Stan Van Gundy

Stan Van Gundy talks player minutes, criticism of resting guys

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Stan Van Gundy still is speaking his mind.

The former NBA coach and now employee of NBC Sports (doing some college color commentary, among other things) doesn’t get why so many coaches are getting fired, he still is tight with Dwight Howard, he doesn’t really think the media can impact a team (unless the team lets it), and he thinks about some of the bigger-picture issues in coaching.

Among those is the minutes players play, and the criticism coaches get for playing guys too much or too little. Speaking with Ethan Sherwood Strauss for TrueHoop Van Gundy went on a little rant about minutes and the perception of it.

The second thing that’s curious, could be in all sports is supposedly now, if we go back 30 or 40 years, maybe only 20. Supposedly now, our athletes are better, they’re bigger, stronger faster athletes.

We’ve got better training, OK. We’ve got better nutrition. We’ve got all this technology. Our travel is a lot better. They’re not traveling commercial. Everything is set up better, and yet, they’re not capable of playing the minutes or pitching the innings that guys did 30 or 40 years ago! I don’t get that. And it’s not like players are hurt less now than players in those years. Those guys used to play every day. They played 82 games, they played 40 minutes a game. Now, supposedly all these great improvements we made, our athletes aren’t capable of doing that….

One of the knocks when I was working for Pat Riley was, “Oh, his practices were so hard. You go to him, it’s going to shorten your career.” Then I look around and say, well, Patrick Ewing played a damn long time. Charles Oakley played a damn long time. And Derek Harper played in his 30s and played a long time. And Mo Cheeks. And it’s, “C’mon!” Where’s the evidence of this?

Van Gundy points to Gregg Popovich resting guys but having the knowledge that his team and players are going to make the playoffs — he has a luxury to do this that Rick Carlisle in Dallas or Rick Adelman in Minnesota may not.

I think one of the key things not discussed is the level of play and the smaller margin for error.

I’m not saying today’s players are better than the guys 30 years ago, but when the Lakers and Warriors (or Knicks and Sixers or whatever) played back then both teams were tired and if the shooting percentage dipped or the game slowed down a little it was just kind of accepted as part of it. Now, that drop off could and would be exploited by an opponent and leads to a loss. And if the guys are worn down come the playoffs it will show up fast.

So the reduced minutes is less about “can you make Kyrie Irving play 40 minutes a night?” and more “at what point does a fatigued Irving not play at the level he needs to for this team?” If he is tired at the end of the game and the other team’s star is fresh, who wins a close game? I’d be curious what Van Gundy would say about that argument.

But it’s situational and varies player to player, team to team. There are no rules here, which is why fans and media will always second guess coaches. Fair or not.

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.