HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Maybe you weren’t listening when Kobe Bryant vowed that the Los Angeles Lakers would not only make the playoffs, but make some noise when they get there.
Bryant was in full Black Mamba mode Sunday night at Staples Center, carving up and then finishing off the Atlanta Hawks late with big play after big play to help the Lakers reach the .500 mark (30-30), the first time they’ve been there since Dec. 28, in a 99-98 win.
And truth be told, no team will be under more pressure over the next few weeks than the Lakers, who play 10 of their next 14 games on the road (starting with Tuesday night’s tilt in Oklahoma City on TNT).
But Kobe, who high-fived Hollywood star Jeremy Piven after that retro dunk over Smith, remains the most confident man in the room.
“I have plenty left but you guys are free to criticize and say I don’t,” he told reporters after the game. “Go right ahead.”
He said his mission was simple. “I just wanted to attack. Take the game right to them. Be aggressive, be physical.”
The Hawks tried to guard with Smith and other bigs and it backfired when it mattered most. ”They switched with the bigs and when they stay home with the shooters,” Kobe said, “it’s my job to cook ‘em”
Did he ever. He went into his vault in the fourth quarter, particularly down the stretch, going right at Smith, Al Horford and anyone else in his path for the game-winning plays.
“That’s pretty incredible,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I don’t know where he’s getting his young legs from. But the last three or four possessions he just went to the rim and made some incredible shots. The last three or four minutes was all him.”
Smith probably has no idea where Kobe’s lift came from either. But he’ll be forced to relive being on the wrong end of that dunk for a while, as it will no doubt be added to Bryant’s season and career highlight reel.
“He’s been doing it for a long time, so you have to respect what he brings to the table,” Smith told reporters after the game. “He’s an assassin. He wants that moment. But from a defensive standpoint, I love taking a challenge like that and try to step up and try to make it tough for him. It was kind of like a tug-of-war match. We were going back and forth, and they made one more play than we did to win the game. I live for moments like this.”
The best line of the night, however, came from Kobe himself. And it had to do with his new nickname (“Vino” … which is Italian for wine) that connects to his roots and his game, which is seemingly getting better with age.
“I was in my coffin a few years ago … Vino is out of the barrel.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Finally, someone put their money where there mouth was instead of just whining about LeBron James making an appearance in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.
Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst and Magic Johnson made his plea for James to take his pregame dunk exploits (above) to New Orleans for All-Star Weekend next year, and sweetened the deal by offering to put up $1 million for James to end the suspense and help revive the contest that Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins made a must-see event 30 years ago.
If Magic is offering up a that kind of cash for the winner, surely there might be a few other superstars willing to join the fray. Perhaps 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk champion and Los Angeles Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin would be willing to consider accepting the challenge? Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook has yet to showcase his stuff on All-Star Saturday night. And there has to be a standing invite for the reigning champ, Toronto’s Terrence Ross.
Presumably, any other superstars willing to get in the mix are welcome, too (hey, it’s not our money. It’s Magic’s cash, and he’s got plenty). It’s not just about the money, though. It’s about the competition. A star-studded field in New Orleans could help revive the contest and finally end the speculation about what LeBron might do on that stage.
After coming under fire for his spectacular pre-game dunkfests earlier this week, LeBron said he was considering not participating in the Heat’s unofficial contests anymore. But he decided against it a day later and was up to his old tricks before the Heat took on the Memphis Grizzlies.
Now comes this offer from Magic and a chance for LeBron to not only win a cool $1 million but to donate it to the charity of his choice (you know he won’t keep the cash if Magic’s stunt works and he actually accepts and wins the contest).
HOUSTON – State Farm All-Star Saturday night is minutes away from lift off. Nick Cannon and Rob Nice are hosting the in-arena festivities.
I don’t know what everyone else came to see, but for me, All-Star Saturday night is always about the finale. It’s a chance for someone to etch their name in All-Star lore with a mercurial performance in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, much like that fella wearing No. 23 above did back in 1987.
Some of the All-Stars made their own predictions, several of them, assuming that James “Flight” White will rise above the crowd and do the most damage on his way to the title.
But first up we have the Sears Shooting Stars competition. I’m going with Team [James] Harden and the hometown advantage (he’s rolling with Sam Cassell, a man anyone would want on their team requires you to make clutch shots. (Team Westbrook should be dangerous, though, with Robert Horry and Maya Moore rocking with Russell Westbrook.)
