Lamar Odom Clippers

Del Negro says Odom can still play, but that’s not what is important right now

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Lamar Odom the basketball player is and should be a secondary thought right now.

It is Lamar Odom the person that has hit a deep downward spiral, one that has culminated in a drug problem and a DUI arrest, who needs help. There are friends from the game around him trying to reach him, trying to help him back up on his feet. Whether he is listening to them or not, that is the question. But there is a lot of concern and genuine well wishes for Odom around the league — he was well liked by teammates, media and coaches.

Former Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro is one of those, and he told the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Dwyer that basketball will still be there for Odom.

“He is a good guy, a good teammate,” Del Negro said from his home in Phoenix. “Everybody liked him. There were no issues. I understand he is going through a lot right now. It is never easy. He has always had some difficult obstacles and they weigh on him a lot. You feel bad, but you hope he is all right…

“Lamar can still play,” he said. “It’s not the basketball skills that are the problem. Once he gets himself in shape and gets his mind wrapped around basketball, he can help somebody.”

That’s not what all teams think — one executive told the Times “Lamar can’t play anymore.” Certainly his struggles on the court the last couple seasons and the fact he is 34 make you think a comeback is a longshot.

Maybe that comeback can help motivate him. Odom has had advantages in life but to know him is to know his life was not easy — his father was a drug addict, his mother died of cancer when he was 12, his child died of sudden infant death syndrome at six months, and while in New York for the funeral of one family member a town car he was a passenger in hit and killed a 15-year-old cyclist.

Odom has made his made his share of mistakes (the drug suspension early in his NBA career), gone through a lot and he persevered. That made him more than just another two-dimensional player, but someone real. Someone you could relate to because none of us have been spared some degree of tragedy. He was a case where you could hope for redemption.

I still do.

While I would love to see Odom back on the court some day, what I really just want to see is him and his laugh back around the game. I want that for him because it means he will have persevered again.

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

Minnesota Timberwolves Zach LaVine slam dunks the ball during the NBA all-star skills competition in Toronto on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Associated Press
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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.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: