What to Watch: Melo Debuts for the Knicks

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After many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many months, Carmelo Anthony has finally been traded to the New York Knicks. He’ll debut tonight beside Amar’e Stoudemire against the Bucks in front of a sold-out crowd which will be buzzing like arguably never before.  But what exactly should we be watching for, exactly? Here are five things to watch for in Melo’s Big Apple Debut.

1. The Stoudemelo Connection: Lame? Absolutely, but until a cooler nickname is invented, we’re going for it. The big key tonight is spacing with Stoudemire and Melo. One of the things that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade found out early on in the season was that spacing is not something that comes naturally to a superstar. As the key offensive player, you’re used to having the run of the floor to do what you wish.  But the two have to find a way to play off each other to punish a double team while also not clogging up the offense. That means precision and passing, and tonight’s going to give us an indication of just how far Mike D’Antoni is going to have to bring the two of them. Both Stoudemire and Melo like to work on the right elbow, so there’s going to be some different things for them to work out.  Communication is going to have to be key, and right off the bat, both are going to want to establish their leadership. Hope everyone stays happy.

2. They (Need To) Like To Move It, Move It: Mike D’Antoni’s system is fast paced. George Karl’s system is fast paced. So this should be no problem for Melo, right? Except that D’Antoni’s system is highly dependent on ball movement, not ISO possessions, the Melo favorite. So tonight will be an adjustment not only for Melo, but for the Knicks, trying to work Melo into their flow. There are going to be blown possessions, going to be turnovers. They need to make progress on discovering Melo’s tendencies and what needs to happen for the Knicks as well.

3. La La Vasquez: Because, I mean, have you ever seen a woman so happy her head literally combusts into diamonds, shoes, and reality show casting sheeets? Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if she has pom poms and keeps singing “Empire State of Mind” over and over again.

4. D’Antoni’s Demeanor: This isn’t really D’Antoni’s bag. Sure, he likes star players and is happy to get Anthony. But he’s got a huge ego that just walked into his locker room, and several of the players he selected have walked out the door. Throw in on top of that the fact that his frontcourt down low is thinner than La La, and Mike’s got a hill to climb, starting tonight. It’ll be interesting to see who he leans on at the two-guard spot, and who he turns to to provide perimeter scoring. The Bucks are a good defensive team, so this is a stiff test for a team thrown together just a few hours ago.

5. Madison Square Garden Party: New York is a big town. A big, loud, town that loves basketball, loves sports, loves the Knicks, and loves making a big spectacle of itself. In the world’s most famous arena, Carmelo Anthony takes the floor to join Amar’e Stoudemire in a signal that the Knicks are not just “back” but loaded to push for the future. This is Melo’s coming out party to the New York media, their celebration of their second All-Star, and a chance for Knicks fans to embrace their new era of relevance on a scale not seen this decade. It’s going to be raucous, it’s going to be intense, and it’s honestly going to be worth watching.

Unless you’re a Nuggets fan.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell wins throwback Dunk Contest with Vince Carter tribute

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LOS ANGELES — The 2018 Dunk Contest went retro.

And it worked.

The throwbacks started with Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. going quick-change to pay tribute to his father, the 1984 winner of the Dunk Contest.

Nance later had the best dunk of the night, but it wasn’t enough in the face of Utah’s Donovan Mitchell‘s strong and consistent night highlight by his throwback dunk — donning a Vince Carter Toronto dinosaur jersey and doing VC’s famed 360 dunk — which got Mitchell the 48 points he needed to hold-off Nance and win the contest. It was over.

“Growing up I was a big dunker,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t really much of a basketball player. I just dunked and played defense, and I watched a lot of Vince’s videos. I’ve been seeing what he’s been doing all year at his age, which is incredible.

“So I figured, you know, at my size if I was able to get it, it would be a great dunk and a way to finish it, you know. And actually, funny story is I haven’t made that dunk in like half a year. I tried it in practice the past two days and tried it this morning, didn’t make it. Tried it last night, didn’t make it… But to be able to make it was why I was so excited.”

Earlier in the night, Mitchell had done another tribute worn a Darrell Griffith jersey — Utah’s Dr. Dunkenstien, who went to Louisville like Mitchell — for an off-the-side-of-the-backboard jumping over Kevin Hart dunk.

“You know, just knowing your history, I think, is the biggest thing,” Mitchell said of the throwbacks. “Just understanding where this game originated, I guess the OGs of the game, I guess you would call it. But just understanding. Even if it’s just dunking. Whether it’s dunking in the NBA in general, Darrell Griffith, we went to the same school in college. I know Darrell very well. Both got drafted by the Jazz, and he was an incredible player. To be able to pay homage to him meant a lot to me.”

For my money, Nance had the dunk of the night, his first in the Finals, a double off-the-backboard throwdown that you had to see on replay to get (it wasn’t as evident in the building what he had done until it was re-shown on the big screen).

It was a fun contest all night long.

Mitchell (the leader in the Rookie of the Year race) started it off brilliantly — he brought out a second backboard, and did a self-alley-oop off one to the other.

Larry Nance Jr. did his tribute to his father with his first dunk, and on his second one came from behind the backboard, going around the world, and threw it down hard. That got him into the Finals.

Oladipo missed all three of his dunks in the first round, which almost doomed his night. He, however, did a dunk wearing the Black Panther mask for his second dunk, which impressed.

Mitchell said he wanted to beat Dennis Smith Jr. because the Mavericks’ point guard had beaten him in dunk contests for years. Smith had one monster dunk, when he went between the legs and threw it down hard and got the full 50. It just wasn’t enough to get Smith to the Finals.

Nance started off the final round by bringing out his father again to throw an alley-oop to a windmill. Mitchell responded with a self-alley-oop to a windmill that was flat-out wicked. That got Mitchell a 50-46 lead after one round of the Finals.

Then Mitchell went to Vince Carter and “it was over.”

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

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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.