Olympics Day 16 - Basketball

Should Olympic basketball be under-23 like soccer?

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This summer, the United States will send it’s best 12 best basketball players to London to represent our nation in the Olympic Games.

Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban hates the idea, and he’s not alone. This summer will be the 20th anniversary of the original Dream Team and for some the bloom is off the rose. The thrill of seeing our best destroy most countries — but have interesting games with a few other powers like Spain — has worn off.

So what if international basketball decided to do what soccer does and turn the Olympics into an under-23 tournament?

NBA commissioner David Stern is down with the idea, according to the Chicago Sun Times.

“My own view is that post-London, we should be thinking about what soccer does and make it 23 and under,” Stern said.

Soccer of course has the World Cup — a battle of nations where there is no restrictions, and it is an event far bigger than the Olympic soccer. International basketball under FIBA has a similar tournament , the World Championships, which the United States won in Turkey in 2010 behind Kevin Durant (that win earned the USA its Olympic berth). If the Olympics were under 23, the world championship would grow in stature.

The United States could field a quality team. Here is a rough sketch of what the Under 23 Team USA might look like:

Centers: Anthony Davis, Greg Monroe
Forwards: Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins, Kenneth Faried, DeMar DeRozan
Guards: Brandon Jennings, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Klay Thompson

I kind of like this idea. But it’s something that the rest of the world would have to agree to, and it’s also something that Nike, Adidas and other shoe and apparel manufacturers may not love as they enjoy having their biggest stars on a huge international stage like the Olympics.

Doing this would mean a guy like Derrick Rose would never win a medal (he’s injured for London and will be 27 next Olympics). But it might be something worth trying in Rio to see how it works. I like the idea of the world’s best young players going at it with something real on the line.

Glenn Robinson III does his best to salvage Dunk Contest, gets victory in process

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NEW ORLEANS — This year’s NBA All-Star Dunk Contest was doomed to disappoint, it was never going to match last year’s epic battle. It started in a hole.

It never climbed out. Don’t take my word for it, check out what JaVale McGee thought.

Saturday was an underwhelming night of dunks punctuated by a couple of moments of brilliance.

The Pacers’ Glenn Robinson III had the most of those moments — which is why he won the event. His strong night started with his first dunk, which may well have been the best of the contest.

The final one from Robinson, the one that sealed the victory, may be the other best dunk of the competition — dunking over Paul George, the Pacers mascot, and a Pacers dancer.

“I originally planned for it just to be PG (Paul George),” Robinson said afterward. “I knew I had to bring out something special. We added the mascot and the cheerleader. I really just wanted to get up high and dunk that thing hard, man. My adrenaline was going. It felt like I was looking at the rim. All I knew was the crowd go crazy. I pointed like this because, man, everybody seemed to sleep on me, didn’t really think I was going to win this thing.”

Event favorite Aaron Gordon, who should have won a year ago, opened the contest with an innovative idea — a drone dunk — but he couldn’t execute it and there were a few attempts before he nailed it.

Gordon didn’t advance out of the first round, and his first dunk summed up the 2017 Dunk Contest — interesting ideas that didn’t quite pan out like planned. (To be fair, Gordon has been battling injuries recently, that may have thrown him off).

If it wasn’t going to be Gordon, a lot of people expected it to be the bouncy Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. who won, and he reached the Finals in part thanks to this spectacular dunk that woke the Smoothie King Center up.

DeAndre Jordan was okay, but without Chris Paul throwing him lobs it didn’t quite feel the same. Jordan can dunk with such power in game, but we didn’t see that Saturday.

In the end, it was Gordon who was making the plays.

“I’m not really a known dunker,” Robinson said. “I practiced. I prepared. I know I’m a jumper. And like I said, I’m a guy that stays out of the way. But when it’s time to shine, that’s my thing. That’s what I wanted to do. I knew all along I had some things planned, and I just wanted to show the world.”

Glenn Robinson III wins underwhelming dunk contest on over-people, below-rim dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — Glenn Robinson III won the dunk contest with the second-best dunk of the night, going over a few people and under the rim — a narrow path to slamming victory.

It would’ve rated as the event’s best dunk if he were truly under the rim rather than somewhat in front of it. And he did have the best body of work to win the contest.

But the best single dunk was still by runner-up Derrick Jones Jr., who went between the legs on a pass off the side of the backboard.

NBA stars shoot threes to raise $500,000 for Sager Strong Foundation in touching moment

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NEW ORLEANS — The spirit of Craig Sager is strong during All-Star weekend in The Big Easy and he’s going to get a spot in the Hall of Fame, deservedly so.

After Eric Gordon won the Three-Point Contest, he and the other finalists Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker stayed on the court to shoot threes to raise money for the Sager Strong Foundation — they would shoot threes for a minute and for each make the foundation would get $10,000. Then they brought out help — Reggie Miller, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, DJ Khaled, and others to knock down shots. That raised $130,000.

Stephen Curry tried to push that to $500,000, but it was Sager’s son that actually did it (with an assist from Shaquille O’Neal).

It was a touching moment for a great cause.

Derrick Jones Jr. catches pass off side of backboard, jams between-legs dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — With defending runner-up Aaron Gordon eliminated in the first round, Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. might be our best hope to save the dunk contest.