Nate Robinson thinks the dunk contest is rigged

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Nate Robinson is as much an authority on the dunk contest as anyone. He’s the only three-time winner of the thing, even if, well, he’s not really mentioned among the great dunk legends of our time. Part of that is he always seems to win when the competition is weak or someone better slips up. But maybe it’s just height-ism. Regardless, he’s decided to speak out about this dunk contest.

From NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner:

“Of course. They set it up like that. They set it up for Blake to win it like that,” Robinson said before the Boston Celtics faced the Chicago Bulls Saturday night at United Center.

B-b-but why would the almighty “they” do that? Because it’s in L.A.? Because Griffin is the likely Rookie of the Year? Because he finally has given the Clippers a budding star with national and global marketing appeal?

“Everything. It’s all set up,” said the Celtics’ guard, who “retired” from the dunk contest after winning in Dallas last February. “But we’ll see. I’m not saying he can’t dunk, because he can. Though we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully the guys that are in there with him will give him some competition and put on a show. Because that’s all it’s for — it’s a show. That’s the whole meaning of the dunk contest.

via Nate: Dunk contest ‘set up’ for Griffin « NBA.com | Hang Time Blog.

Nate’s kind of got a point. It is a show, and there’s been some instances of ridiculous obviousness in years past. Like Dwight Howard and the whole original Superman thing. And then the Nate Robinson “Krypto-Nate” sequence. Last year was just a disaster as LeBron James turned it down and the remaining contestants all… well… sucked. But it’s obvious that narratives are built into the contest.

It doesn’t really matter, but Robinson seems kind of right, here. Blake Griffin is a media darling, playing in a huge market, with gigantic media highlights, against a field of no real compelling challengers, in his home building (or at least the Lakers’).  He’s got an advantage in athleticism, name recognition, home court, and marketing advantage. When we consider that the judges have rarely accurately judged some of the best dunks, it does appear that Griffin has an edge.

But the league needs him to win. The contest otherwise features Serge Ibaka, JaVale McGee, and Brandon Jennings. Jennings is the biggest star of those, and he’s faded in his second year. Ibaka and McGee are both more traditional bigs. The only reason you want great competition in this event is if you have multiple stars. And since LeBron James punked out… again, it’s got to be Griffin. The dunk contest needs to be a signature event, and Griffin is their signature player for the event.

That said, we’ll continue to lobby for fair judging, and if McGee does something ridiculous (and actually lands it), he, or any of the other participants, deserve the trophy. There’s a difference between setting Griffin up to win, and granting Griffin the win.

 

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Cavaliers on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. Especially against a team going small — the Cavaliers start Kevin Love at center — Embiid should be fed down low.

Instead, look at his shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.