The Extra Pass: The best dunks of 2013; plus Tuesday’s recaps

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If the end of a year serves as a time for reflection and the remembrance of lessons learned, then let the video below serve as one last reminder for the small guards of the league. If LeBron James is coming at you on a break, move. If DeAndre Jordan is flying down the lane towards you, don’t jump. There’s no shame in getting dunked on — it happens to the best of us — but this is about self-preservation. Taking preventative measures and whatnot.

While 2013 gave us one of the greatest games and moments in NBA history, the dunks weren’t half bad either. Here’s NBA.com’s top-10 slams of the year:

—D.J. Foster

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J.R. Smith after it was leaked the Knicks were waiving his brother Chris.

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Wizards 106, Pistons 99: This was as good of a win for the Wizards as it was a bad loss for the Pistons. Detroit led by as many as 12 points in this one, but fell apart in a fourth quarter dominated by Washington, as evidenced by the 28-12 run they  put together over the game’s final 12 minutes. Former head coach and current ESPN/ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy has said on multiple occasions that this is “a make or miss league,” and that certainly seemed to be the case late in this one, as the Pistons created open looks but mostly couldn’t get them to fall. Brandon Jennings had an especially rough fourth, going just 1-of-6 in the period with two turnovers. Marcin Gortat came up with a huge block on a dunk attempt from Josh Smith with under a minute play that was key, before a nifty fadeaway jumper by John Wall on the ensuing possession sealed it. — Brett Pollakoff

Pelicans 110, Blazers 108: New Orleans had its skill players outplay those from Portland, and in the end that was the difference. LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard played with their usual level of brilliance, but Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis exceeded it on this night for the Pelicans. Davis proved his status as an elite defender on multiple possessions where he locked up Aldridge, and Holiday poured in 31 points to go along with 13 assists. The final minutes of this one were very entertaining, as Lillard and Tyreke Evans traded huge buckets with under a minute to play, with the shot from Evans ultimately deciding the contest. — BP

Mavericks 100, Timberwolves 98: Minnesota battled all the way back from a deficit of 21 p0ints, before Dallas ultimately regained control and held on for the victory. Shawn Marion had a game that not many believed he was still capable of, and finished with 32 points on 14-of-19 shooting, which included going 4-of-6 from three-point distance. Minnesota had the ball trailing by two with three seconds remaining, but Kevin Love’s attempt at the buzzer was ruled to b a clean block by the officials, despite the fact that plenty of contact appeared to take place. — BP

Bulls 95, Grizzlies 91: This was a battle between two teams facing an unfair amount of injury issues at this point of the season, and the Bulls were the ones who got enough out of their healthy performers to make the difference. Jimmy Butler matched Mike Conley with 26 points for game-high honors, and defensively Chicago held Zach Randolph to just 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting. Also? Chicago’s D.J. Augustin did this. — BP

Jazz 83, Bobcats 80: As fitting a game between two teams a combined 18 games below .500, this one was sloppy. But for the second time in recent weeks the Jazz beat the Bobcats, this time behind 21 points (15 in the second half) from Trey Burke, including the dagger lay-up to give us the final score. Yes, lay-up. Burke got by Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson’s help defense was as good as it has ever been (which is to say nonexistent) and the bucket was key for Utah. — Kurt Helin

Heat 97, Nuggets 94: Denver played well — they came in with a six-game losing streak but played their best game in some times and had a chance. Well, they did until the Nuggets scored just 17 points in fourth quarter. Meanwhile Miami got help from the supporting cast. Sure, LeBron James had 26 points and 10 assists but Ray Allen had 9 points in the fourth quarter Michael Beasley hit a key three as well off a LeBron kickout. It was enough to get the win. — KH

Suns 107, Clippers 88: Phoenix started off the game on an 11-1 run, started to really pull away in the second (led by 21) and by the fourth quarter this whole thing was garbage time. Phoenix simply outplayed the Clippers top to bottom, with Los Angeles only shooting 36.5 percent on the night. Here was the real difference in this game — Phoenix plays hard every night and plays coach Jeff Hornacek’s system; the Clippers are more talented but their commitment to consistent effort and playing the system isn’t there nightly. — KH

Report: Cavaliers trade Kyrie Irving to Celtics for Thomas, Crowder, Brooklyn pick

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Opening night Oct. 17, when the Boston Celtics visit the Cleveland Cavaliers, just got a more interesting.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have found a taker for Kyrie Irving — the Boston Celtics. The deal is done, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Amazingly, the Cavaliers and Celtics just traded the No. 1 and No. 60 (dead last) picks in the 2011 NBA draft.

