Soon, the Washington Wizards' dream/nightmare will end

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The horror story of the Wizards’ season hardly needs to be recanted here, but it’s easy to forget just how weird the post-trade deadline saga has been. Andray Blatche came out of nowhere to put up monster numbers, Josh Howard busted his left knee and was lost for the season, Al Thornton missed seven games with a strained hip flexor, Alonzo Gee came and went, Shaun Livingston re-established his career, and now Nick Young is finding new life with his new responsibilities. That’s a pretty eventful stretch for a lottery-bound team, especially one that couldn’t help but stay out of the headlines for months prior as well.

I’m sure many Wiz fans consider the end of the regular season to be a stroke of mercy, even if watching Blatche, Livingston, and Young perform well provides some optimism. That said, every game on the schedule is merely an extension of the horror that was, and the sooner this franchise can get 2009-2010 behind it the better.

Except for Nick Young apparently, who seems to be having a pretty good time. From Michael Lee of the Washington Post:

“It hurts. I was expecting to do big things this year. How this year
went, I’m glad it’s ending this way,” said Young, a third-year guard.
“The last couple of games, I had to take advantage of it. I love this
game of basketball. I really ain’t got the opportunity like I got now.
The more minutes I play, I want to be good out there and hopefully
people see it — other teams, this team — that I belong here.”

Young is averaging 21.6 points in his past five games, forcing
Blatche to call him up a few times. “I’m real proud of him. He found a
switch in his head and he got refocused and hungry and aggressive,”
Blatche said. “He’s playing great and that’s how I want him to play the
rest of the season and the rest of his career.”

Young is finally starting to have fun, and now he doesn’t want it to
stop. “Nah, not the way we’re going right now,” Young said. “We’re
playing good. If we started off like this, I think it would’ve been a
better year.”

The Wizards are, on occasion, an interesting watch, if for no other reason than the three young talents trying to make their way. The sudden playing time and opportunity must be a dream for Blatche, Young, and Livingston, who are all putting up some pretty big numbers. Still, the fact that the sun is setting on a dreary campaign is probably for the best.

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.