New Jersey Nets v Miami Heat

Winderman: “Respect for the Game” not easy to define, even for LeBron, Terrence Williams

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While much has been made of the NBA’s crackdown on “respect for the game,” with the league’s whistle-blowing onslaught of technical fouls, the sought-after upgrade in decorum is actually more about respect for referees.

But what exactly is respect for the game? Is it sideshow antics during games that seemingly make players bigger than their teams, and add insult to beaten-down opponents? It is muting such attempts with physical fouls in Oakley old-school style?

Saturday night’s Heat game against the Nets offered a perfect example on both counts, and plenty of reflection in these ensuing days.

At one point, free and clear for a breakaway dunk, Dwyane Wade instead flipped the ball over the rim for a LeBron James dunk. The two then went airborne for a full-body bump at midcourt during the ensuing New Jersey timeout.

Shortly thereafter, Nets swingman Terrence Williams rode James out of bounds with a shoulder block that was ruled a Flagrant 1 foul.

In the wake of that incident, there was plenty of back and forth, about the very subject of “respect for the game.”

To James, the respect was giving fans what they paid to see.

To Williams, it was about refusing to be anybody’s punchline.

Monday, the NBA said there would be no further action against Williams, no upgrade to a Flagrant 2 for the non-basketball play, no fine, no suspension.

Shortly before that league announcement, James grew brusque with a reporter who had asked at Heat practice about Saturday’s “circus” plays, with James also feeding Wade behind the back for an earlier dunk.

“We’re just an athletic team, just making plays,” James said. “There’s nothing circus about it. Everyone wants to put a ‘Showtime’ or ‘showboating’ on us. Nah, we just made plays. It’s not circus.”

Of course, everything about this Heat season is a circus. And we probably heard Terrence Williams’ name more this weekend that we heard it his entire rookie season.

But it is interesting that at a time when David Stern is stressing “respect for the game,” no one seems to know where that line falls, unless it comes to an askew glance at a referee.

Of course, it could be worse. At least Stern’s players aren’t spitting at each other.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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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.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

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

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

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: