Dunk Contest preview: What’s with all the big guys?

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You know why Nate Robinson and Spud Webb won the dunk contest? Because we love to see the little guys who can get up. We mere mortals identify with guys who are not quite six foot jumping over Dwight Howard and throwing it down.

This year’s Saturday night Dunk Contest? Battle of the big guys. Blake Griffin and Serge Ibaka are 6’10”, JaVale McGee comes in at 7’0” even. The “little guy” this time around is 6’7” DeMar DeRozan.

It’s a little surreal,” McGee told PBT Friday. “I never thought I’d be in the dunk contest, especially being as tall as I am….

“I feel big guys can do the same thing little guys can do, it just looks easier, and maybe that’s why it’s lower scoring. But it’s just as hard for big guys, we’ve got more weight and a lot of stuff.”

Of course, the Dunk Contest might have gone the way of the Dodo if not for a big guy — Dwight Howard revived it with a combination of power and creativity a few years back. Maybe we are in for a show. Griffin gives us all hope.

Let’s break it down.

Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers): He’s the favorite, the viral video sensation that pretty much owns YouTube by now. (Well, him and cats that play the piano.) The guy is ferocious in game, running the break and pointing for the ally-oop. Not letting any mere mortal — say, Timofey Mozgov, for example — get in his way. He can dunk with either hand and leap of two feet or one. He’s got all the skills.

Here’s what we don’t know: How creative will he be? Shannon Brown is a great in-game dunker who fell flat last season when it came time to do staged dunks in an exhibition. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Griffin enjoys this kind of stage. If so, it could be one for the ages.

DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors): Do not sleep on this guy — he came in second last year in what was a disappointing contest. Did he learn anything from that? He has the athletic skills, and we do love the little guy (even if the little guy is 6’7”).

JaVale McGee (Washington Wizards): He has the leaping ability, the athleticism, the length to put on a show for the ages. He’s also not exactly know for focus. ESPN’s John Hollinger had the best line: “He could win this thing or he could pull up for a 17-foot jumper.”

Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder): He certainly can jump, but it’s usually to block shots. He doesn’t have the power or pure athleticism to outdo the others in this competition, his only hope is to go Carrot Top and become a prop dunker.

Report: Timberwolves active in trying to land Paul George or Jimmy Butler

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Minnesota is one of the NBA’s best positioned up-and-coming teams. They have a franchise cornerstone in Karl-Anthony Towns, a quality No. 2 in Andrew Wiggins, maybe like Zach LaVine can blossom into an All-Star, and players such as Gorgui Dieng and Nemanja Bjelica could be part of the picture. Maybe Ricky Rubio, too, although he’s further along his career arc. A lot of people look at this team and think around 2020, when the Warriors fade (or break apart), the Timberwolves can step up to elite.

Tom Thibodeau is apparently not willing to be that patient — he’s looking to get in the Paul George/Jimmy Butler talks, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Thibodeau helped develop Butler in Chicago and they have a great relationship, he certainly makes the Timberwolves better next season. Same with George, although he’s a rental who almost certainly bolts after the coming season

My question to the Timberwolves: Why?

What was wrong with the building trajectory they are on? I get it, they haven’t been to the playoffs since 2004, a ton of money was just sunk into upgrades at the Target Center, and the owner is not getting younger. Those are all non-basketball reasons to screw up what the basketball side is doing right. It’s the mistake of poor franchises to let that happen.

Could the Timberwolves use a point guard of the future, more depth on the wings and better defenders all around? You bet. But they don’t need to rush the development program either. If Minnesota can land Butler only giving up Rubio and a protected future first or something, sure, but the Bulls continue to ask a very high price for a deal.

Outside of personal feelings, why would the Timberwolves do that?

Report: LaMarcus Aldridge unhappy playing for Spurs

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The Spurs trading LaMarcus Aldridge – they’re reportedly shopping him – could open enough cap space to sign Chris Paul.

But that isn’t the only reason San Antonio is trying to move Aldridge.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

According to a person with knowledge of the Spurs forward’s situation, it’s the 31-year-old’s unhappiness in San Antonio that is the driving force behind the Spurs’ trade talks on Thursday. The five-time All-Star, according to the person, is hopeful that San Antonio can find a better fit for his talents.

Rumors about the Spurs trading Aldridge emerged early in the season, as he was reportedly unhappy about Kawhi Leonard getting the spotlight. When Aldridge signed with San Antonio, it seemed Leonard could do the heavy lifting as the team’s best player and Aldridge could get outsized credit as the leading scorer. But Leonard has emerged as the go-to offensive player, pushing Aldridge into a supporting role both in reality and reputation. Gregg Popovich calling out Aldridge publicly during the playoffs surely didn’t improve relations.

Aldridge turns 32 this summer and will likely become a free agent after next season. Wanting to leave the Spurs – held up as the NBA’s best culture – will raise additional red flags.

San Antonio might not get as much as it hopes in a trade for Aldridge. If Chris Paul is coming, the Spurs wouldn’t need as much for Aldridge. But they won’t know about Paul until July.

San Antonio also values building a roster of players who’ve, as Popovich puts it, “gotten over themselves.” If that’s not Aldridge, the Spurs might not want to keep him around.

There are numerous factors to weigh and incomplete information, but this is the twisting road San Antonio is navigating.

Here’s Knicks’ reported asking price from Celtics in Kristaps Porzingis trade

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Knicks president Phil Jackson’s asking price for Kristaps Porzingis is reportedly “massive.”

Just what does that mean?

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

According to a Knicks source, Jackson is asking for the third overall pick in Thursday’s draft as well as next year’s Brooklyn pick along with Jaylen Brown and Jae Crowder. This version of the deal would not include Boston taking on Joakim Noah‘s contract.

All the Knicks fans who threatened to relinquish their fandom if the team traded Porzingis – most would love this deal.

Would the Celtics? I doubt it.

The question is whether there’s a middle ground between what New York wants and what Boston would do. It’s possible Jackson won’t budge and is just shopping Porzingis on the off chance someone accepts outlandish requests like these and to teach Porzingis a lesson for skipping his exit meeting.

Report: First-round draft prospect says Phil Jackson fell asleep during his workout

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Like I said, there are better reasons to criticize Phil Jackson than him saying his priority was the Knicks and that he had discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis.

Jay Williams of ESPN:

A top-15 draft pick told me the other day, because we were involved in this out of this conversation about Phil Jackson and the Knicks, and he said, “Phil Jackson was falling in and out of sleep in my workout.”

Yes. “Falling in and out of sleep at my workout.” This is what this guy told me.

Especially given Jackson’s salary and reputation for not being a diligent worker, this story is too good to check out.