Is Daequan Cook the worst All-Star Saturday participant ever?

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Due to an interesting wrinkle in how NBA All-Star Saturday works, Daequan Cook was invited to All-Star weekend to defend his title as the champion of the three-point shootout. This means that  Cook gets to participate in All-Star weekend despite the fact he has had very little success at playing basketball this season. In 31 games for the Miami Heat this season, Cook is averaging 4.4 points and 0.8 assists per game while shooting an abysmal 28.8% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc. If Daequan Cook isn’t the worst player ever to ever participate in an All-Star Saturday event, he’s certainly close. 

Cook’s selection prompted me to think about other All-Star Saturday participants who weren’t very good players from recent years. Most of them were having more success than Cook when they participated, but All-Star Saturday has certainly seen its share of interesting characters in recent years. Here are a few that spring to mind for me:
Gerald Green, 2007 Dunk Contest Champion and 2008 Dunk Contest Participant

Green gave the dunk contest some of the best performances it has ever seen, throwing down massive windmills, smooth between-the-legs dunks, one of the few dunks ever done in socks, and the unforgettable “Birthday Cake” dunk, which also introduced Green and Rashard McCants as two players who absolutely should’ve had their own reality show. 
Blessed with otherworldly athleticism and a sweet three-point stroke, Green had all the talent required to be a superstar in the NBA, but he never came anywhere close to putting it together. He had no idea what to do if the ball wasn’t in his hands, and was a stunningly inept defender and passer. During his final NBA stint in Dallas, Green somehow managed to record only 15 assists in 38 games, which goes beyond selfishness and into performance art. 
Damon Jones, 2007 Three-Point Shootout Participant

Jones got into the contest by openly begging for an invite; the self-declared “Best Shooter in The Universe,” Jones’ main NBA goals were to win a three-point shootout and be part of a three-man booth while playing in a game. Jones was a valuable contributor to the Miami Heat once upon a time, but during his stint with the Cavs he was known for literally doing nothing but shoot catch-and-shoot threes. Although Jones was supposedly a point guard, he had a hard time just bringing the ball up the floor, and his defense was nonexistent. His shooting was never good enough to make up for his deficiencies as an overall player, but his All-Star invite is a testament to how anything is possible if you’re shameless enough. 
Desmond Mason, 2001 Dunk Contest Champion and 2002 Dunk Contest Participant

To be fair to Mason, he was a productive enough player when he was actually participating in the dunk contest. Since that time, however, Mason has become the poster child for what happens to one-dimensional athletes when they age without evolving their game. He’s been one of the worst rotation players in basketball for the last few years; last season, he somehow managed to record a PER of just over seven, which is less than half the league average of 15. 
Antoine Walker, 2003 Three-Point Shootout Participant

Again, out of fairness to Walker, he was a very good player when he was invited to the shootout. This choice stands out because it rewarded Walker’s penchant for three-point shooting, even though he was perhaps the most egregious chucker from beyond the arc in the history of the NBA. The year Walker was invited to the contest, he only shot 32.3% from beyond the arc, but was firing seven and a half threes a game. Antoine got a three-point contest invite when what he needed was a three-point intervention, and that’s why he makes the list. 

Sunday is 16th anniversary of greatest dunk ever: Vince Carter over Frederic Weis

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It was the last game of the group stage of the 2000 Olympic basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics, the USA was taking on France, another USA win on its way to another gold medal.

But what we all remember is this one play — Vince Carter dunking over the 7’2″ French center Frederic Weis.

Best. Dunk. Ever.

By anyone.

Weis was never the same.

In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.

Hat tip to nitramy at NBA Reddit.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford suggests allowing teams to advance ball in final two minutes without timeout

Steve Clifford
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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The final minutes of a close NBA game rank among the best moments in sports – which is pretty remarkable, considering frequent stoppages interrupt and impede enjoyment of the game.

Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout.

Coaches should probably call fewer timeouts, because drawing up a play also allows the defense to set. But timeouts give the offense the option of advancing the inbound spot into the frontcourt, a key advantage. So, teams will keep calling timeouts.

Unless…

Steve Aschburner of NBA.com:

For Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, the ability in the final two minutes of a game to advance the ball without requiring a timeout to be called could speed up the action. That has been used on a trial basis in the D League and in Summer League, and several coaches felt it worked well.

“The game is at an all-time high in popularity, but a lot of people complain about the last two minutes,” Clifford said. “I think it would add a different dimension but it would also be a good thing in addressing our biggest issue.”

Not that the coaches would be willing to lose any of their timeouts, though. They just wouldn’t save them specifically for that purpose.

I’m here for that.

I’m unsurprised control-seeking coaches want to keep all their timeouts, and reducing those seems unlikely, anyway. The NBA pays its bills through commercial breaks.

Would moving those advertising opportunities earlier in the game pay off? Audiences are probably larger in crunch time, but an action-packed closing stretch could hook fans and grow overall audiences. It’s always a difficult decision to forgo maximizing immediate revenue in pursuit of more later.

But I’m fairly certain fans would appreciate the change, which is at least a starting point in considering it.

Kyrie Irving feels validated after hitting game-winning shot to bring title to Cleveland

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Back in July during the pre-Olympics USA Camp in Las Vegas, I asked Kyrie Irving what had changed for him, what was different for him after winning an NBA title. His answer was about the doors it opened, the possibilities that suddenly felt available to him. A month after winning the title he still seemed a little overwhelmed by the experience, and he hadn’t fully processed it yet. Which is completely understandable.

Now, as training camp is set to open for the Cavaliers and their defense of that title, Irving clearly has gotten used to being a champion — and he feels validated. Look at what he told Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Yes, my life’s changed drastically,” Irving told cleveland.com Saturday, during Irving’s friendship walk and basketball challenge downtown for Best Buddies, Ohio — an organization that gives social growth and employment opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“It’s kind of, you’re waiting for that validation from everyone, I guess, to be considered one of the top players in the league at the highest stage,” Irving said. “That kind of changed. I was just trying to earn everyone’s respect as much as I could.”

It’s amazing to think of the impact one shot — Irving’s three over Stephen Curry with 53 seconds left in Game 7 — can have. If he misses, there is less pressure on the Warriors to answer with a three, maybe they come down and get a bucket inside for two (one could argue they should have done that anyway rather than hunt for the three), from there maybe the Warriors win. If so, that could change everything from Kevin Durant‘s summer plans to what the Cavaliers’ roster looks like today — there’s a good chance Cleveland’s lineup would have changed if they lost to the Warriors two Finals in a row.

One shot can have that kind of impact on a player, too.

Kyrie Irving was one of the top five point guards in the NBA for a while, a score first guy but one who had some floor general in him and got some steals. A lot of time seemed to be spent focusing on his flaws defensively and passing. But with that shot, he feels validated. If he carries that confidence into next season, the Cavaliers just got better.

Check out top 50 plays from Kevin Garnett’s Hall of Fame career (VIDEO)

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First Kobe Bryant. Then Tim Duncan.

Now Kevin Garnett. The Hall of Fame class in five years is going to be stacked.

But before we move on from Garnett’s announcement this week that he is retiring after 21 years in the NBA, let’s look back at his greatest plays (compiled by the folks at NBA.com). Enjoy this for 11 minutes rather than watching your NFL fantasy team flounder. Again.