Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Billy Baptist

NBA Season Preview: Houston Rockets

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Last season: 43-39, which is not bad but in the deep West sends you to the lottery.

Head Coach: Kevin McHale, last seen on the bench in Minnesota where he was forced, in a fit of poetic justice, to coach the team he had built as GM. A team that wasn’t very good. He replaces Rick Adelman, who ironically ends up in Minnesota.

If nothing else McHale will tell great stories, he has amazing ones from the 80s Celtics.

Key Departures: Yao Ming is officially gone, although he wasn’t really there much. (Bitter Lakers fans would like you to know they think Kevin Martin and Luis Scola should be here.)

Key Additions: Jonny Flynn

Best case scenario: The back court of Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin make this a fun team to watch and a tough one to defend, they get enough dirty work out of Luis Scola and Chase Budinger can make some high flying plays and they can get one of the last seeds in the West.

For that to happen: To be honest, the best case scenario in Houston would be GM Daryl Morey finding someone who wants to send him a center. He went hard after Nene, Tyson Chandler and every other big he could think of to fill that void — that void is named Jordan Hill and Hasheem Thabeet.

In a West loaded with big men of substance the Rockets cannot go far without a real big man in the middle.

More likely the Rockets will: If they don’t make a big move, the Rockets this season will be a lot like the Rockets last season — good but in a deep West not good enough.

What Rockets fans should hope for is a bold move — something that brings them the true star they need to go with the quality role players they have. Or a move that jump starts them on a total rebuild. They need a star, a franchise anchor. Right now they are living in the league’s middle ground, not bad enough to totally rebuild and not good enough to really be a threat.

Prediction: 32-34, missing the playoffs again.

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: