Posted on: February 25, 2012 11:46 pm
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 10:26 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 11:03 pm
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 8:32 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 12:01 am
It's All-Star Saturday Night, when the best, or at least best with respect to relative health, come out to shine under the bright lights and other cliches. The Skills Contest, the 3-Point Shooting Contest, and the Slam Dunk Contest take place Saturday night, and we'll have updates to all the events and highlights here. Consider this your home for All-Star Saturday Night.
You can follow us on Twitter @EyeOnBasketball, and follow our guys on the ground in our All-Star Saturday Night Experience.
Haier Shooting Stars: Let's be honest, this is like the opening band you don't show up for.
Team Orlando: Jameer Nelson, Marie Ferdinand-Harris, Dennis Scott
Team Atlanta: Jerry Stackhouse, Lindsey Harding, Steve Smith
Team New York: Landry Fields, Cappi Pondexter, Allan Houston
Team Texas: Chandler Parsons, Sophia Young, Kenny Smith
Winner: TEAM NEW YORK: Allan Houston still has it. The man downed two half-court shots and team New York cleared the final round in 37 seconds. The fact that Kenny Smith and Allan Houston are still better shooters than any of the Milwaukee Bucks is a bit distressing.
From Royce Young of CBSSports.com:
A reporter asked Allan Houston if he's in such good shape where he could almost -- "Stop. Stop it right now. This was fun ... It feels good to have a uniform again, but that's about it. That's about the limits if it." Then Landry Fields jumped in saying, "He's not taking that uniform off tonight."
Taco Bell Skills Challenge: Please don't hurt yourselves, you're basically your entire teams
Winner: Tony Parker: Kyrie Irving was basically terrible. Rajon Rondo outid Russell Westbrook with a great time in a run-off round, then both Rondo and Deron Williams went on a brick fest on the mid-range jumper. Parker breezed to a win. The effort in this wasn't the worst thing you've ever seen, provided you've seen the Washington Wizards play this season. Williams didn't win, but he did have the fastest time on this run:
Foot Locker 3-Point Contest: If James Jones win, we're going to spit
Winner: Kevin Love in an upset! Love found himself in a shoot-off with Kevin Durant after tying him in the final round, and then bested the scoring leader 17-14. James Jones made it to the final round and had a pretty low bar of 16 to best, but couldn't get it done, dropping just 12. A dominant rebounding power forward just won the 3-point contest. Boom. Click here for video highlights.
Sprite Slam Dunk Contest: You don't know their names, but maybe that means they can only exceed expectations
Winner: No one. It was very likely the worst dunk contest of all time. Jeremy Evans did win, in a contest that featured him making a straight reverse dunk with a camera attached that no one got, and dunking over Kevin Hart dressed as a mailman while wearing a Karl Malone jerey. The coolest dunk of the night was Paul George in the dark. Goodnight everyone, and may God have Mercy on our souls.
Tags: All-Star Saturday Night, All-Star Weekend, Anthony Morrow, Chase Budinger, Deron Williams, Derrick Williams, Dunk Contest, James Jones, Jeremy Evans, John Wall, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Mario Chalmers, NBA All-Star Dunk Contest, Paul George, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Ryan Anderson, Tony Parker
Posted on: February 2, 2012 5:47 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2012 6:57 pm
By Matt Moore
How good is Blake Griffin? How good can he be?
Is Kevin Love one of those guys you're going to look back and remember when he had trouble getting on the floor in Minnesota and laugh? (Wait, he already is that guy. OK, more so?)
Why is it LaMarcus Aldridge has never been an All-Star, but Chris Kaman has?
Are these guys you can win a championship with? Are these guys legends? What is it we're witnessing, here?
All right, we're 75 words in and already miles ahead of ourselves. Let's back up and start where any discussion of the greatness of current NBA power forwards should start. With point guards.
We're in the NBA's golden age of point guards. There have been amazing point guards before, and certainly great point guard eras. Jason Kidd, Kevin Johnson, Gary Payton, Isiah Thomas, and of course Magic Johnson, just to name a small handful. But the era we're currently in may top any before for overall talent. You have to go searching long and hard for a team without a quality starting point guard (as long as you're not starting with the Lakers). So it's easy to get caught up in debates over which is the best, in either conference.
