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David Stern talks lockout, spews usual rhetoric

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David Stern is at the basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies this weekend. Last night he was shaking the hand of the Knicks Chauncey Billups, who is being recognized for his charity work. He was doing what a commissioner should do.

But the cloud of the lockout looms over everything, including the Hall.

When asked about it by Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, Stern gave us the usual rhetoric, taking little shots at the players’ income.

“I would say that we have very smart players,’’ said Stern, “who recognize that this system is very good to them. You got 13 players on a roster averaging $5 million apiece, that’s $65 million, and what the owners have said is, ‘We’re going to try very hard as we reset this thing to keep you as close to that number as we can.’

“The NFL, which is usually profitable as opposed to the NBA, which isn’t, got the double-digit [revenue] reductions from their players. Our players will understand that when the rhetoric stops, the owners are trying to do the right thing, and our players always try to do the right thing.’’

Just for the record, if you take the amount of money teams spent on salary last year and divide it by 30 teams, you end up with about $70 million per team. Use the median and you do end up closer to Stern’s $65 million. But for the players, the bigger problem is the owners last proposal wanted to freeze salaries at that level for a decade so that all the growth in revenue during that time — all the money from new television deals — would go into the owners pockets. The players, who see themselves as the product the public is buying (nobody goes to a game to see an owner), want a cap that rises as the league makes more revenue.

Still, if you’re looking or a note of optimism, Stern tried to give you one. And we tend to agree with him here, I can’t believe both sides would really wipe out an entire season (even losing games in this economy is going to anger casual fans in a way neither side really seems to grasp).

“I expect that we’ll make a deal because the alternative is very destructive,’’ he said. “It’s destructive of $2 billion worth of player salaries and it’s destructive most important to our fans of the game. And if it spirals badly, everyone gets hurt.”

He then went on to try and divide the union a little bit saying older players would get hurt more. Because he’s Stern.

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

Minnesota Timberwolves Zach LaVine slam dunks the ball during the NBA all-star skills competition in Toronto on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Associated Press
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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: