Tyler cuts phase one of the 'amateur pro' experiment short

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Jeremy Tyler made history this season when he left his high school as a highly-touted senior prospect to play professionally in Europe. Now, he’s made history again by setting the record for the longest trip of shame back to the United States with his tail between his legs. Tyler has called it quits on playing in Israel, and won’t even complete the season with Maccabi Haifa.

I, for one, am shocked. You mean to tell me that a high school senior can’t compete on a professional level with grown men? Especially one accustomed to dominating high school opponents with his 6’11” frame and credible athleticism? No. Way.

Well, way. Tyler’s homeward bound, and his attempt to take the Brandon Jennings revolution one step further culminated in some unspectacular play against professional-level competition and plenty of frustration. I’m not sure what exactly Tyler expected; even weaker teams overseas are still filled with pro players, most of which trump Tyler in their experience as well as their ability to produce. The learning curve in any such situation is going to be awfully steep.

The question for Tyler should never have been which path would help him best prepare for NBA basketball. Rather, out of the options available, which most made sense for a player of Tyler’s physical, mental, and emotional maturity level. It’s not easy to go from the top prospect of your high school class to sitting three games on the bench without even suiting up. I can only imagine that this experience was an incredibly humbling one.

Now, less than a year after making his decision to forgo his senior season, it’s painfully obvious that Tyler and his family made the wrong choice. I’m sure that the high school competition wasn’t up to snuff, and all of the credit in the world goes to Jeremy for making the tough choice. This really could have worked out for him in the long run, but it wasn’t in the cards. The only trouble for him now is deciding where to go next.

His options are essentially limited to two: look for an opportunity to play elsewhere overseas or play domestically in the D-League. Playing for a pro team in Europe could really help Tyler’s development, but he’d face more of the same problems. I don’t see how the system would be significantly different than the one he’s once failed in, and that’s troubling. A jump back to the D-League would give Tyler another opportunity to play trailblazer, and would put him back in a comfort zone by playing and living in America again.

That may not be the best thing in turning him from a boy to a man, but it could be essential in grooming the skills of an elite basketball prospect while minimizing distractions.  

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.