Avery aims for defensive decency

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avery_johnson_new_jersey_nets.jpgRome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Newark. If the Nets are going to build something on the ground charred by their ’09-’10 season that went up in flames, it’s going to take some time.

New Jersey’s significant roster upgrades from this offseason are a good start. The Nets now have the raw materials to put a proper framework in place, but it’s still up to Avery Johnson to engineer a creative way to arrange all the pieces. His job won’t be easy, and while Johnson’s vision and persistence will be crucial in his role as team architect, Avery’s most valuable attribute may be his patience.

Improvement should be expected, but the pace of that improvement is anything but certain. The new Nets will take to some aspects of Avery’s game plan quickly, but with some of his more complicated stratagems? Especially on the defensive end? It could take some time.

In a situation like this one, reasonable expectations are essential, and Avery seems to have that part of the job under wraps. From Al Iannazzone of Nets Insider:

“The guys are very attentive and coachable,” Johnson said. “We have
a chance to be a decent, decent defensive team. We have a chance. We
still don’t take enough charges. We don’t block enough shots, but we’ll
get there. We have a chance.”

“Everyone has their certain talents on the offensive end: we’ve got
shooters, slashers and guys who can score in the paint,” Lopez said.
“We all know our roles offensively. It’s really defensively where we
needed to pick up.

We’ve spending most of the time in training camp on the defensive
end, learning rotations, learning our help-side and stuff like that.
That’s where the roles aren’t as well-defined.”

Johnson’s camp isn’t over yet. The Nets still have plenty to learn.

These Nets aren’t the pre-constructed Mavericks that Avery was handed in 2005. They aren’t a group of veterans with an established star, or a team with any kind of identity or direction, really. Much of that will be up to Johnson and his staff, who will look to instill New Jersey with a new defensive focus.

Easier said than done, obviously. Avery will look to make his mark on this franchise from game one, but his job will be far from done even by game 82. Such is life for the coach of a young team, and a newly formed one at that.

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

Associated Press
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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.

Devin Booker’s 3-point-contest victory bright spot for Suns (video)

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Los Angeles – Devin Booker‘s Suns have the NBA’s worst record (18-41).

“I think everyone is fed up with the losing, from the top to the bottom of the organization,” Booker said this afternoon. “So, for us, it’s what’s next?”

A 3-point contest victory.

Overcoming Phoenix’s poor record to draw an invite to All-Star Saturday Night, Booker won the 3-point contest with a whopping 29 points in the final round.

That score left little margin for 2016 champion Klay Thompson, who capped the event with a 25-point round that was otherwise the night’s high. Clippers forward Tobias Harris, in his new home arena, finished third.

Booker was all smiles after the rare victory.

“Season not going how we planned, but I know a lot of the city was ready for this All-Star Weekend, having somebody participate,” Booker said. “So, I’m glad I could win it.

Where he and the Suns go from here is still questionable, but he has a plan.

“I’m going to win the dunk contest next year,” Booker said. “No, I’m just kidding.”

Full results

First round

Klay Thompson 19

Devin Booker 19

Tobias Harris 18

Wayne Ellington 17

Bradley Beal 15

Eric Gordon 12

Kyle Lowry 11

Paul George 9

Second round

Devin Booker 29

Klay Thompson 25

Tobias Harris 17