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Timberwolves push back — say Rambis is safe and Rubio is coming

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We’ve passed along two recent reports about the Minnesota Timberwolves, neither of them particularly good for the franchise: One that coach Kurt Rambis may be let go at the end of the season, the other that Ricky Rubio seems to be leaning toward staying in Europe another season.

Wolves management is pushing back on those ideas.

Maybe the best was wrap up of that is from David Aldridge with NBA.com.

A team source insisted this weekend that it would take a major collapse down the stretch for management to even consider replacing Rambis, who got a four-year contract with the Wolves for that very reason — to take a lot of losses while developing the team’s young talent, including still-in-Europe Ricky Rubio. (The Wolves can buy out Rubio’s contract in Spain next season for $500,000, with Rubio paying the remainder, and Minnesota still expects Rubio will come over next year, regardless of whether there’s a lockout.) The Wolves have already won more games this season than last, with a month left in the season. Love, who clashed with Rambis last season, has seen that playing on a really bad team won’t keep him from individual accolades like making the U.S. World Championship team last year and the All-Star team this year — and as such, the source claims, Love isn’t going anywhere when and if he becomes a free agent.

Three thoughts. First, Rambis really should not be in trouble. He was not given the talent to win, he has done about what should be expected with teams he has. That said, it still feels like they are not really building a triangle team there (and that’s what Rambis was hired to run), especially when they get Rubio in the fold, so the question of style of play is out there. Rambis has certainly tweaked the offense and used it differently in some ways than Phil Jackson does, but more adjustments may be needed. Many more.

Second, discussing what Love may do before we see the new CBA is kind of moot. But, in the current system, most max players sign that first max deal with the hometown team (which was larger than what other teams could sign them too). Movement of guys tends to happen after that second deal, more like seven years in.

Finally, Rubio has to make a decision in May or June on his plans for next year. The new NBA CBA will not be in place by then. Maybe he decides to sign a deal under this CBA and risk a lockout. But his interview in Spain, and logic, suggests he may stay in Europe another season and let the NBA labor situation play its way out, then come over.

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: