Posted on: February 26, 2012 12:55 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 2:13 pm
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Durant: LeBron, stars need to save Dunk Contest

Kevin Durant wants to stop things like this from happening. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ben Golliver 

There's a consensus: something big needs to change so that the 2012 Slam Dunk Contest never happens again.

In the immediate aftermath of Saturday night's Slam Dunk Contest, which was marred by zero All-Star participants, terrible dunks, too many scripted stories, an absence of judges and a sketchy fan voting process, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant made a clear statement: The NBA's biggest stars need to participate in future Dunk Contests.

"It's time for LeBron James, Mr. [Russell] Westbrook, Mr. [Derrick] Rose and Dwyane Wade to get in the Dunk Contest," Durant tweeted.

"Not me but I agree with the others," Wade replied.

On Friday, James told reporters that he would consider participating in the Dunk Contest if there was a substantial winner-take-all prize.

Durant's list of participants for a dream Dunk Contest is interesting, but imperfect.

Clearly, James is the holy grail. In the heart of his prime at 27 years old, he is probably the NBA's second best in-game dunker, trailing only Blake Griffin. A master of catching lobs, finishing with authority and getting way, way off the ground, he's an absolute no-brainer. Imagine full-court alley-oops, broken rims, backboard slapping. He could even dunk a ball then dunk his headband with the other hand as a response to all his hairline haters. He needs to do a Dunk Contest.

Westbrook, Durant's teammate in Oklahoma City, is an excellent pick as well. He flies at the rim like a scud missile, taking off from deep and finishing with plenty of force. He's got the charisma and moxie not to stand toe-to-toe with James too. He wouldn't shrink. He should definitely be in.

At 30, Wade's dunking prime is probably behind him, although he's still capable of putting anyone in the league on a poster. He would be better cast as the teammate/hype man for James and, realstically, these two would never face off against each other under any circumstances. If the Alpha Dog stuff is bad now, imagine the outcry and headlines if Wade somehow managed to upset James in a Dunk Contest. Let him throw the lob passes and dish out the daps.

Rose's inclusion by Durant is questionable. His physical talents are beyond reproach but his specialty is finishing lay-ups in traffic and/or after drawing contact, not dunking free of obstacles. Would he be compelling in this format? His personality doesn't exactly scream Dunk Contest. He's a technically sound dunker but his efforts are more likely to make you go "mmm" rather than get off your feet and scream.

If James and Westbrook are in this and Wade and Rose are out, the final two spots should be filled by Griffin -- obviously -- and either Dwight Howard... or Durant himself. Howard has been there, done that with the Dunk Contest many times before, but he always seemed to back up the stupid costumes and props with memorable dunks. His flying Superman slam/shove dunk, for example, will stand as a classic for decades. One of the all-time "Wow" Dunk Contest moments. Who wouldn't trade all of Saturday night's contest for that one dunk? No one.

While Durant is not a prototypical Slam Dunk competitor, he has absurd length, good hops, a star's personality and a respect for the history of the game that would likely inspire him to new levels of creativity. If anyone is going to come up wtih something that's never been done before, it's Durant. His wingspan would allow for up and under dunks from the baseline or behind the backboard. Surely James Harden could be on hand to provide the necessary passes and encouragement.

But this is exactly the problem. Everyone, including Durant, wants to see the stars in the Dunk Contest. But none of the stars, including Durant, is ready to step up and nominate themselves to be thrown into the ring.

No doubt, some prize money needs to be involved here, given how central an event this is on the NBA calendar. But the stars should look back at what past Dunk Contests have done for the likes of Howard and Griffin and realize that the "there's nothing to gain and so much to lose" argument doesn't hold much water. Does anyone honestly believe that James would fall on his face during a Dunk Contest? Come on. He would kill it, just like Griffin did last year, and then he would profit off of it for years to come, just like Griffin is doing right now.

