prudential center New Jersey

For Newark this isn’t a stopover, this is an audition

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The New Jersey Nets are using Newark and the Prudential Center as sort of a layover on the way to Brooklyn in 2012. Get out of the Meadowlands and into a better arena — read: more revenue streams — that is an easy train trip from New York to get the people in the boroughs ready for their arrival.

But that’s not how the fine folks of Newark see it.

They remember when hurricane Katrina blew the Hornets out of New Orleans up to Oklahoma City for a season plus and that city so embraced the team that when push came to shove about moving the Sonics, the league knew it had a viable fan base and market in OKC. (Then Hornets owner George Shinn wanted the Hornets to stay in Oklahoma City, and if nothing else we should thank David Stern for not letting Shinn ruin a third market.)

Newark sees this as its chance to prove it is big time and deserves an NBA franchise. And according to the Bergen Record, the governor talked with the NBA powers about that possibility down the line.

Governor Christie has had “casual conversations” with National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern about the possibility of Newark getting another NBA team once the Nets leave for Brooklyn in 2012, he said Tuesday….

“I think there is a future for NBA basketball here in Newark,” Christie said. “I think that New Jersey having a state-of-the-art facility like Newark has here, you have the possibility of doing that. We support three [National Hockey League] teams in the region, so I don’t see why we can’t support three basketball teams.”

Sterns’ concern is a third team saturates the greater New York market (which is what Newark is considered). Those same concerns likely would greet any team thinking about moving to Anaheim with the Lakers and Clippers just up the 5 Freeway.

But this is Stern’s NBA — money talks. If Newark proves it can really support a team, sell out the luxury boxes and provide a solid base of season tickets, then anything is possible. If there is money to be made, the NBA will listen.

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: