Deron Williams, Dwight Howard

Report: If Howard goes to L.A., the Nets look to rebuild… again

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In the film “Rounders,” Matt Damon’s former poker genius character lists the “cardinal rule”: Always leave yourself outs. It sounds much simpler than it is. The natural impulse when you lose one hand is to try and compensate the next quality hand you’re dealt. The addictive nature of gambling and the desperate mental impact of losing is what makes it so dangerous. In short, cutting your losses is extremely difficult and a loss only makes you more likely to attempt a wider gamble. That’s why you leave yourself outs, to take the long-term view of the situation.

The Nets, unfortunately, did not leave themselves outs.

ESPN reports that if Dwight Howard is traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Nets will be forced to shop Deron Williams for a trade to avoid losing him in free agency for nothing.

If Howard is traded to the Lakers before the deadline, sources say New Jersey would then be forced to explore its D-Will trade options, knowing that Williams would be a virtual lock to leave come July. If Orlando keeps Howard or deals him anywhere else but L.A. or Dallas before the deadline, thus keeping alive its dream of pairing the two in Brooklyn next fall, New Jersey will wait.

The Nets, in other words, would have to be all the way out of the Howard Sweepstakes before abandoning their plans, having sacrificed so much last February (Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round picks) just to get D-Will.

via Where Will Dwight Howard Land? – ESPN.

This is no big shocker. You can’t just enter into free agency hoping Williams, who never specifically wanted to be with the Nets, having seen them fail to get him help in both free agency and through the Howard trade, will re-sign. And they surrendered such a massive set of assets for him that to get nothing out of it would be devastating. But it does put itself out there as a fact that Nets ownership is aware there is a very strong possibility that they will not acquire Howard. They’re still looking out to see what they have to do if they call and their hand comes up short.

Now, there are plenty of reasons for Nets fans not to be concerned. Deron Williams had his best game of the season Friday night against Phoenix, so perhaps it was simply injuries and not his mental outlook that has lead to him seeming so despondent in his body language. They have time to get Brook Lopez healthy and to increase his trade value to try and woo a third team into the mix to send veterans to Orlando, which reportedly is what they’re after. The Nets can right the ship and make Jersey/Brooklyn a more attractive option to convince Howard to push for them. And with Andrew Bynum playing as well as he is, it’s entirely possible the Lakers won’t want to trade him and disrupt their chemistry. Oh, and despite the ESPN report, Williams himself said it was 80% sure that he would re-sign. And athletes never say one thing and do another in free agency.

The Nets are trying to be sure they’re prepared for the worst. But the reality is that if all this gets them absolutely nothing to show for it, or even a diminished package for Williams, it will still sent the franchise back for years.

Good luck, Nets.

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: