Ou est Rodrigue Beaubois?

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nba_beaubois.jpgOne of the things that Pete Carroll did to return USC to the college football elite was open up the competition — the best player plays. Seniority be damned. Doesn’t matter if you’re a senior, if the freshman is better, he gets your spot. Seems logical, but it is shockingly rare in sports, as coaches like to go with what they know, what they trust. They fear risk.

Welcome to game six of the Dallas Mavericks San Antonio Spurs series. It’s an elimination game for the Mavericks, but they don’t react like that and come out cold and flat. They were down 22-8 after one quarter.

Rodrigue Beaubois was at the heart of what changed that. The French rookie (born in Guadeloupe) had sparked the Mavericks comeback from down 19 when he entered the game midway through the second quarter, scoring eight points in the half (just six minutes of play). It was enough to get Carlisle to start him and sit Shawn Marion to start the half. Dallas kept storming back and eventually took the lead, Beaubois kept scoring and creating chances. He was the fastest guy on the court — he is always the fastest guy on the court — and with the ball in his hand he changed the game.

Then he sat for a rest to start the fourth quarter. And sat. And sat.

Beaubois was out the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter. Jason Kidd scored one basket (his first of the game) in that time and Jason Terry was invisible.

That is when the Spurs broke a close game open again. That is when the Spurs won the game and the series.

And throughout the land, every Dallas fan asked the same thing: Où est Rodrigue Beaubois? Where is Beaubois?

Then again, Dallas fans have been asking that for months. What Carlisle did in this game mirrors what he did all season – he didn’t trust the rookie when he had All Star and Olympian Jason Kidd, sixth man of the year Jason Terry, plus veteran JJ Barera.

Those guys ran the offense better, Beaubois tended to break out of it. Those guys defend the pick and roll better. Giving the kid minutes meant taking minutes away from guys who have proven they could do it, or taking minutes away from Caron Butler or Shawn Marion. Those are some big name veterans.

Just like game six, when Beaubois did get some burn the kid just put the ball in the bucket — he trailed only Dirk Nowitizki on the team in points scored per minute when he played. But he sat and sat and sat.

In the final six weeks of the season, Beaubois started to get some chances. He played almost 20 minutes per game at he end and was scoring 13 points per game on 56 percent shooting in March.

But when the playoffs came, Carlisle went to his veterans. The guys he trusted, the guys who had done it before. Beaubois handled it like a veteran himself in quotes to the Dallas Morning News:

“Everybody told me to just try to be ready and when they called my name, I just played my game,” Beaubois said, after scoring 16 points in 20 mostly-electrifying minutes Thursday…

“You don’t think about it,” he said. “Like I said, it was coach’s decision. I think everybody tried to play very hard and did a good job. It’s OK. But when he called my name I just wanted to push myself and try to win the game. That’s it.”

I get the trust of veterans, the little things they do much better, but at some point, maybe in those early losses to the Spurs when the Mavericks were the team that looked old and lifeless, Carlisle should have gone to Beaubois. Easy to say after the fact, but we were saying it then, too.

Bottom line – it’s a coaching culture thing, and something Carlisle needs to look in the mirror about. You have to go with what works, not what should work. Beaubois worked. And Carlisle clearly trusted his veterans more. Beaubois may not have changed the outcome of the series – Dallas had a lot of other issues – but we will never know. And that is the shame.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

Minnesota Timberwolves Zach LaVine slam dunks the ball during the NBA all-star skills competition in Toronto on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect. Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. 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.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates:

Splash Brothers showtime: Klay Thompson beats Stephen Curry to win Three-Point Contest

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TORONTO — It came down to the Splash Brothers. Because of course it did. Just like last season.

In the final round of the NBA All-Star Saturday Three-Point Shootout, defending champ Stephen Curry hit his first eight shots and set the bar high with 23 points — the best score of the night.

His backcourt teammate Klay Thompson responded by draining his last seven shots, which included the entire money rack, and put up 27 points — tying the event record.

That gave Thompson the upset win and the Three-Point Contest title.

Although, is it an upset if the second best shooter in the game beats the best?

“It was like déjà vu last year,” Thompson said. “Not gonna lie, I got nervous when he hit his first eight, and I didn’t think he was going to miss. But it was exciting, just coming back to Oakland [with the title], you know. Back-to-back years for Splash Brothers, it’s pretty cool.”

So does Thompson have bragging rights?

“(For) about 364 days, and then — but that’s a daily thing we do,” Thompson said. “We love to shoot against each other. You know, I’ve never been on a team with someone who shoots it better than me, so it’s a privilege to work with him every day. He makes me that much better.”

The Final round was two you expected — the Splash Brothers — plus one few did, Suns rookie Devin Booker.

Getting there was not simple. In the first round, Thompson set a high bar going first and putting up 22. Curry got hot in the middle, then hit the last two money balls to reach 21. James Harden and J.J. Redick ( who stayed behind the line this year) scored very solid 20s. Later 19-year-old rookie Booker put up a 20 to tie those two veterans. Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton (13 points) Portland’s C.J. McCollum (14) and home-town crowd favorite Raptor Kyle Lowry (15) got bounced. .

That left Harden, Redick, and McCollum in a tiebreaker, and the rookie calmly put up a 12 in 30 seconds to advance.

Booker took a step back in the final round with a 16.

Not that it mattered with the Splash Brothers in the building.