Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv v Real Madrid - Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four Semi Final

So you want to play in Europe during the lockout…

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There’s a lot of players throwing out the, “If there’s a lockout I’ll go play in Europe” card. Like it’s some kind of trump card.

And if you’re Kevin Durant or Deron Williams or Pau Gasol and you go play for a team like Barcelona, life will be pretty darn good.

But that is not the norm of European basketball. A lot of those leagues — and even some teams in the top leagues — are more like playing in the minor leagues. With experiences NBA players would find shocking. Mark Deeks lays it out at the New York Times.

The difference in salary payments lies not only their magnitude, but their synergy. There are some European leagues where it is more common to be paid late than to be paid on time; in extreme cases, players are lured to the team with false promises, and then not paid at all. Financial problems are permeating even the continent’s strongest leagues, and regulations brought in to try to reverse this trend are often ignored. As amazing as it seems that a sports team would not prioritize paying its players, it happens. A lot.

An equally apparent difference is in the crowd support. While high-level European games can at times be remarkably badly attended affairs, those who do attend are hardened, passionate and obsessively loyal. Poor performances are seen as personal insults and are met with the kind of retribution that’s easy to get away with when seated a considerable distance from the target at an elevated position, readily armed with rudimentary projectiles….

If you can’t run a pick-and-roll, you won’t play. If you’re only effective in isolation sets, you won’t get used. You will practice almost every day, and you will practice far more than you play. You won’t average 20 points, you won’t get paid as much, and the front office will toy with you and your agent as to whether they even want you on the team. Imports are a necessity, but also a luxury. They are treated differently from the domestic players because they can always be replaced.

And that’s just the on the court part. Off the court the creature comforts that make the NBA lifestyle envious are gone. You do not get to run the building with your entourage. Nobody speaks the language and nobody is bending over backwards to help you. The culture shock will be worse than the adjustments in the game.

Go read the whole piece. Especially if you’re one of those NBA players who think they can just drop into a European league and it will be all good.

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: