Deron Williams, Avery Johnson

Slumping Deron Williams throws some blame toward Nets system

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Remember how Deron Williams felt confined in the Jazz “flex” offense and reportedly his clashes with Jerry Sloan led to the long-time coach’s exit?

In hindsight, that offense wasn’t so bad.

In his last season in Utah (53 games before a surprising mid-season trade) Williams was averaging 21.3 points a game on 45.8 percent shooting, while dishing out 9.7 assists per game. He had a PER of 22.1. In contrast, this season in Brooklyn he is scoring 17 points a game on 38.8 percent shooting, with 8.3 assists per game and a PER of 17.4. Pick a category and Williams is worse at it after the trade, pretty consistently across the board.

As Ethan Sherwood Straus noted recently at Bleacher Report, part of the problem is Williams is not getting to the rim as often — that last season in Utah Williams got 4.3 shots a game inside the restricted area, this season that is 2.5 per game. He’s replaced that mostly with threes and Williams is shooting just 29.9 percent from three.

So now it’s Avery Johnson’s system that is part of the problem. It’s hard to take Williams’ comments any other way. Via Howard Beck at the New York Times.

“That system was a great system for my style of play,” Williams said of the “flex” offense run by Utah Coach Jerry Sloan. “I’m a system player. I love Coach Sloan’s system. I loved the offense there….

(Williams) was asked to compare the offense used by the Nets with the one he ran in Utah. “Is it as good as there? No,” he said. “There’s just more one-on-one and isos” in Johnson’s offense.

As Beck notes, the Nets have added some “UCLA” sets to the offense (something a lot of NBA teams run) to mimic some of the flex motion.

Williams may not have asked for a trade to New Jersey but the Jazz felt they had to move him before he just left. They played it smart, they did not get themselves into a Dwight Howard situation. Williams wanted some freedom in the offense, now he’s got it.

He says it’s just a matter of adjusting.

“I’m used to just movement,” he said, “so I’m still trying to adjust.”

But, Williams said, “I believe I can adapt to anything. We’re still a young team. Things don’t happen overnight. It’s still just December.”

We will see.

Watch it again: Epic dunk contest duel between Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon

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TORONTO — I am always hesitant to say a player/team/situation is one of the best of ever because the history of the NBA is filled with greats. We tend to overstate how good something current can be.  That said…

That was one of the best dunk contests ever.

Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon put on a show for the ages. Gordon had the best dunks of the night (in my opinion), but LaVine is consistently amazing, every dunk he does is flat out ridiculous.

Officially, LaVine won. In reality, we all won. Enjoy watching it one more time.

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.