBA precincts is actually something you like, take solace: It’s going to be with us, extending the real time of games, disrupting any sense of flow and showcasing a whole lot of bricked free throws, at least through the end of the 2016 playoffs.

If, though, you believe in the tactic as a coach’s best friend — something to encourage bad foul shooters to improve, lest they look silly and cost their teams victories — those guys had better get in the gym soon and practice their form, release and follow-through fast.

Change almost certainly is coming, based on NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s comments Saturday in the annual state-of-the-league All-Star news conference.

Silver, addressing and fielding questions from reporters before the skills, slam dunk and 3-point shooting contests at Air Canada Centre, reiterated what he has said on several recent occasion. “I’m beginning to feel that a change needs to be made,” Silver said, citing conversations he has had with broadcast partners, sentiment expressed in fan data and feedback from players, GMs and owners.

As for coaches, Silver said “Clearly our coaches who are smart and using very complex analytics believe it is benefiting them.”

But changing the rules wouldn’t be pursued to make life tougher on the league’s coaches, any more than it would be done to let the most frequent targets of the tactic — notoriously poor free-throw shooters such as DeAndre Jordan (.423 free-throw percentage), Andre Drummond (.351), Dwight Howard (.532) and a handful of others — off the hook. It would be a decision driven more by the NBA product as entertainment, not merely athletic competition.

Silver did share that, when the league’s competition committee discussed the strategy last summer, it sought data from an additional season before making a recommendation. That data so far? “We’re seeing the Hack-a-Shaq strategy used at roughly a five-and-a-half-times greater rate than it was used last season,” the commissioner reported.

That’s a lot of standing around, stoppages in play and, for folks viewing from the stands or on TV at home, a procession of finely tuned, multi-millionaire athletes failing at one of basketball’s fundamental skills. That’s not a good look for anyone involved.

Interestingly, Silver said that there is no consensus among the practice’s critics what remedy should be pursued. Treat the entire game like the final two minutes, when fouls away from the play equal one free throw and retained possession? Come up with something more stringent to snuff even the temptation to hack a targeted player intentionally?

Silver said he would want to have a specific alternative to propose. And even then, that sort of change would need the approval of two-thirds of the league’s members (20 of the 30 teams).

“So we’re nowhere near that point where we’re even starting to count heads,” Silver said. This summer would be the soonest, he indicated.

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No. 3: Splash Brother vs. Splash Brother It was no big surprise last season in Brooklyn when Stephen Curry managed to win the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest; after all, he was midway through an MVP season and establishing himself as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. Last night in Toronto, when it came time for Curry to defend his title, he posted a fine performance, making the final round, until his Splash Brother and Warriors backcourt ‘mate Klay Thompson was able to get hot and edge Curry. As Sekou Smith writes, if there was any questions left about the league’s best-shooting backcourt, those doubts were officially laid to rest night

For the second straight year, one of the Golden State Warriors’ Splash Brothers walked off the All-Star Saturday night stage as the champion of the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest.

But it wasn’t defending champion and NBA three-point king Stephen Curry. This time it was teammate Klay Thompson taking home top honors in a competition that, by the final round, looked like something the Warriors might do at the end of every practice.

It marks the first time in Three-Point Contest history that different players from the same team have won it in consecutive seasons.

“Back-to-back years for Splash Brothers, it’s pretty cool,” Thompson said.

Thompson saved his best for last, finishing with 27 points in the final round to conquer one of the deepest fields in the history of the competition, a group that includes some of the best long-range shooters in the game today and perhaps ever.

“He definitely shot well tonight,” Curry said. “I still think I can hold my own in the competition, but the way that he finished off that second round was amazing. So trust me, the pressure of knowing what number he had to hit and making five out of five was fun to watch.”

Curry collected 23 points in his final round, but was on his feet cheering with the rest of the contestants as Thompson drained shot after shot on his final rack. Phoenix Suns rookie Devin Booker, the youngest player in the league, finished third after netting 16 points in the final round.

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No. 4: Horford embraces uncertain future All-Star Weekend is traditionally something of a swap shop for trade rumors, and with his contract expiring this summer, All-Star Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford hasn’t been immune from hearing his name. But considering the trade rumors and that he was swimming in the Caribbean when he got the last-minute call to get to Toronto, stat, as Sam Amick writes, Horford says he’s thrilled to be in Toronto and taking everything day by day

It’s no secret that the Hawks have been exploring trade options that include Horford, but that doesn’t mean the four-time All-Star’s days in Atlanta are necessarily done. The relationship between the player and the team that drafted him third overall in 2007 remains strong, with nine seasons of history between them and a dynamic between Horford and president of basketball operations/coach Mike Budenholzer that could still lead to him re-signing this summer. And yes, it should be noted, the Hawks are well aware that retaining a talent like Horford in today’s NBA will come with an enormous price tag not only because of his talents but because the league’s salary cap is about to spike from $70 million to $89 million next season (and $108 million in 2017-18). He would earn approximately $25 in his first season.

But the 31-24 Hawks, like any team that isn’t playing to its anticipated level, must consider all options this time of year. They are also known to be engaging in trade discussions relating to point guard Jeff Teague, who is less of a flight risk than Horford because he has one year left on his contract ($8 million). The New York Knicks and Utah Jazz, to name a few, could be serious suitors for Teague in the coming days.

The Boston Celtics are widely believed to be a potential fit as a Horford trade partner, but the real level of interest from general manager Danny Ainge remains to be seen in the coming days. And while Horford continues to speak positively about the city and his situation, there’s an inherent uncertainty to this process that always acts as the driving force.

“I’m very happy in Atlanta,” Horford said when asked if the Hawks had reason to be concerned that he might leave. “I’ve said it repeatedly. I love the city. My family, we all live in Atlanta, we stay there in the offseason, so my focus is just to keep playing and taking it day by day and, right now, it’s to enjoy this weekend. … Just taking it day by day. That’s the only thing I can do. We really can’t worry about three or four months from now.”

Especially when a welcome All-Star berth comes your way.

While Horford wasn’t selected to the team initially, he was given the nod on Friday when Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh unexpectedly pulled out because of a calf strain. Horford was vacationing with his family near Cancun, Mexico, when he got the call.

“I had my phone off (and) I was in the water,” said Horford, who is averaging 15.3 points and 6.9 rebounds this season. “I was doing my morning swim out there, and I got the call (around 9:30 am).

“I’m so excited to be here, man. Words don’t describe it. Being here in this city, in Toronto. I remember last year looking at it, and I was like, ‘It’s going to be in Toronto, I would love to be a part of that,’ because, you know, the fans here are so lively and just being around these guys and it happens to be Kobe’s last All-Star. It’s kind of a big deal, and for me to be a part of this I’m very grateful.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Carmelo Anthony says he’s not getting tradedKarl-Anthony Towns struck a blow for bigs in the Skills Challenge … If you haven’t heard, it’s really, really cold in Toronto this weekend … The Indiana Pacers are eyeing a future All-Star Weekend bidJimmer Fredette was named MVP of the D-League All-Star GameKevin Hart tied Draymond Green in their own three-point shootout.

Blogtable: Favorite Dunk Contest Dunk?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Week 16: All-time favorite Dunk Contest dunk? | On LeBron’s hot streak … | Winning it all without a star


What stands out as your favorite all-time Dunk Contest dunk?