– 8:37 — Team Westbrook handled business with the fastest time at 29.5 seconds. Team Harden kicked it off with a 37.9 as the West finished their business.
– 8:44 — Dominique Wilkins still has the touch. Knocks down the 3-ball for Team Bosh. They needed 50 seconds to finish, though.
– 8:45 – What’s up with Brook Lopez shooting 3-pointers like free throws? 1:07 for Team Lopez. The East is down 20-0 going into the championship.
– 8:47 – So much for prediction. Team Bosh and Team Westbrook squaring advance and ready to square off in the championship round.
– 8:52 – I root for Swin Cash in whatever she does. Too bad she’s stuck on a team with Bosh and ‘Nique instead of say, myself and John Schuhmann … 1:29 for them in the championship round. The pressure is on Team Westbrook.)
– 8:54 – Team Westbrook can’t get it done. Team Bosh gets the win and Nique gets the MVP for knocking down both of his team’s half court shots. As my man Randy Moss would say, Straight (Swin) Cash Homie!
– 8:56 – Team Bosh collects the first hardware of the night in the Sears Shooting Stars. Nique is feeling good. Says he wants in on the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, too. (I’m kidding.)
– 8:58 – Gold medal winners from London, both men and women, getting some love on the big stage between events.
TACO BELL SKILLS CHALLENGE
– 9:03 – Sounds like the dude from the Price is Right is reading off the rules for this event. I’m ignoring him and checking the shoe game of the contestants. Jeremy Lin kicks are wicked. Need to see an up-close shot.
– 9:05 – Hawks guard Jeff Teague clocks a 49.4, couldn’t get his passes or his 3-pointer from the top of the arc down. And he had the nerve to blow his final shot, going for the layup instead of the dunk. Later son.
– 9:06 – Pistons guard Brandon Knight learns from Teague’s mistakes and finishes with a dunk and a 32.2.
– 9:08 – Sixers guard Jrue Holiday rocks it with a 29.3. Made it look effortless. One of my favorite young players in the league. West has to beat 1:50.9 to topple the East in the contest.
– 9:12 –Jeremy Lin finishes in 35.8 but could have finished faster. He was stylin’ for the home crowd.
– 9:13 –Damian Lillard rips the course in the fastest time of the night so far, 28.8.
– 9:15 – Defending champ Tony Parker bows out with a 48.7. The East picks up 30 points thanks to Lin and Parker. Knight and Lillard move on to the championship round.
–9:17 –Alicia Keys gets some jumbotron love (she’s sitting next to Spike Lee). She looks marvelous, of course. We need to get her to do a theme song, “Hang Time is on fire!”
– 9:20 – Holiday with a 35.6, but Lillard snags a 29.8 for the win, 10 more points for the West and a trophy to go alongside that T-Mobile Rookie of the Year trophy he’s going to get in a few months. Well done young fella, the first rookie to win the event.
– 9:24 – East leads the west 40-30 after two events. They are playing for $500,000 in cash for charity.
FOOT LOCKER THREE-POINT CONTEST NEXT
– 9:32 – I had no idea this Phillip Phillips cat (or band, I’m not sure) sang this song. That’s my jam. I don’t watch American Idol, though, so I didn’t connect the dots. He smashed that performance.
– 9:35 –Steph Curry just warmed up from the corner rack and knocked down the first four without even looking at the basket. Ridiculous. Save some for the contest fella!
– 9:40 – Curry started slow but finished like … well, a Curry. He nets 17 points and Ryan Anderson is up next. He goes off from the start but struggles at the end, finishing with 18. Matt Bonner closes out the order for the West. His shooting stroke is awkward. But he finishes with 19 points, for a total teams score of 54.
– 9:46 – These Knicks kid reporters have stolen the show, clowning everyone and Nick Cannon on the big stage. You gotta love the kids.
– 9:52 –Kyrie Irving forgot to take his warm up shirt off and still finished with 18. And as you might expect, he knocked down his money ball on the last rack to beat the buzzer. Paul George is up next. Love this cat but he’s in the wrong contest. Maybe he meant to sign up for the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest? Steve Novak has to make up for PG’s 10. Novak finishes with 17 and the West wins the 40 points. Bonner and Irving for the title. Who picked those two for the final round? I had Curry and Novak. I’m done with the prediction business tonight.