Hopefully Durant's Twiter plea is the first in a wave that will finally convince these guys to suck it up and get out there. Peer pressure, in this case, is a very good thing.

Posted on: February 26, 2012 11:02 am
 

Report: Williams told Mavs he wants to join

Deron Williams could be considering Dallas in free agency. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore 

Hold on, let me barricade this post against the Nets fans hordes who freak out when you talk about any scenario other than Dwight Howard going to Brooklyn. There. Everything has been all quiet on the Dwight Howard front this weekend at All-Star Weekend. No trade rumors, no trade demands, no explosive quotes, no late night meetings between general managers and Howard. But the New York Daily Newsreports of an indication that seems to be gaining steam with a lot of experts, including NBA.com's David Aldridge, among others, that the Mavericks are very much in the heart and mind of Deron Williams. From the Daily News (emphasis mine): 
The ultimate disaster for New Jersey would be if Williams and Howard end up playing together, but not in Brooklyn. With some roster alterations that are doable, including using their one amnesty move on Brendan Haywood, the Mavs could be set up, cap-wise, to accommodate both players.
“The Mavs want to do what Miami did and put together their own big three,’’ said another GM. “That’s their goal.”

Williams privately told members of the Mavs last June during their Finals celebration that he would love to go back home and be a part of team with Dirk Nowitzki. But he said Friday he wants to continue to be a Net. So until further notice, the Nets think they still have a good shot to move into Brooklyn with Williams and Howard.
via Dwight Howard center of attention in Orlando as March 15 deadline to ship Magic Superstar looms - NY Daily News.

You'll remember that Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported last year during All-Star Weekend that Williams had told people close to him he wanted to play in a bigger market. He denied the reports. Then he was traded a few weeks later to the Nets. Williams was indeed in the locker room during the Finals, and his body language certainly indicated a warmth and desire to be a part of the Mavericks.

Know why? They were in the Finals. It could have been Washington Generals and he would have wanted to be a part of it. The Bobcats would look good after taking a lead in the Finals 3-2. 

Williams is from Dallas, that's where all this starts. A return home would make sense. It would also make sense for Dwight Howard, who wants a big market, to compete for a title, supporting stars, and warm weather. (Howard grew up in Georgia and has played in Florida his whole life; you ever tried randomly trying to adjust from that kind of weather to anything north of the Mason-Dixon? It's a nightmare.) So to review, the Mavericks offer:

A super-active owner who often acts as GM and who has shown a committment not only to spending, but spending wisely.

A Hall of Fame power forward scoring machine who should be able to keep playing for three-to-four more years at a high level.

A large market that attracts a lot of attention from sponsors and benefits as the economic center of a state which is essentially its own country.

A favorable tax situation.

Warm weather.

A return home for Deron Williams.

An organization that has won a championship in the past 14 months.

That's a pretty solid package.

And yet, the Nets remain in the lead for the services of both. It comes down to convenience. The Nets have movable pieces. Even if their trade assets aren't as impressive as some, they can still move them. The Mavericks' are all older players and unproven guys. They have no prime components to send Orlando. Howard is willing to wait till this summer to make his decision. But if he gets it settled sooner, all the better as long as it's the right decision. The Nets have the best chance at getting him between now and the trade deadline, and they believe they have the deal.

But if this thing goes to the summer, if it's a free ageny tour between Brooklyn and Dallas for both players, things could get very interesting. The Nets would do well to make sure Mr. Cuban doesn't get a shot in the competition.

(HT: IAmAGM.com
Posted on: February 26, 2012 10:02 am
 

Ben & Jerry's apologizes for Lin fortune cookies

Eye on Basketball staff

Ben & Jerry's, the ice cream maker known for its catch flavor names, has issued an apology for selling Jeremy Lin-inspired frozen yogurt containing fortune cookies at a Harvard Square location in Boston, the New York Daily News reported.