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Steve Aschburner: I’m going with my pick of the most neglected, underappreciated dunk in Slam Dunk contest history. When Andre Iguodala came from back amongst the photographers on the baseline on one of his throwdowns in Houston in 2006, the geometry seemed impossible. Somehow, as a helper bounced the ball off the back of the backboard, Iguodala grabbed the carom, ducked his head to avoid the both the glass and any support bars and dunked from behind the board. It was stunning, and remarkable that he didn’t slam-head-dunk-himself. The Sixers’ young forward had two other terrific dunks, including a windmill in which he passed the ball behind his back … and he came away with nothing. That was one of the years in which people were fascinated with Nate Robinson‘s little-man theatrics, which meant sitting through about 20 straight misses (yawn) till he got a big one right. Said it then and I’ll say it again: Iggy was robbed.

Fran Blinebury: I’ve seen them all in person since Larry Nance upset Dr. J in the first back in 1984 at Denver. Michael Jordan beating Dominique Wilkins at Chicago in 1988 was spectacular. Vince Carter putting his elbow on the rim in 2000 in Oakland was awesome. But I had the best seat in the house —  front row courtside, straight out from the free throw line — at Dallas in 1986 and 5-foot-7 Spud Webb was simply breathtaking. He started by slamming a backwards dunk so hard that ball went through the net and bounced off his head. He did a pair of 360s and a double-clutch, two-hander. Then he finally took down Dominique in the finals by bouncing the ball just inside the free throw line and off the glass, catching it in his right hand and slamming it home.  One of the photos from Sports Illustrated shows his feet even with referee Wally Rooney‘s chest. Air Spud. I can still see the little guy flying.

Jeff Caplan: I just ran into Dominique Wilkins the other night and he’s not all that fond of this year’s dunk contestants. Nothing against the guys personally, but he’d like to see some bigger names go at it like back in the day. So, I’m going way back to the Human Highlight Film’s windmill dunks because, frankly, I think he’s the one that introduced the windmill dunk or at least elevated it to an artform converging out-of-this-world athletic, finesse and raw power. So which windmill dunk? After all, Wilkins is a two-time dunk champ and probably should have won one or two more considering he was in five of them. Anyway, I’ll take Niques’ two-handed windmill jam that earned him the ’85 title in a showdown with Michael Jordan, who, by the way, brought out the rock-the-cradle jam.

Scott Howard-Cooper: If we’re talking NBA dunk contest, that leaves out the great Julius ErvingDavid Thompson moment at halftime in Denver in the ABA days. In the orange-ball world, I’ll go with Blake Griffin redefining the term carhop. So much hype had built through the season about Blake Superior and his dunk arsenal that it seemed there was nothing he could do step up to the moment. And then he did. The car, Baron Davis with the assist, the choir — pure theater. It was way over the top, but what the event needed after years of losing excitement.

John Schuhmann: There’s something — the power, really — about Dominique Wilkins‘ dunks that gets me fired up. My favorite in-game dunk might be the time he destroyed Larry Bird on a fast break, and my favorite dunk contest dunk was his two-handed windmill (8:20 mark here) in the finals of the 1988 contest in Chicago. He got up high, he brought the ball all the way around from left to right, and he almost tore down the rim. Elevation, finesse and oh, the power. We’ve seen more difficult dunks since then, but I’ll always think of ’88 as the best dunk contest ever, because it was two stars going head to head and just thinking up stuff on the fly. Nique did a variety of windmills that night, but the two-hander was the highlight. That the judges gave him a 45 (to open the door for Jordan to win on the final dunk) was pretty ridiculous.

Sekou Smith: “You’re going to a reunion of all the JET Beauty of the Week superstars of the past 40 years. Give me your favorite?” It’s an impossible question given all of the options. Being the lover of hang time that I am, it’s hard to ignore the icons of the contest (Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Dr. J). But as far as anticipation and delivery, I’d have to go with Vince Carter’s work in the 2000 contest. It was a rebirth for the contest, after a two year layoff, and an introduction to a new breed of dunk champ. Vince was the first guy I saw in the contest that took me back to MJ and ‘Nique. His first dunk, that 360 windmill with the cuff, was just plain wicked. Made me love the dunk contest all over again.