Further thoughts on the Dunk Contest debacle


The Baseline’s Eric Freeman has a theory as to shy this year’s dunk contest was so terrible. Instead of placing all the blame for the horrible contest on the dunkers, Freeman is of the belief that uncontested dunks themselves are no longer all that impressive to fans:

“Aerial artists have become so talented that what was once incredible is now commonplace. When Isaiah Rider pulled off the through-the-legs “East Bay Funk Dunk” in 1994, the entire arena exploded, and Charles Barkley called it the best dunk he’d ever seen. On Saturday, DeMar DeRozan executed a more difficult version of the same dunk and received a score of 42. The problem isn’t that dunkers are worse — it’s that we’ve already seen most every kind of dunk that can be done. The only things left are a flip, or a windmill with each hand at the same time, or jumping through a ring of fire like the Suns’ Gorilla. We are jaded viewers.”

Freeman goes onto make other interesting points, like that Brown rose to prominence through dunking on people, and that the play that leads to the dunk is often more impressive to current NBA fans than the dunk itself. 

I agree with much of Freeman’s premise, but do think it’s a little early to call the dunk contest dead two contests removed from one of the best contests in recent memory. This year’s Dunk Contest was the perfect storm of crappy dunks. Gerald Wallace openly didn’t want to be competing. Shannon Brown was powerless to stop the hype that surrounded him, and opened with dunks he was using in the high school dunk contest seven years ago. DeRozan is a great leaper, but is a little to smooth for his dunks to have that “pop” to them. (Compare the sheer force of DeMar’s between-the-legs jam to that of Vince Carter’s, or even Gerald Green’s.) Finally, after so many contests, Nate Robinson was clearly out of dunks. Spud Webb telling Nate that Spud didn’t want to see props used was a “be careful what you wish for” moment of the weekend, right up there with when Usher stopped lip-syncing. 
Future dunk contests might not have the same magic as the ones Dr. J, Dominique, Michael, or even Vince participated in. However, that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on the dunk contest. As recently as 2008, Dwight Howard revitalized the contest through dunks of insane difficulty (the switch-handed off-glass self-oop in the finals) and creativity (the Superman dunk, a masterful combination of theatrics and sleight-of-hand.) 
Taurian Fontenette, who can perform a 720 dunk, participated in the amateur dunk contest on Friday night. James White is still out there somewhere, waiting to fulfill his dunk contest destiny. There will always be a better dunk. The NBA just has to get players who want to look for it. 

Jimmy Butler shrugs off idea he’s a “diva”

Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler goes up for a dunk past Charlotte Hornets' Marvin Williams during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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The Chicago Bulls traded Derrick Rose to New York, in hopes that the locker room, “whose team is this?” drama would head East with him. This is Jimmy Butler‘s team, with Dwyane Wade now assisting.

But the drama isn’t gone yet.

On their way out the door, the camps around Rose and Joakim Noah tried to paint Butler as a Diva who was the real problem. When Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times asked Butler about it, he basically laughed off the idea.

“Am I a diva? I don’t call it that,’’ Butler said before Thursday’s 97-81 loss to Atlanta in their final preseason game. “My will to win rubs people the wrong way sometimes. I can blame it on that, but won’t apologize for it. Never will.

“As far as that talk goes, I don’t care. I’m going to keep working and if people don’t like it, people want to say what they want to say, that’s fine. I know, and I think these guys know, where my heart is and how I want to do right by everybody.’’

Rose and Noah thought Butler tried to jump the line to be the leader of the team, which they saw as still their right as the veterans. Butler didn’t care what they thought then, he certainly doesn’t now.

What matters more, Nicola Mirotic and Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis don’t care, and they are the guys still there.

Who will finish with the better record, Bulls or Knicks, is one of my favorite subplots of the NBA season.

Spurs Danny Green has strained quadricep, out three weeks

SAN ANTONIO,TX - APRIL 30: Fans celebrate a three with Danny Green #14 of the San Antonio Spurs against the Oklahoma City Thunder during game one of the Western Conference Semifinals for the 2016 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 30, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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The Spurs are counting on Danny Green to regain his top-flight “3&D” form this season and give them another defender and weapon when they go up against that potential juggernaut out West. And the Clippers, too.

But that comeback is getting off to a slow start, the team announced Friday.

This likely means a little more run for Manu Ginobili and Kevin Martin to start the season, plus some funky lineups from Gregg Popovich.

Green played great defense last season but struggled from three (where 60 percent of his attempts are taken). Green shot 33.2 percent from deep on the season, which is well below his career average of 40.3 percent (and last year’s down numbers were buoyed by a red-hot January, he was much worse the rest of the season).

It’s something for Spurs fans to monitor, they need to get his legs right before his shot can return.

PBT Extra: Who wins MVP, other NBA end-of-season awards?

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The NBA’s award season seems more wide open than ever.

Ben Simmons was going to enter the season as the heavy favorite to win Rookie of the Year, but with him out injured the door is flung open to a lot of players. Coach of the Year is always a game of “which coach exceeds expectations.” Even MVP seems more open with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant — the award winners the past three seasons — teamed up in the Bay Area.

In this latest PBT Extra I throw out my predictions for the awards, but let’s get on with the games next week and see who earns them.

Sixers Nerlens Noel to miss time following surgery on sore knee

CAMDEN, NJ - SEPTEMBER 26: Nerlens Noel #4 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during media day on September 26, 2016 in Camden, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

During the ProBasketballTalk podcast with Sixers coach Brett Brown, you could hear the frustration in his voice. He has all these talented young front line players — Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor — but he can’t begin to figure out how they all fit together if he can’t get them on the court at the same time.

That problem just got worse.

The Sixers announced that Nerlens Noel will miss time following surgery to deal with soreness in his left knee. Here is the word from the press release itself:

During the normal course of evaluation and treatment for his left adductor strain, which was identified on October 6, Noel reported localized soreness in his left knee. After consulting with multiple specialists, the source of the soreness was identified as inflamed plica. Noel has elected to address the injury via a minor surgical procedure in the coming days.

The team gives no timeline for Noel’s return. Soreness from the plica — a band of tissue around the knee that is not important following birth — happens in some players and can be fixed by an arthroscopic surgery that removes the area being irritated. While the surgery is minor, it usually takes around six weeks to bounce back from this.

That likely means a little more run for Jahlil Okafor (just coming back from an injury of his own) and Richaun Holmes. But it’s just another injury setback for a Sixers team plagued by them.

The Sixers also announced that Jerryd Bayless will not have surgery on his wrist, but will remain out and be evaluated in two weeks.