Dominique thinks that LeBron should dunk

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Dominique Wilkins, a two-time dunk contest champion and current broadcaster for the Atlanta Hawks, thinks that LeBron James should quit worrying about what everybody will think and just dunk already. According to CNBC’s Darren Rovell, Wilkins was quoted saying the following at a recent event:

“I’d love if all the big names got involved again. It’s something you can do to give back to the fans…Everyone knows what and who LeBron is. The dunk contest is not going to define his ability or compromise his likeness or his star power.”

Wilkins is probably correct in saying that it would be a good idea for LeBron to go ahead and show fans just what kind of dunks he can come up with at the dunk contest. The one thing I would warn against is the thinking that getting big names will save the dunk contest by itself. 

There’s a lot more to being a great player than being a great dunker. In fact, there’s a lot more to being a great in-game dunker than being a great leaper, which is what makes most great dunk contest dunks. Getting a dunk in a game requires quickness, timing, the ability to get off the floor quickly, the ability to power through a help defender, knowing how to play off the ball and catch the ball in a position to dunk, and many other attributes besides how high a player can jump. Kevin Durant already has 98 dunks this season, just four less than LeBron James, despite the fact he’s not much of a leaper. Durant’s max vertical was measured at 33.5 inches at the draft combine, which isn’t very impressive at all. During a game, Durant can flush at any time, often with authority. In a contest, Durant may underwhelm. 
Likewise, Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony, two great in-game dunkers whose names were mentioned in Rovell’s article, recorded verticals of 35.0 and 33.5 inches at the combine. It works the other way around, too. Brandon Jennings, who could casually do between-the-legs dunks in high school, has all of one dunk this season. Three-time dunk contest champion Nate Robinson has three dunks this season. James Harden recorded a better max vertical than Durant, Anthony, or Wade, and he’s one of the worst finishers in the NBA this season. 
Players like Dwight Howard, LeBron James, and Dominique Wilkins, superstars who can also jump out of the gym, are rarer than you’d think. Dwight Howard was great in the dunk contest, but so was Gerald Green. There are plenty of great leapers who aren’t much as players, and often times those are the guys who have time to goof off with Rashad McCants and come up with the idea of putting a cupcake on the rim. Everyone acknowledges that the dunk contest needs a shot in the arm, and LeBron James would certainly provide that. However, rounding out the rest of the field with big names for the sake of having big names in the contest could lead to less creative dunks being performed closer to the ground. 

Nets hire Pablo Prigioni as assistant coach, Tiago Splitter as scout

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired former NBA player and Argentine guard Pablo Prigioni as an assistant coach.

The Nets also announced Tuesday that former Spurs center Tiago Splitter was hired as a pro scout.

Prigioni spent most of his professional career in Spain and won a bronze medal with Argentina in the 2008 Olympics before coming to the New York Knicks in 2012 as a 35-year-old rookie. He spent four years in the NBA with the Knicks, Rockets and Clippers.

Splitter helped San Antonio win the 2014 NBA championship before spending the final two seasons of his seven-year career with Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Nets said Splitter, who also played for Brazil’s national team, will have added duties related to player on-court development.

 

Celtics to get Marcus Smart back for Game 5 Tuesday

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It’s a series that has hinged on defense — Boston has played it well for the majority of five games, bottling up Milwaukee in the halfcourt. The Bucks only played it with real energy at home (and only for about six of the eight quarters the last two games) but when they do they have overwhelmed the Celtics, then converted turnovers and missed shots into transition and early clock opportunities the other way.

For Game 5 Tuesday night, Boston gets its best perimeter defender back — Marcus Smart. He has been out since before the playoffs following thumb surgery last March.

Stevens, via NBC Sports Boston:

“He hasn’t played in six weeks, so it’s hard to say how much (time he will get) but will certainly play,” Stevens said. Stevens said there would not be a minutes restriction on him, but added that the fourth-year guard wasn’t going to play 35 minutes.

Smart is a very good perimeter defender who is very physical and usually assigned to the other team’s best guard (or wing, depending upon the matchup). When Smart was on the court this season, the Celtics allowed less than a point per possession and were 3.6 points per 100 better defensively than when he sat.

Smart likely will get time against Eric Bledsoe and Kris Middleton of the Bucks. Just his presence brings needed depth to the Celtics in what is a critical Game 5 in a series tied 2-2.

Report: Pelicans have discussed offering DeMarcus Cousins less than max over two to three years

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Last month, Anthony Davis said he heard DeMarcus Cousins planned to re-sign with the Pelicans. Cousins was out a torn Achilles, and New Orleans was rolling with Davis playing more center. But New Orleans’ ceiling looked higher with Cousins, and Davis made clear he wanted to keep Cousins – in itself a big deal. More important than keeping Cousins is keeping Davis, which requires keeping Davis happy.

Then, the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers, becoming the lowest seed to sweep a first-round series.

Is everyone still sure Cousins warrants a max contract, which projects to be worth about $176 million over five years?

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The Pelicans have broached internally the idea of offering Cousins a two- or three-year deal at less than the max, per sources familiar with the discussions. I would not expect that to go over well with Cousins’ camp. But the Pelicans have the dual leverage of winning without Cousins and a tepid market for him.

Only a half-dozen or so teams have max-level space this season, and most won’t pursue Cousins at that level, sources say.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pelicans leaked this to test the waters. Word will get back to Cousins, and they can gauge how strenuously he objects. If they want, they can deny ever considering this and try to avoid offending Cousins.

But New Orleans has leverage.

It will be a tight market. Many of the teams with significant cap space are young and rebuilding, and they won’t want Cousins’ attitude. Even teams ready to win might not bring him into the locker room. Returning from a torn Achilles – hard for any player – will be especially difficult for the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins.

That said, Cousins has leverage on the Pelicans, too. He’s extremely talented, and players that talented are hard to come by. New Orleans would still essentially be capped out if he walked, left with only the mid-level exception to replace him. Cousins and Davis play well together, and Davis – who can become an unrestricted free agent in 2020 – wants Cousins around.

Confronted with a similar situation with Jrue Holiday last summer – capped out and no mechanism to adequately replace him – the Pelicans spent big. But Holiday wasn’t hurt and didn’t have any fit concerns with Davis.

For New Orleans, it’s clearly worth securing the 27-year-old Cousins for the next couple years. The upside is too high. But, especially given the injury, guaranteeing him money into his 30s is undesirable.

On the flip side, Cousins should want long-term security. This might be his last chance to get it.

So, maybe both the Pelicans and Cousins can meet in the middle. But finding that point is never simple.

Judge grills Suge Knight – facing murder charge – on NBA-champion pick (Rockets)

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Suge Knight is facing a murder, threat and robbery charges in three separate cases.

The former rap mogul was in court yesterday to set a trial date for the murder charge.

Marisa Gerber of the Los Angeles Times:

A few minutes later, during a separate hearing in the criminal threats proceeding, another judge asked Knight to return to his courtroom in May. The judge then turned to Knight, asking who he thought would win the NBA playoffs.

“At this time…” Knight said, before the judge cut him off, saying he wanted a once-and-for-all answer.

“Houston,” Knight responded.

“Alright, Houston. Good pick,” the judge said.

Knight smiled.

What?