Nets avoid being worst ever in history, proving they may not be worst this season

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Way back in November, the New Jersey Nets lost to the Miami Heat on a Saturday evening. It was Jersey’s tenth loss to start the season, capped by a dagger from Dwyane Wade at the buzzer. One of those incredible shots that only the top players in the league can usually hit. And while we knew Wade had it in him, the shot itself was still incredible. That’s when I knew the Nets were in trouble.

See, the Nets had a lot of talent. Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Courtney Lee, Yi Jianlian, Terrence Williams. They had enough talent to where they shouldn’t be the worst team in the league. Bad? Sure. The worst? Unlikely. The worst of all time? No way. But that game represented a microcosm of their problems. Injured, outmatched, out-coached? Those will pile up the losses, but as long as you’re not snakebit, you can avoid history. The Nets were snakebit on top of it.

Last night the Nets won their ninth game of the season, tying the ’73 Sixers, avoiding history as the worst ever, and with three weeks to go, an excellent chance at fading into just anotherbad team.

But what’s more, the fact that the Nets are improving as the season goes on (two wins in a row!), combined with that talent means something more. It validates the theory than not only is this not the worst team in history, theyr’e not the worst team in the league this season.

You see, while the Nets have been piling up losses with a stable core of talent, multiple picks in this year’s draft, watching their rookie Terrence Williams develop, and zeroing in on John Wall who many feel may be better than his Calipari predecessors, the Minnesota Timberwolves are putting in a truly horrible season.

Talent, sure, but much of it isn’t playing the right number of minutes, with Kevin Love inexplicably in the doghouse. None of it seems to fit together, their star point guard is in Spain, they brought in Darko Milicic as a big mid-season acquisition, and they’re trying to run the triangle which has been a disaster. The Wolves have multiple picks, and cap space. They have some legit talent, most notably Al Jefferson. But if you look at the Nets, snakebitten, talented, a raw mold waiting to be shaped by a new regime, and you look at the Wolves, inconsistent, not bad enough for the top pick, not good enough to compete, with questionable management and coaching, the idea makes more and more sense.

The Nets aren’t the worst team in history. Hell, they’re not even the worst team this season. 

Oh, and by the way, the Nets finish the season against… the Miami Heat.  

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.