Lakers may bench Andrew Bynum

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bynum.jpgIf there has been one chink in the Lakers armor this year, it has been bench play — what last year was an intimidating bench mob is this year an unimpressive bench sewing circle.

One potential fix — starting Lamar Odom and bringing Andrew Bynum off the bench.

“My coaches are kind of pushing me in that direction, but I’m not ready yet to do that,” (Lakers coach Phil) Jackson said. “We won last year with Andrew when he came back at the end of the season, going out there and playing the first quarter and starting the games. Even though he wasn’t 100 percent when came back off his injury last year, he still gave us a lot; he gives us a big front. So I have to measure that and see what’s going to happen with this team in the next couple weeks.”

This is a shot across Bynum’s bow, a warning. It’s an acknowledgement that Bynum and Pau Gasol have yet to really play well together. Bynum’s confidence game-to-game is based around early offensive success — if he gets early touches and a few hoops his defense and rebounding improve. But when Gasol is in and he gets those touches, Bynum goes into a shell and is not the same player, he turns into Eric Dampier.

Meanwhile, Lamar Odom and Gasol mesh beautifully, as evidenced by the last two wins without Bynum and Kobe Bryant. Bynum and Kobe can be the big culprits in why the Lakers offense “sticks,” why the ball movement stops. Bynum can be a black hole — the ball goes in and does not come out. He is not an accomplished passer. Odom may be maddeningly inconsistent, but having two good passing big men makes the triangle offense hum.

Lakers fans have a love/hate relationship with Bynum that clearly the coaches do as well. No doubt the Lakers need him to win a title — they will need his size against Denver, they will need his defense against Dwight Howard or Shaq if they make the finals. He is a matchup nightmare.

But can he bring those things from the bench? Objectively, yes. Because he would be the first guy off the bench doesn’t mean he can’t finish games if he is playing well (and the matchups are right). But Bynum is a young player still in the “I need to get mine” mentality — hence the need for early touches to be effective.

How would he ego handle coming off the bench? It may well be what’s best for the team on paper, but if it causes Bynum to go into his shell every game then it is no good. Phil would like Bynum to realize what is best for the team, and make the offer (like Luke Walton did last season when he told Jackson to start Trevor Ariza ahead of him). But Bynum probably is not mature enough for that. The Lakers need the good Bynum for the playoffs, and starting him may be the sacrifice to make sure that Bynum shows up.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell wins throwback Dunk Contest with Vince Carter tribute

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LOS ANGELES — The 2018 Dunk Contest went retro.

And it worked.

The throwbacks started with Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. going quick-change to pay tribute to his father, the 1984 winner of the Dunk Contest.

Nance later had the best dunk of the night, but it wasn’t enough in the face of Utah’s Donovan Mitchell‘s strong and consistent night highlight by his throwback dunk — donning a Vince Carter Toronto dinosaur jersey and doing VC’s famed 360 dunk — which got Mitchell the 48 points he needed to hold-off Nance and win the contest. It was over.

“Growing up I was a big dunker,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t really much of a basketball player. I just dunked and played defense, and I watched a lot of Vince’s videos. I’ve been seeing what he’s been doing all year at his age, which is incredible.

“So I figured, you know, at my size if I was able to get it, it would be a great dunk and a way to finish it, you know. And actually, funny story is I haven’t made that dunk in like half a year. I tried it in practice the past two days and tried it this morning, didn’t make it. Tried it last night, didn’t make it… But to be able to make it was why I was so excited.”

Earlier in the night, Mitchell had done another tribute worn a Darrell Griffith jersey — Utah’s Dr. Dunkenstien, who went to Louisville like Mitchell — for an off-the-side-of-the-backboard jumping over Kevin Hart dunk.

“You know, just knowing your history, I think, is the biggest thing,” Mitchell said of the throwbacks. “Just understanding where this game originated, I guess the OGs of the game, I guess you would call it. But just understanding. Even if it’s just dunking. Whether it’s dunking in the NBA in general, Darrell Griffith, we went to the same school in college. I know Darrell very well. Both got drafted by the Jazz, and he was an incredible player. To be able to pay homage to him meant a lot to me.”

For my money, Nance had the dunk of the night, his first in the Finals, a double off-the-backboard throwdown that you had to see on replay to get (it wasn’t as evident in the building what he had done until it was re-shown on the big screen).

It was a fun contest all night long.

Mitchell (the leader in the Rookie of the Year race) started it off brilliantly — he brought out a second backboard, and did a self-alley-oop off one to the other.

Larry Nance Jr. did his tribute to his father with his first dunk, and on his second one came from behind the backboard, going around the world, and threw it down hard. That got him into the Finals.

Oladipo missed all three of his dunks in the first round, which almost doomed his night. He, however, did a dunk wearing the Black Panther mask for his second dunk, which impressed.

Mitchell said he wanted to beat Dennis Smith Jr. because the Mavericks’ point guard had beaten him in dunk contests for years. Smith had one monster dunk, when he went between the legs and threw it down hard and got the full 50. It just wasn’t enough to get Smith to the Finals.

Nance started off the final round by bringing out his father again to throw an alley-oop to a windmill. Mitchell responded with a self-alley-oop to a windmill that was flat-out wicked. That got Mitchell a 50-46 lead after one round of the Finals.

Then Mitchell went to Vince Carter and “it was over.”

Larry Nance Jr. throws alley-oop to himself, throws alley-oop to himself (video)

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LOS ANGELES — Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. immediately motioned for the replay to be shown of this dunk. It was necessary to properly appreciate it.

Best dunk of the night.

Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest, though.

Larry Nance Jr. plays tribute to father — rock-the-cradle dunk in Suns uniform

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LOS ANGELES — Back in 1984, high-flying Larry Nance Sr. won the first NBA All-Star Dunk Contest with this set of dunks — most famously a rock-the-cradle move.

Larry Nance Jr. came into the 2018 Dunk Contest and went nostalgic — all the way back to the Suns’ throwback uniform and the same dunk.

That and a good second dunk got him into the Dunk Contest finals. In that round, Nance Sr. threw an alley-oop to his son for the windmill.

Donovan Mitchell throws alley-oop to himself – off second backboard (video)

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LOS ANGELES – Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell set a high standard with the first slam of the 2018 dunk contest.

Very creative. Very well-executed.

Looks like all that preparation paid off.