But hidden behind that is a debate that began a year ago, has continued for the past 360 days, and which will be set aflame Thursday night as the starters for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game are announced.
Blake Griffin will be announced as the starter. He's certainly worthy of it.
Kevin Love fans will be outraged. They're going to have a point.
LaMarcus Aldridge will barely make the conversation. And that's a crime.
All three players have emerged as the best power forwards in the West and probably in the league. Blake Griffin is the reason the Clippers landed Chris Paul, the reason they are contenders for the first time. Kevin Love may be dealing with Rubio Mania, but he's still the man in Minnesota and the biggest reason the Wolves are within striking distance of a playoffs berth. And Aldridge, who was always passed over by fans for Brandon Roy and then twice for Greg Oden, is the rock holding Portland steady.
It's entirely possible one of them does not check in on Sunday, Feb. 26th, and that's more than a little bit insane.
But moving beyond the ridiculousness of the All-Star Game, the questions about each player and their long-term futures are more relevant. Aldridge is 26, entering his prime. At the moment, he's a better, more complete player than either Love or Griffin. But their ceilings are considerably higher, and even the question of which is better becomes complicated and sticky.
But are any of them legitimately "great" all-time players? Do any of them have the potential to be Hall of Fame guys? Where are they in that pursuit?
We're jumping the gun here, and we're well aware of it. Griffin is only 22 games into his second season. Love was only truly freed from captivity last season. Aldridge is just now entering his prime. There's no way to tell if they'll live up to potential, if they've peaked, if this is the best they'll ever be. We're exploring the question to give credence to the fact we have legitimately great players at this position, and to examine how great they really are.
For starters, let's look at some numbers. Let's start with this season's results for the three in question, plus Paul Millsap who is truly the dark horse candidate this season, and is only really held back by the number of touches he shares (Millsap has the lowest usage rate. I wanted to compare them to some truly great players that played in the same era so I took Dirk Nowitzki's best season -- the 2007 season which was simply incredible regardless of how it ended -- and had to basically pull one of Duncan's 2002-2006 seasons out of a hat.)
In short, Kevin Love looks pretty phenomenal and like he's on track for that. The stunner is that LaMarcus Aldridge would probably be right there if he were just rebounding a bit more. Aldridge is having his most efficient season ever, but his rebounds per game, minutes, and rate just don't add up. Without doing anything else of note, Aldrige suffers here.
But Love is really what shines in this comparison. His rebound totals are clearly boosting him along, but he's become such a terrific versatile scorer. And for a guy whose knock has always been defense, Love is in the 71st percentile in overall points per possession allowed according to Synergy Sports, and 81st percentile in post-up defense.
Griffin's numbers struggle, there's no question there. But how much of it is just youth? He's roughly 100 games into his career. Where does his start match up with the others on this list?
Now that is surprising. Griffin is top-two in points, rebounds, and assists per 36 minutes, and PER, true rebound rate, and assist percentage (those figures factor percentage of rebounds/assists of total possessions while on the floor) in those players' second years, and first in field goal percentage. Not bad, even when you consider the strange career arc of Nowitzki.
But numbers obviously don't tell the entire story.
There is a question when watching these players play if they're truly at that level. Blake Griffin is criticized for his lack of a mid-range jumper. Kevin Love isn't considered the kind of player you can simply get the ball to and ask him to get you a bucket, and his post offense is still a work in progress. They're obviously still forming their games, but the gap between those aspects and what people expect is enough to cause the question of if they will ever get to elite status.
Is Griffin simply a product of his dunks? There's no question that things like, say, Rest in Perkins this week put him on a different level from a cultural perspective. He's the most prolific dunker in recent memory, and Dwight Howard put on a cape with music. The problem comes when we start to fall for an overreaction to that from a critical perspective.
"He's just dunks."
That's a pretty significant fallacy.