– 10:02 – Kyrie just put on a show. Knocked down eight of his first nine and 17 of his first 18 shots before finishing with 23, two shy of the record. He even got LeBron James up out of his seat during his wicked stretch. Kid is on his championship grind. Bonner goes for 20. The Cavaliers might still be a lottery team but at least they’ve got Kyrie!
SPRITE SLAM DUNK CONTEST IS ON DECK
– 10:07 –Fall Out Boy is on stage and they must be from Chicago because they are wearing their Jordan throwbacks. Rock stars love skinny jeans and tattoos more than NBA youngsters. Now they’ve got 2 Chainz up here with them and he’s singing the hook after doing his rap verse. The Sprite Slam Dunk Contest participants come out while they remain on stage.
– 10:16 –Rudy Tomjanovich, Dikembe Mutombo, Yao Ming, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler are the judges tonight. Houston’s hoops Mt. Rushmore?
– 10:20 – Houston’s own Gerald Green kicks off the contest with a perfect 50 on his first dunk, a reverse tomahawk dunk where he had to duck his head or risk a concussion after he bumped his head on the rim. Crazy!!!!!!!!!!!!!
– 10:22 –James “Flight” White with the 45 on the two-handed runaway dunk from a step inside the free throw line. He missed his first attempt. Had he made it, the 50 would have been a lock.
– 10:24 –Terrence Ross gets an A for persistence, finally making a behind-the-back 180 after five misses. That was generous for a dude who missed that many dunks.
– 10:26 –Kenneth Faried nets a 39 for a 360 off-the-backboard dunk that looked way better on the replay than it did in real time.
– 10:28 –Eric Bledsoe missed his more aggressive between-the-legs dunk four times before opting for something a little easier to complete. He matched Faried’s 39.
– 10:29 –Jeremy Evans bags a 47 with an assist from Mark Eaton, he jumped over the big man’s head while the former Jazz center was sitting and holding a ball.
– 10:31 –Kevin Hart and Cannon are doing their stand up routine while clowning the All-Star’s baby pictures. I’m going home and burning every baby picture in the house!
– 10:35 – Flight White’s inability to dribble the ball up the floor is going to cost him the title. He’s got all the hops in the world. But he has to go back to the lab and work on the handles. He botched his second dunk attempt and during the allotted 90 seconds and ended up missing his one untimed attempt. That 32 should end his night.
– 10:40 – Green just cut the nets out and is attempting to dunk it twice. Loving the idea. But this is a tough one, even for the cupcake dunker. And now we have to wait for someone to find the replacement nets for this rim. He timed out as well and then missed his untimed attempt for a matching 32. Somebody get Nique some shoes.
– 10:45 – Ross only needs a 33 to represent the East. Just do something normal and you are in. Hang time … he’s got a 49 and moves into the final. There is going to be some serious complaining about this format.
– 10:47 – Faried with a 50 for his between the legs jam after just two steps. Is it me or do the 50s get tossed around rather liberally these days.
– 10:48 – Bledsoe with a 50 of his own for the sick reverse windmill off the bounce.
– 10:49 – Evans dunks two balls but with no authority whatsoever, collects his 43 and advances from the West. There won’t be a whole lot of debating about what went on here.
– 10:53 – Judging by the looks on the faces of former dunk champions sitting around the floor, they’re not impressed with what they have seen tonight. Power used to be a dunk contest staple. Now the apparent degree of difficulty has trumped raw power. I’m trying to be diplomatic tonight. I’m going to need some time to digest what we’ve seen tonight before I start shredding these performances.
DUNK FINAL ROUND
– 10:56 – Evans goes over a the cloaked painting of himself jumping over a cloaked painting of himself dunking and then he signs it. Nice touch but I’d have been more impressed if he snatched the cloak off the painting on his way up.
– 10:58 – Ross throws down a grimy leaning reverse jam that Rockets forward Terrence Jones bounced off the side of the backboard. Arguably the second best dunk of the night behind Green’s first attempt in Round 1.
– 11:01 – Evans has outlandish hops. Jumping over Dahntay Jones and doing his own version of the Jumpman pose showed off just how ridiculous his vertical is folks. RIDICULOUS!
– 11:03 – Ross trumps him with a between-the-legs, jump over the ball boy dunk that should seal the crown for the Raptors rookie.
– 11:06 – Ross takes the title. He made up for his rough start to the competition by bring out his best when it matter most. The West won the night, though, finishing with 140 points to the East’s 125.
Let the debate rage on about the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, though. Because no one leaves the Toyota Center tonight feeling like we saw the absolute best of the best ply their trade in this contest. Someone out there, someone hungry and creative, needs to step up. MJ and Nique aren’t walking through that door!
ORLANDO – The silence, and we’re talking crickets, in the Amway Center after several of the dunks was the first sign that All-Star Saturday night’s signature event was going to be a little off.
That “worst dunk contest ever” chatter seems a little strong, but the 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk contest certainly exposed the fact that a serious tweaking of the format, namely the rules and regulations of the competition, is in order. No offense to the league’s new slam dunk king, baby-faced, human pogo-stick Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz, but not even his peers around the league were satisfied with the competition or the results.
The 4 million fans that cast the deciding votes on NBA.com, Evans snagged 29 percent of them compared to Chase Budinger‘s 28 percent, were drowned out after Evans was handed the trophy by a flood of Tweets from other players around the league who didn’t agree with the results.
A small sampling of the instant, and at times brutal, reaction that reflected the mood in the building:
Roy Hibbert: Robbery!!!!
Jason Richardson: I think Paul George or Chase Budinger should of won…. Guess all  million votes came from Utah lol
Hassan Whiteside: u tellin me I could of won a NBA slam dunk contest in HIgh school Jump over 5’5 Kevin hart n a reserve dunk with a cam n dunk 2 balls smdh
Stephen Curry: Even though the 2 ball dunk was nice prolly the best of the night, u can’t have the WORST dunk ever and win.
Hasheem Thabeet: “@MAL___: This is what happens when you let half a million ppl that probably can’t touch the backboard vote. Jeremy Evans?!? Smh” LoL
Shane Battier: Evans had the best single dunk, but this voting process was seriously flawed. #airbudwazrobbed
There are so many elements involved in pulling it off just right, but Battier said it best, the voting process is seriously flawed. We need the on-site, human element involved. Evans admitted that his first dunk was “awful” and that if not for his splendid two-ball dunk where he jumped over the head of a sitting Gordon Hayward, who tossed the balls into the air for Evans, the trophy probably would have gone to either Budinger or George.
(For the record, my ballot would have had George edging Budinger for the top spot with Evans and Williams rounding out the field.)
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Knicks rookie guard Iman Shumpert was revealed as one of four contestants for the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest earlier today, joining Rockets swingman Chase Budinger, Pacers swingman Paul George and Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams.
But Shumpert will show up to Orlando with a (not so) secret weapon (Jeremy Lin) none of his dunk rivals can match. Our main man Jonah Ballow of NYKnicks.com went 1-on-1 with Shumpert and snagged the inside story from the man with overflowing amount of the “Shump Swag”:
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – All you are going to hear about in the days ahead are the players not in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest field during All-Star Saturday night.
There’s no Blake Griffin, the reigning champ. And as usual, no LeBron James, the player everyone wants to see in the contest (for the first time).
But instead of crying about what was, what could be or what should be, we’re rocking with the guys who will be in Orlando vying for the title as the NBA’s slam dunk champ.
Kudos to Chase Budinger of the Houston Rockets, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers, Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks (who will reportedly have some assistance from Jeremy Lin) and Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves for accepting the challenge.
We’re cool with having a fresh face win this contest for once, no offense to Nate Robinson or anything, but a little new blood on All-Star Saturday night is always a good thing.
LOS ANGELES — Blake Griffin wasn’t the only man on center stage here Saturday night. He’s just the only one crazy enough to jump over the hood of a car.
A night that ended with Griffin standing on the hood of a Kia as he won the 26th Sprite Slam Dunk Contest was the capper on an at times brilliant All-Star Saturday night.
James Jones left a surprise winner, as did Steph Curry and Team Atlanta. The biggest winners, though, had to be all of us. All-Star Weekend hasn’t seen a Saturday night as satisfying as this one was in some time. And lucky for you, we’ve wrapped it all up in a nice box for you (courtesy of the crack crew in the HT audio-visual club) with All-Star Saturday night revisited:
LOS ANGELES – After detailed debate and two intense days of examination, the Hang Time crew has come up with our own set of predictions for All-Star Saturday night.
As you might expect, Blake Griffin‘s name came up often. Piling up 137 dunks by All-Star Weekend has a way of making you a favorite for the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.
Same goes for Ray Allen in the Foot Locker 3-Point Contest. But there’s more to All-Star Saturday night than just those two competitions. We’ve got the Haier Shooting Stars and the Taco Bell Skills Challenge to think about.