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Dwight Howard keeping candy away from Rockets teammates

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Dwight Howard improved after after the All-Star break last season – before All-Star break: 16.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game; after All-Star break: 18.4 points and 13.6 rebounds per game – and the reason is no secret: His back got healthier.

But that wasn’t the only factor.

Howard told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com he also started eating healthier around the season’s mid-point. He reduced the amount of sugar he was consuming – candy, Gatorade and even fruit – and focused on better foods.

Now, he wants the Rockets to join him.

Howard in a Q&A with Berger:

Q: Since you’ve been here, have your teammates been curious about what you’re doing and wanted to try it? Or do they think you’re crazy?

A: They think I’m crazy. They’re young and they want to have the candy and stuff like that. But I just tell them, ‘You might not feel it now. But once you get a little bit older, stuff is not going to work like you want it to work. You’re not going to be able to just come in the gym and be loose and stuff like that. So you’ve got to start doing little things now that will prolong your career.’ They were more receptive to that. But they hated the fact that there was no candy on the plane. I just tell them I’m just trying to look out for their well being because I don’t want them to get injured and have to sit out, miss games or miss a season or miss a summer because of an injury. So if they can kind of tackle that problem early, they’ll be fine.

Q: So you’ve had an influence on what kind of food is available on the plane and in the locker room and hotel?

A: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

Q: How so? How did you get that done?

A: I just talked to the trainers and also talked to the GM about it, making sure that guys eat healthy. They might not feel it now during the season, but when the playoffs come and they’re eating healthy, the more they eat the stronger their bodies will get. And that’s when they’re going to feel the difference. When other teams are tired, we’ll be able to go that extra mile because we have that extra energy that’s been stored by eating the right food.

Here’s a tip for Howard. Want to motivate your teammates to eat better? Bring up money. It won’t resonate with every teammate, but there’s no better way to motivate as many of them as possible.

Howard was going to get a max contract this offseason no matter what. It didn’t matter whether or not he played better while eating healthier. Even a Howard with poor eating habits was more valuable than a max contract.

But he did play better while eating healthier, and that distinction matters for most players. For most players, when they play better, they make more money.

There’s a lot that goes into being a successful NBA player, but physical tools are a huge part of the equation. The players who keep their bodies in prime shape earn more and earn for longer.

Everyone faces good reasons to eat better, and everyone has unique motivations. But for NBA players, money is an especially relevant factor.

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.