The limited-edition flavor, "Taste The Lin-sanity," contained crumbled fortune cookies before backlash resulted because of the racial overtones from using fortune cookies as part of the promotion.

"We offer a heartfelt apology if anyone was offended by our handmade Lin-sanity flavor," Ben & Jerry's said in a statement. 

The New England manufacturer replaced fortune cookies in its honey-swirl based Lin-inspired flavor with waffle cones.

"We are proud and honored to have Jeremy Lin hail from one of our fine, local universities and we are huge sports fans," Ben & Jerry's said in the news release. "Our intention was to create a flavor to honor Jeremy Lin's accomplishments and his meteoric rise in the NBA, and recognize that he was a local Harvard graduate. "We try [to] demonstrate our commitment as a Boston-based, valued-led business and if we failed in this instance we offer our sincere apologies."

The former Harvard star has caused a league- and nationwide sensation as a result of his meteoric rise to stardom as the Knicks' point guard.
Posted on: February 26, 2012 12:16 am
Edited on: February 26, 2012 1:27 am
 

Dunk Contest Report Card: Bottom heavy

Posted by Royce Young

Jeremy Evans basically won the dunk contest with one dunk.

ORLANDO -- You know things didn't go all that well for the Dunk Contest when it was up for discussion if the Three-Point Contest was more exciting.

It started painfully slow with highly orchestrated dunks and then picked up a little momentum in the second round of dunks. But then fizzled at the end with a dead arena throwing a smattering of boos out when Jeremy Evans had his name called as the winner.

It was left up to a fan vote this season and more than three million cast their votes, and Evans gathered 29 percent. After it finished, some were looking for a fifth option: "E, none of the above." But still, let's grade it out.

Jeremy Evans' double oop Easily the dunk of the night. With Gordon Hayward sitting on a stool, he threw two basketballs up for Evans to dunk -- over the top of him. He missed the first attempt, which was to be expected with that degree of difficulty. It had the looks of the kind of dunk he'd miss five or six times and then give up on, but Evans nailed it on his second attempt, soaring over Hayward. It was good enough that despite two other fairly meh dunks, Evans won the contest.
Derrick Williams off-the-side-of-the-backboard It's been done before, but with Ricky Rubio assisting, Williams pulled off a finish with an extremely high degree of difficulty. Rubio tossed the ball off the side of the backboard and Williams pulled an inverted 360. It was impressive mostly because it looked like Williams had no shot at finishing it, but he stretched out and got it. Bonus points for the giant smile on Rubio's face too.
Paul George as a human glowstick Combining creativity with style is the way to go. And George pulled it off well. He came out wearing and all yellow Pacers uniform, but asked for the lights to be turned off. When they went down, he lit up like a glowstick. He used a quality 360 dunk, and did it in the dark.
Chase Budinger and "White Men Can't Jump"
The first dunk of the night set the tone a bit as a long intro, with Diddy, set up Budinger. Diddy said his favorite basketball movie was "White Men Can't Jump" and that's when Budinger appeared wearing a snapback hat and big t-shirt. He jumped over Diddy, which wasn't all that cool, but seeing as Budinger was, uh, different than the other contestants, it was clever.
George jumps a giant Jumping over someone in a dunk contest is a pretty played out move, but leaping a 7-2 guy is going to be impressive no matter what. George brought out teammate Roy Hibbert with the original plan being Dahntay Jones standing in front to throw a lob. After it failed twice, George just took control and went over the top.
Evans gets a delivery
I can appreciate giving a nod to your franchise's past, but the jersey tribute thing is pretty played. Evans got a special delivery from comedian Kevin Hart who was dressed as a mailman. The delivery? A jersey of The Mailman, Karl Malone. Evans put it on and dunked over Hart, who is probably 4-foot-5, or something close to it.
Williams jumps the shark True story: On Friday night I saw a motorcycle under the arena and joked to someone that it was probably a prop for this year's dunk contest. So you can imagine the surprise when it was actually rolled out for Williams to jump over. I don't think it could be said better than ESPN.com's John Hollinger: "Maybe they should just have an actual shark for this Derrick Williams dunk."
Budinger goes blindfolded
Paying homage to a Cedric Ceballos dunk, Budinger blindfolded himself. He sold it pretty well faking the first attempt with a horrible miss and then had the crowd count his steps on the second try. He ended up making a reserve two-handed dunk but we'll never know if he was actually blind. And it definitely didn't make anyone say "OOOHHH!!!" which is kind of what you need.
Budinger's average windmill
New rule: You shouldn't use a pregame warmup dunk in the dunk contest. The slow motion replay made it look a little bit better, but it was still a pretty average finish. And he missed it on the first two tries.
George uses a sticket of Larry Bird The sticker schtick isn't new, and it's bad when you have to have extra stickers on hand. Because George missed his dunk using a sticker of Larry Bird's face five times. He had a backup sticker, but after that, he just started slapping the backboard. Degree of difficultly was high and the dunk itself was impressive, but mulitple misses plus the sticker thing were bad.
Williams' miss-it-a-lot dunk Nothing is worse than someone missing a dunk over and over and over. Williams ended up going 1-for-8 with an off-the-backboard between-the-legs attempt and with each miss, it got exponentially more awkward. But the end, he just gave up on it as the clock started ticking down.
Evans first person point of view dunk Oh my. Gimmick dunks can work, but that one was just a bad idea from the start. It required a replay to be appreciated and the dunk itself was something you wouldn't even take notice of in a game. You knew it was sad when Evans tried to pull himself up on the rim to make it look better. Tell-tale sign a dunk was lame.

Posted on: February 25, 2012 11:46 pm
 

Jeremy Evans wins 2012 Slam Dunk Contest

By Matt Moore 

The dunk contest is dead. 

Many of you are rolling your eyes, either because you think it's been dead for nearly a decade, many of you because you feel it's not important enough to be declared DOA. But it's over. It's done. I've tried for several years to argue that the contest is too fun and the chances of a rare excellent dunk (like DeMar DeRozan's East Bay Funk Dunk Remix last year) makes it worth it. But we hit a new low this year.

In a dunk contest that featured Derrick Williams dunking over a motorcycle (after Blake Griffin did it over a car last year), a really unfortunate "White Man Can't Jump" skit with Sean Combs, and Jeremy Evans trying something called the "iJam" which was him attaching a camera to himself while dunking, this was the one that wound up winning it for Evans.

 

The problem is JaVale McGee essentially did the same dunk last year, minus dunking over a professional Starcraft player in Gordon Hayward seated. Exceptionally difficult dunk, but I'm not entirely sure how impressive it really was. There's a gap between impressive and difficult, and this dunk is it. 

The dunk that may have actually been the best but didn't translate was Paul George's "Tron Dunk" (via Shaq).

 

The only way to get the dunk contest back to life is for stars to put aside their brand and participate. LeBron. Blake Griffin. We need stars to keep this thing alive or we just need to watch it fade away. 

However, you do have to feel good for Evans. He genuinely, very much wanted to participate in this contest, he lobbied to be included, he was thrilled to be a part of it, he's really happy to have won. We need that attitude, just with more violence in the dunks, fewer props and skits. Velocity plus veracity. Until then, the dunk contest is over.  
Posted on: February 25, 2012 11:37 pm
 

Budinger's 'White Men Can't Jump' dunk on Diddy

Posted by Ben Golliver 

The 2012 Slam Dunk Contest was one to forget -- no, one to bleach out of your brain as soon as possible -- and it got off to a ridiculous start, with rapper/mogul/whatever Diddy setting up Houston Rockets forward Chase Budinger in a plot-driven riff on the 1990s classic, "White Men Can't Jump."

After an introduction from Diddy that included him shouting, "Black Power!" and declaring, "White Men Can't Jump," Budinger strode onto the court dressed like Billy Hoyle, Woody Harrelson's character in the movie, complete with backwards hat and everything. 

