2013 Slam Dunk Contest: Jeremy Evans will defend title against Green, Bledsoe, Ross, Faried, and James White

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Utah’s Jeremy Evans — the human pogo stick — will be back to defend his All-Star weekend Sprite Dunk Contest title.

But a repeat will not be easy because the NBA has lined up some high flyers to step up to challenge him — Gerald Green of the Pacers, James White of the Knicks, Eric Bledsoe of the Clippers, Terrence Ross of the Raptors, and Kenneth Faried of the Nuggets. It all takes place All-Star Saturday night, Feb. 16 — and on paper this should be fun.

A lot of casual fans will look at the lineup and shrug. Who are these guys? The six participants lack the star power the league would love — LeBron James has said no, and Blake Griffin is not going to try and top himself — but if you follow the game you know these guys may be the best choices for this event. Guys like White and Green are dunk contest legends in other venues.

Then there is Evans, the little used Jazz forward (he’s stuck behind a good and deep front line) but is tall and skinny and jumps out of the building. He won it all last year with this dunk.

He’s going to have to top himself this year because there are some smaller guys who can get up — and little guys dunking usually beats big guys dunking.

That starts with Indiana’s Gerald Green, the 6’8″ forward who was built for this competition. He may have the best hops in the NBA — he can get his entire head over the rim. He has put together a collection of monster dunks in the past year or so, here is a personal favorite.

James “Flight” White is another guy where fans watching at home on TNT may say “who?” but who people who follow the game go “oh yes, nice choice.” White has bounced around the NBA and Europe since 2006 and he’s still getting paid because he is a freak athlete. And freak athletes can dunk the rock. White won a D-League dunk contest, he won one when he played in Russia, and he’s a plague all over YouTube with dunks. Here White is winning a dunk contest in Europe last season.

Finally there is Eric Bledsoe, who can get overlooked in the Lob City show with the Clippers but who can get up and throw down with the best of the guards in the league. Everybody likes his dunks… well, except Mark Cuban in this clip. And really, Cuban’s reaction is the reason to watch this.

Ross and Faried can each bring it, as well. This might be one of the more exciting dunk contests in recent years.

Report: Celtics focused on adding All-Star-caliber frontcourt player

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Isaiah Thomas said he he’d happily forgo a renegotiation-and-extension if the Celtics use their cap space to upgrade their roster.

Where are they looking?

A. Sherrod Blakey of CSN New England:

Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.

In the last three years, 22 frontcourt players have been All-Stars. Boston already has one: Al Horford. Could the Celtics land any of the other 22?

Almost certainly unavailable

Free agency

Trade

Free agency or trade

  • Pau Gasol (Though Gasol said he’d opt in, San Antonio might try pushing him out to pursue Paul. If Gasol opts in, the Spurs could also trade him to clear space for Paul.)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (The Mavericks have a $25 million team option on Nowitzki for next season. Nowitzki going to Boston, via trade or free agency, would probably require a mutual agreement between Dallas and him that pursuing a title elsewhere is the right way for him to end his career.)

Report: Spurs exploring Chris Paul pursuit

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The Clippers are taking the Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumors seriously.

And apparently so are the Spurs.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs are exploring the feasibility of making a free-agent run at All-Star point guard Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN.

San Antonio must complete three difficult objectives to land Paul:

  • Clear cap space. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to dump two of them to clear max room. Can they convince Gasol to reverse course and opt out, maybe re-signing at a major discount? Would they trade Parker, who has meant so much to the franchise? Would they deal Aldridge or Green, players who would make major contributions to a Leonard/Paul-led team?
  • Convince Paul to accept a projected max of $152 million over four years rather than the projected $205 million he could get over five years from the Clippers. Although the annual difference is just $3 million and Paul could sign another deal in four years, it’s unlikely he recoups that at age 36.
  • Convince Paul to leave big-market L.A. for small-market San Antonio. Remember, Paul forced his way from small-market New Orleans then ascended into one of the NBA’s biggest endorsement stars.

The Spurs boast a fantastic basketball culture, and Leonard and Popovich make great partners in a championship chase. There are reasons San Antonio is gaining traction with Paul.

But there’s still a lot for the Spurs to overcome. Will they? At least they’re trying rather than just dismissing the plot as unfeasible.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.

Detroit’s Van Gundy honored for cooperation with media, fans

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons has won the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with media and fans, as well as excellence on the court.

The Professional Basketball Writers Association announced the winner Friday. Van Gundy was one of five finalists for the award. The others were Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Hornets, Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets, David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics.

Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors won the award last season.