Griffin's leaping ability to collect and put back offensive rebounds is something that cannot be denied. He's a solid passer. His post-game shows glimpses of what is likely to be an incredible array of moves along with the kind of natural touch that you need for a player down low. There's nothing physically wrong with his jumper that isn't correctable, and he's got range to the perimeter, even if he's going to it too much this season.
But it's the drives that will continue to be his bread and butter. He works in the pick and roll, but face-up, you need help to guard him. You just do. You had better bring a few friends. Griffin's explosiveness is largely unheard of, and that's the hidden secret to all those dunks. He's not capitalizing off of blown coverages. He's whipping around, over, through defenders to get to the rim. There will come a point where the hammering Griffin endures will take its toll. It's at that point he'll have to adapt, and whether that loss of explosiveness as he ages changes his game will factor heavily into his legacy.
But you cannot watch games like the two-game tilt for the Clippers against the Thunder and Jazz and not be aware of how he can take a game over. There are only a handful of players like that in the league, and it's that special, immeasurable quantity that really reveals why you have to consider Griffin not just one of the league's best players right now, but a legend in the making.
Kevin Love can get 30 points and 30 rebounds in a game. He's done it. This should not be overlooked. Being able to produce like Moses Malone is not something you find, even once in a generation. Love's game is a stat-magician's dream. But when you watch him, it's not the numbers that should impress you. It's his ability to make all the right plays.
Love isn't just a perimeter shooter or a guy who nabs the rebound from his own teammate (to be clear, he does a lot of that, too). He's able to measure whether to take the mid-range or drive. When to pass. His outlet pass remains a thing of absolute beauty. His understanding of the floor is something that sets great players apart from their peers. There's a reason Ricky Rubio manages to find Love in huge moments uncovered. It's because Love is crafty enough and able to understand the defense well enough to slip in that possession, catch, and shoot before the defense can react. He's got the range, to be sure. But he's also got the work ethic to improve and the mind to manage basketball. Does this make him among the all-time greats? No, but his rare combination of instincts and efficiency is going to get him there in a hurry.
And then there's LaMarcus Aldridge.
Neither Love nor Griffin have won a playoff game. They haven't been the man on their teams for a playoff team. They haven't endured the kind of misfortune the Blazers have suffered and navigated their way through it. Aldridge is a poor man's Duncan in a lot of ways. Consistent. Quiet. Rarely emotional, largely unnoticed and brutally efficient.
Aldridge doesn't light you on fire like Love or break you into a million pieces like Griffin. Instead he simply hammers you into submission, with mid-range jumper and post move after post move. It's his curse to have a more refined game, but it's also to his benefit. Maybe neither of the younger guns can fit so easily into a coach's gameplan. Neither is as dependable, and neither know how to confound a defense as well in big moments. They may get there, but to ignore Aldridge's excellence at this point in time is criminal.
And so it is, that while the debate over the best point guard alive continues (it's Chris Paul by the way; calling Derrick Rose a point guard is like calling an alien from Mars a citizen of Austin, Texas, they're both weird but that doesn't make it the same thing), the West is slammed with power forwards of past greatness and future legacy. But it's important to capture this moment, where we see the signs of both generations merging. Duncan and Dirk riding out the end, with Garnett fading out in the East, as Griffin sets the world aflame with a highlight reel and Kevin Love leaves you shaking your head.
But in the end, it may be Aldridge, underrated, largely forgotten, less dynamic and dominant and more proficient and capable, who goes the furthest this season of all.
Closing note: You realize this list excludes Pau Gasol (admittedly having a terrible season), glosses over Millsap who would be right there in this conversation if he wasn't sharing touches with 50 other bigs in Utah, and the wide array of superb small forwards in the West? Let's face it, the league is stacked right now.
Posted on: February 20, 2011 11:57 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2011 12:00 am
Kobe Bryant snakes past LeBron's chasedown block attempt for the jam on his way to All-Star MVP honors despite LeBron James' triple-double.
Posted by Matt Moore
In the endless debate over who's the ruler of the NBA, Kobe Bryant with his five NBA championship rings, MVP, four All-Star MVPs and established position in NBA history or LeBron James who is highly regarded as the best overall player in the NBA right now, along with two MVPs, there's always a feeling that Bryant is just one step ahead. He's just had the things happen for him, or made them happen for him, that LeBron has not. And on a night where LeBron dropped the second ever triple-double in an All-Star Game, Kobe still managed to one-up him, landing the MVP trophy. The night was encapsulated, though, on a play where LeBron went for his famous chase-down block, only to find Bryant flush it. See for yourself.
LeBron's team is stacked with two other All-Stars, but Kobe Bryant maintains his status as the icon of the league. He looks every bit on his way to a third Finals appearance despite his team's recent struggles, and if against the Heat, he may serve the same reminder to King James. Kobe Bryant still runs this game.
(For more on All-Star Weekend, check out Ben Golliver's superlatives from All-Star Weekend.)
Posted on: February 20, 2011 10:17 am
Posted by Royce Young
LOS ANGELES -- Sometimes it's in good fun, sometimes it's to try and irk your opponent to gain an edge. Whatever the intent behind it, trash talk is just a part of sports.
Always has been, always will be.
The topic was kind of brought to the forefront earlier in the NBA season when Charlie Villanueva tweeted that Kevin Garnett told him he looked like a cancer patient during a game. Immediately we were all wondering what was fair and what was foul.
Spike Lee, who sits courtside at New York Knick games and can surely hear a good amount of on-court chatter, recently said of Garnett's trash talking tactics, "He needs to calm the (bleep) down." So it's at least a conversation worth having.
I think the whole trash talk thing is overrated," Dirk Nowitzki said. "I think no feelings will get hurt. Once the game's over, everything is forgotten. We want to win, that's how we compete and afterwards, it's done.
In terms of Garnett specifically? "I don't think it's bad. I think it's his style," Dirk said. "I've been competing against him for 13 years now, and that's how he plays. His intensity is [second to] none to any other player in the league. That's his style."
Garnett has kind of become the lightning rod for discussion about it. With Lee's comment, the Villanueva tweet and then the low-blow to Channing Frye, all of this trash talk/dirty play thing has been re-hashed all over again. Garnett has always been this way though. He's always been intense. Always been a talker. It's the way he plays. It's his game. And he's not changing it.
"I go at this a certain way. I always have, always will," Garnett said Friday in Los Angeles. "I don’t make any excuses about that or apologize for anything that I’ve done. I think I carry myself in a well-fashioned manner. I respect the game first off. I respect the players, and I’m definitely not out there trying to hurt anybody. I don’t want to be hurt ... I’m out there playing hard and playing competitive. If it comes off as something else, then that’s your problem.”
Obviously, it's clear what's fair and what's not. Garnett's line about Villanueva and cancer definitely appeared to cross some sort of trash talk line. (Though later of course Garnett said that he was actually calling Villanueva a cancer to his team. Who knows.)But talking is fun. In most cases, that is. Players don't always do it to try and get in their opponents head. Sometimes it's just because basketball is fun, playing basketball is fun and talking trash is fun. Simple as that. Some take part, some don't.
"I enjoy myself, but I don't talk no trash," Kevin Durant said. "If guys want to talk about the game or whatever, I talk. But I just leave it at that. I don't try and get into it too much."
Posted on: February 20, 2011 1:47 am
Edited on: February 20, 2011 1:55 am
Chris Paul misses layup to open Skills Competition performance. Fails miserably.
Posted by Matt Moore
Chris Paul was the favorite. He wasn't even voted into the Skills Challenge. He was just entered. But during a stretch where his team is struggling and the fans are starting to wonder about his play , even All-Star Weekend didn't afford him a break from the tough going. Paul took off for the Skills Challenge first round, and ... well ... take a look.
Paul was, naturally, eliminated in the first round while Stephen Curry breezed to an easy victory over Russell Westbrook in the second round. But for CP3, the concern is probably going to be greater Saturday night at the round of parties and tomorrow in the Western Conference All-Star locker rooms when everyone starts cracking up at a blown layup right off the bat.
It's almost as if Paul wasn't giving his all, or something.
Posted on: February 19, 2011 9:33 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2011 9:34 pm
Chat with our guys Ben Golliver and Royce Young live in L.A. for the NBA Dunk Contest.