Fighting 11-game losing streak, Bobcats coach trying to teach young team professionalism

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The Bobcats are not a good basketball team. We knew that going into the season, even if it was masked when they won five out of six at one point in mid November. They were a young team, not a very talented team, and you knew the regression to the mean was coming.

But an 11-game losing streak is harsh.

Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap is there to develop young players like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bizmack Biyombo, Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson into a team that will not be so bad in a few years (and with a few more players).

And so when you have an 11-game losing streak, you try to use the frustration to teach the lessons of being a professional as a player, he said before his team took on the Lakers in the first of a four-games in five days road trip.

“You listen to their frustration. You acknowledge it. And then you move off of it to what is to be done next,” Dunlap said. “I think that here is a formula within this, I don’t care how tough it gets. You have to give them clear direction, one. And you have to have energy. You have to be the same person every day…

“I have been unrelenting in my energy every day. It’s okay to be frustrated, it’s how you handle the frustration.”

But make no mistake, Dunlap is frustrated, as are the veteran Bobcats such as Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions. Dunlap speaks like a coach of a young team, trying to teach with each step.

“I think it’s frustrating for everybody, but I think it’s how you manage the frustration, and I think you want the same person in terms of the coaching staff in front of the players every day,” Dunlap said. “So if they are up or down, you recognize the frustration.

“There’s nothing like work to cleanse the soul. And also a clear direction — I think you have to tell people how they are going to win… I think we do that every day. We have a certain style that we play and we haven’t backed off of that one iota.

“And on our individual work. I think when you are 18 or 19 or 20 or 21 you have got to work in this league in order to develop. Feet, hands, reading defenses.”

The Bobcats are doing none of those skills particularly well, and certainly not consistently. But it’s about learning, developing habits, putting together some core players that can be around in a few years.

It’s the thankless part of the coaching job. Especially when you are losing 11 in a row with a potential for that streak to grow.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell wins throwback Dunk Contest with Vince Carter tribute

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LOS ANGELES — The 2018 Dunk Contest went retro.

And it worked.

The throwbacks started with Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. going quick-change to pay tribute to his father, the 1984 winner of the Dunk Contest.

Nance later had the best dunk of the night, but it wasn’t enough in the face of Utah’s Donovan Mitchell‘s strong and consistent night highlight by his throwback dunk — donning a Vince Carter Toronto dinosaur jersey and doing VC’s famed 360 dunk — which got Mitchell the 48 points he needed to hold-off Nance and win the contest. It was over.

“Growing up I was a big dunker,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t really much of a basketball player. I just dunked and played defense, and I watched a lot of Vince’s videos. I’ve been seeing what he’s been doing all year at his age, which is incredible.

“So I figured, you know, at my size if I was able to get it, it would be a great dunk and a way to finish it, you know. And actually, funny story is I haven’t made that dunk in like half a year. I tried it in practice the past two days and tried it this morning, didn’t make it. Tried it last night, didn’t make it… But to be able to make it was why I was so excited.”

Earlier in the night, Mitchell had done another tribute worn a Darrell Griffith jersey — Utah’s Dr. Dunkenstien, who went to Louisville like Mitchell — for an off-the-side-of-the-backboard jumping over Kevin Hart dunk.

“You know, just knowing your history, I think, is the biggest thing,” Mitchell said of the throwbacks. “Just understanding where this game originated, I guess the OGs of the game, I guess you would call it. But just understanding. Even if it’s just dunking. Whether it’s dunking in the NBA in general, Darrell Griffith, we went to the same school in college. I know Darrell very well. Both got drafted by the Jazz, and he was an incredible player. To be able to pay homage to him meant a lot to me.”

For my money, Nance had the dunk of the night, his first in the Finals, a double off-the-backboard throwdown that you had to see on replay to get (it wasn’t as evident in the building what he had done until it was re-shown on the big screen).

It was a fun contest all night long.

Mitchell (the leader in the Rookie of the Year race) started it off brilliantly — he brought out a second backboard, and did a self-alley-oop off one to the other.

Larry Nance Jr. did his tribute to his father with his first dunk, and on his second one came from behind the backboard, going around the world, and threw it down hard. That got him into the Finals.

Oladipo missed all three of his dunks in the first round, which almost doomed his night. He, however, did a dunk wearing the Black Panther mask for his second dunk, which impressed.

Mitchell said he wanted to beat Dennis Smith Jr. because the Mavericks’ point guard had beaten him in dunk contests for years. Smith had one monster dunk, when he went between the legs and threw it down hard and got the full 50. It just wasn’t enough to get Smith to the Finals.

Nance started off the final round by bringing out his father again to throw an alley-oop to a windmill. Mitchell responded with a self-alley-oop to a windmill that was flat-out wicked. That got Mitchell a 50-46 lead after one round of the Finals.

Then Mitchell went to Vince Carter and “it was over.”

Larry Nance Jr. throws alley-oop to himself, throws alley-oop to himself (video)

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LOS ANGELES — Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. immediately motioned for the replay to be shown of this dunk. It was necessary to properly appreciate it.

Best dunk of the night.

Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest, though.

Larry Nance Jr. plays tribute to father — rock-the-cradle dunk in Suns uniform

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LOS ANGELES — Back in 1984, high-flying Larry Nance Sr. won the first NBA All-Star Dunk Contest with this set of dunks — most famously a rock-the-cradle move.

Larry Nance Jr. came into the 2018 Dunk Contest and went nostalgic — all the way back to the Suns’ throwback uniform and the same dunk.

That and a good second dunk got him into the Dunk Contest finals. In that round, Nance Sr. threw an alley-oop to his son for the windmill.

Donovan Mitchell throws alley-oop to himself – off second backboard (video)

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LOS ANGELES – Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell set a high standard with the first slam of the 2018 dunk contest.

Very creative. Very well-executed.

Looks like all that preparation paid off.