J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony

‘Melo says he had “heart to heart” talk with J.R. Smith

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J.R. Smith is expected to play in his first preseason game Friday night (the Knicks final one). He had knee surgery this summer, but he put it off until he had signed a new three-year, $18 million contract, which pushed the rehab back into training camp.

When the season starts Smith will miss the first five games due to a league suspension for testing positive for marijuana three times. Sort of like how Smith missed a playoff game against Boston after throwing an elbow to Jason terry’s head (and Smith’s production dropped off after that incident). And that’s not even getting into Smith’s interesting offseason.

Carmelo Anthony wants to win and if that’s going to happen in New York Smith has to step up, he has to be more efficient. So Anthony basically told Smith it’s time to grow up. Those are my words, not his, here is how Anthony phrased it to Newsday.

“I had a heart-to-heart with him,” Anthony said Thursday at the Tools for Teachers Initiative in Brooklyn, an event involving his foundation and a real estate development company where school supplies were distributed to over 100 teachers from all five boroughs. “I had a talk that two men should have. We had that conversation. It seemed like he took heed to what I was saying, so we shall see….

“The time is now,” Anthony said. “You’ve got to want to help yourself. Everybody else wants to help you, but if you don’t want to help yourself, then that’s defeating the purpose.”

Anthony isn’t the only one with a little tough love for Smith, coach Mike Woodson said he needed to grow up. Anthony and Smith were teammates in Denver before both landing in New York. There’s a relationship there. Anthony said he saw maturation from Smith last season but there needs to be more. “Turn over a new leaf” was Anthony’s cliché phrase.

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Once he comes back from suspension, Smith needs to just put this all in the past and move on. He’s the defending Sixth Man of the Year in the NBA and if the Knicks want to win the Atlantic or advance past the second round of the playoffs, he’s going to have to be all that and find a way to do it a little more efficiently. He can’t just be a fearless gunner.

So we shall see…

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
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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.)

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

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:

Splash Brothers showtime: Klay Thompson beats Stephen Curry to win Three-Point Contest

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TORONTO — It came down to the Splash Brothers. Because of course it did. Just like last season.

In the final round of the NBA All-Star Saturday Three-Point Shootout, defending champ Stephen Curry hit his first eight shots and set the bar high with 23 points — the best score of the night.

His backcourt teammate Klay Thompson responded by draining his last seven shots, which included the entire money rack, and put up 27 points — tying the event record.

That gave Thompson the upset win and the Three-Point Contest title.

Although, is it an upset if the second best shooter in the game beats the best?

“It was like déjà vu last year,” Thompson said. “Not gonna lie, I got nervous when he hit his first eight, and I didn’t think he was going to miss. But it was exciting, just coming back to Oakland [with the title], you know. Back-to-back years for Splash Brothers, it’s pretty cool.”

So does Thompson have bragging rights?

“(For) about 364 days, and then — but that’s a daily thing we do,” Thompson said. “We love to shoot against each other. You know, I’ve never been on a team with someone who shoots it better than me, so it’s a privilege to work with him every day. He makes me that much better.”

The Final round was two you expected — the Splash Brothers — plus one few did, Suns rookie Devin Booker.

Getting there was not simple. In the first round, Thompson set a high bar going first and putting up 22. Curry got hot in the middle, then hit the last two money balls to reach 21. James Harden and J.J. Redick ( who stayed behind the line this year) scored very solid 20s. Later 19-year-old rookie Booker put up a 20 to tie those two veterans. Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton (13 points) Portland’s C.J. McCollum (14) and home-town crowd favorite Raptor Kyle Lowry (15) got bounced. .

That left Harden, Redick, and McCollum in a tiebreaker, and the rookie calmly put up a 12 in 30 seconds to advance.

Booker took a step back in the final round with a 16.

Not that it mattered with the Splash Brothers in the building.