"White men can jump," Budinger said. "I'm about to prove it right now."

He then escorted Diddy to just outside the protected circle and set him up with a basketball. Diddy threw the ball up over his head and Budinger caught it one-handed, spread eagle as he jumped over Diddy with ease, and threw down a powerful flush on his first try. Budinger's Rockets teammate, Chandler Parsons, assisted on the timing of the pass.

Here's the video of Houston Rockets forward Chase Budinger throwing down his "White Men Can't Jump" dunk over Diddy at the 2012 Slam Dunk Contest via ClutchFans.net and YouTube user RocketsRed.


Posted on: February 25, 2012 10:26 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 11:03 pm
 

Kevin Love wins 3-point contest

Kevin Love followed in the footsteps of other great power forward shooters winning the 3-pooint contest Saturday. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore 

Kevin Love won the Foot Locker NBA 3-Point Shooting Contest Saturday night, defeating Kevin Durant in a shoot-off, 17-14. Love managed to tie Durant in the final round with the final moneyball at 16, giving James Jones a wide-open shot at his second title. But Jones tapped out at 12, setting up the shoot-off. Durant had several rim out while Love took advantage by hitting several moneyballs. 

Here's video courtesy of YouTube user HD90Kashmir

 
Posted on: February 25, 2012 9:20 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 9:26 pm
 

David Stern on relocation, arenas, Hornets sale

Posted by Ben Golliver

ORLANDO -- No new teams, no relocating teams if at all possible, and a few moments of appreciation for the majesty of world-class arenas.

Those were the takeaway business points from NBA commissioner David Stern, who held his annual press conference before All-Star Saturday, addressing a crowd of more than 100 reporters inside Orlando's new Amway Center. He was joined by deputy commissioner Adam Silver, who spoke up briefly on his particular areas of expertise during the roughly 34 minutes of questions and answers.

There weren't many surprises, and Stern stuck with his customary optimistic tone.

"We had this thing called a lockout," Stern said. "But the recovery has been spectacular for us, and the results of the collective bargaining agreement with the expected leveling of the playing field, and the ability for well‑managed teams to both compete more than our teams have had the opportunity to compete, by some combination of the hugely enhanced revenue sharing and the much larger luxury tax. So we're thinking that we're in for a treat over the years as this situation continues to improve."

But much of the nitty-gritty of the press conference was about tying up some of the uglier loose ends facing the league on the business side. Stern addressed an array of topics related to the league's teams, including ongong arena negotiations in Sacramento, the potential sale of the league-owned New Orleans Hornets, the possibility of an NBA return to Seattle, the New Jersey Nets' upcoming move to Brooklyn, and whether or not the NBA would consider expanding the league past its 30 current teams. Here's Stern's thoughts on each, one by one.

Sacramento Kings

The future of the Kings, who nearly relocated to Anaheim last year and have been hard at work to fund a new arena in Sacramento, drew more questions than any other topic, including New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin.

"Write this down: life is a negotiation," Stern said, delivering the night's most memorable quip.

Stern met with Sacramento Mayor and former NBA All-Star Kevin Johnson on Saturday with talks expected to continue on Sunday, including representatives from the NBA, Johnson's office, the Maloofs and members of the league's Relocation Committee.

"We have several remaining points that will not necessarily be guaranteed to be bridged, but we're going to give it our best shot tomorrow," Stern said. "We all consider ourselves to have a March 1 deadline to either come up with a financing plan and a critical path to the construction of the arena or not."

Stern said that the NBA would not help "bridge the gap" by loaning money to the Kings. He also said both sides were invested considerably in the negotiations, but that doesn't necessarily mean a deal will eventually be reached.

"The Maloofs have stepped up, the City has stepped up," he said. "We're having very intense conversations.  Sometimes the best‑intentioned and most fervent workers don't quite get to the finish line because there are things that separate them... We're going to see whether we can bridge that gap.  I think both sides deserve it, particularly the City of Sacramento." 

Why hasn't a deal been struck yet?

"The City would like the Maloofs to make the largest ‑‑ both have come up with very substantial contributions.  It's really getting there.  It's just not there yet.  And we're looking for other ways, imaginative ways, to bridge the gap ... It's coming down to money after all of this?  Yeah."

The sale of the New Orleans Hornets

On Friday, reports surfaced that California businessman Raj Bhathal is leading a group into exclusive negotiations to purchase the league-owned Hornets with a deal expected to be struck in the near future. Bhathal would reportedly agree to keep the Hornets in New Orleans.

On Saturday, Stern declined to confirm that Bhathal was the individual involved in the exclusive negotiations, but he did confirm that one of two groups interested in purchasing the Hornets is being given priority in the negotiations. He also said that he was "optimistic" that a deal will be reached between the two sides.

"We are in discussions with one group," Stern said. "We have another group in sort of second place, waiting to see how we do with group one.  We're optimistic that we will make a deal with group one."

Stern said a deal with the new owners cannot be made until the NBA reaches a deal with Louisiana on naming rights for the Hornets' arena, which is expected in the near future.

"We're a little bit behind here because we haven't concluded our deal with the State yet, but I think it's moving closer day by day," he said. "It's progressing well, but it's not finished.  We expect to have it finished, I'm told, in the next week or ten days, and that's the period of time that we would like to hopefully have this deal for the sale of the club come into much sharper focus. 

An NBA return to Seattle?

In recent weeks, the city of Seattle and investor Chris Hansen have made some noise about building an arena in Seattle in hopes of landing a team to replace the SuperSonics, who relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008. Stern confirmed that he had been in contact with Hansen regarding the plans but he seemed to place some distance between the league and Hansen's plans. 

"Chris, who I had met about a year ago, called us two weeks ago to tell us what was going to be announced that Thursday, about a letter laying out a plan, and we thought it was a ‑‑ it sounded okay to us" Stern said. "Go for it. That's all."

Stern then said that his goal was to restrict the number of teams that would be available for relocation. 

"Right now what I'm working hard to do, in a perverse kind of a way, from Seattle's perspective, is to sell New Orleans to stay in New Orleans, and get a building for Sacramento that will enable the Kings to stay in Sacramento.  I can't say for sure [that a new arena in Seattle is] a pathway [to a replacement for the Sonics], but I will say that the only way to have a team these days is to have a world‑class building."

The New Jersey Nets' move to Brooklyn

Stern got back into salesman mode when discussing the upcoming move of the New Jersey Nets to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2012-2013 season. He lauded the building and sounded genuinely excited about a transformed rivalry between the Nets and the Knicks.

"We are very happy for Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov that this building has not only risen from the ground, but it's going to be indoors, completely pretty soon, and it's going to be on time and opening," Stern said. "It is great for Brooklyn.  It is great for the Knicks.  We're going to have a spectacular rivalry. And it's going to be great for the fans of New York City and the NBA to have that kind of a rivalry and that kind of a new building."

Expansion / International Exhibitions

Asked whether the NBA had plans to add any teams, Stern ruled out any new North American franchises.

"I just don't see a North American addition," he said. "We're at 30, and we've got teams that we are working hard on to keep in their cities, to make strong through revenue sharing in our system, to grow their value, their fan base and the like."

Stern then mentioned the possibility, raised in previous years, of an expansion to Europe, before passing the microphone to Silver.

"We'll see," Silver said, with a smile that indicated you shouldn't hold your breath.

Rather than expanding, Stern and Silver mentioned plans to increase exhibitions and regular season games to be played internationally. No definitive plans were set, but both London and Shanghai were mentioned as possible destinations. London was previously scheduled to host two NBA games before the lockout schedule killed those plans.
 
 
 
 
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