The sides had discussed this trade in the past but Cleveland demanded Jayson Tatum in the deal, and that was the end of it. Things moved fast now because the Cavaliers came off that demand.

This is an emotional blow to a lot of Boston fans — they embraced the underdog, undersized Thomas as one of their own. They got back a younger player on a better contract who will age better, but Thomas is still a fan favorite. With good reason. He will be loved in Cleveland. But Celtics fans will come around.

Cleveland did as well as they could have realistically hoped for in an Irving trade — which is why this is a win for them. They get an All-NBA point guard in Isaiah Thomas with numbers similar last season to Irving to put next to LeBron James, and they add a quality wing defender in Jae Crowder who can help them against Boston and Golden State (plus Crowder is on a great contract). Cleveland remains the team to beat in the East and can make another run at the Warriors and a ring, then if LeBron leaves after the season as a free agent the Cavaliers can decide whether to tear it down and rebuild or bring Thomas back (on less than max deal).

Here’s another reason Dan Gilbert wins.

Boston may like this deal, but Cleveland remains the team to beat in the East today — and they will have a very high pick in the upcoming draft (which is deep with quality bigs).

Boston’s starting five is very good but more focused on the future — Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, and Al Horford, with Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum coming off the bench. And they still have the Lakers’ first round pick next year (protected).  That is not enough to beat a healthy Cavaliers team next season, but if LeBron leaves in 2018 Boston is the team poised to take charge in the East. Danny Ainge and the Celtics have been playing the long game and this fits with that.

Boston can argue they won the trade because they got the best player in Irving — and he is going to look even better in Brad Steven’s system. After next season this can work for Boston. For next season, Boston got a player in Irving who put up marginally better numbers than Thomas, is a marginally better defender, and they gave up a lot of assets to do it. Short term this is a win for Cleveland, and maybe long term depending on the Brooklyn pick. But Boston has to like where they are sitting — especially if they can re-sign Irving in 2019.

Reports: Cleveland, Boston in “serious” trade talks for Kyrie Irving

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Among the list of teams that have the pieces to offer Cleveland everything they are asking for in a Kyrie Irving trade, the Boston Celtics might be at the top of the list. They can send back a quality point guard in Isaiah Thomas, they have a number of rotation players who can help now, they have the Brooklyn pick next year or the Lakers’ pick (protected), and they have young stars such as Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum who could be thrown in a deal.

The question is, would the two top teams in the East want to do business with each other, potentially helping the other out? Can you see Dan Gilbert helping the Celtics? Danny Ainge helping the Cavaliers?

The two sides are at least talking seriously, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The latest buzz from reports and sources is the deal is Thomas, Crowder, and the Brooklyn unprotected pick for Irving.

I get why Boston would want Irving over Thomas — he’s younger, taller, and has a couple of years left on his current contract. Plus, if Boston is going all in for a ring Irving is a fit — the guy knows how to win. I get why Cleveland would want Thomas back in an Irving trade, it puts a scoring point guard next to LeBron James and keeps them as the team to beat in the East next season.

The unprotected first-round Brooklyn pick is a big chip. Boston could offer the Lakers’ pick (protected by the Sixers), depending on who else is involved.

But it would be a mistake for Boston to give up Jae Crowder in the deal — they need his wing defense against Cleveland and, theoretically, Golden State. Crowder would make Cleveland much better. Plus Crowder is on a good contract. Boston would prefer to send Thomas, Ante Zizic, whichever pick, and some players to round out the deal. That may not be enough for Cleveland.

If this deal happens as Wojnarowski reports it, to my eye, Boston would be getting somewhat better production next season from Irving that they would Thomas, but they are giving up a lot of other assets for that limited improvement. Is it really worth it?

Danny Ainge has a long history of getting serious in talks, asking for a lot, then deciding it wasn’t enough and pulling back.

That said, the pieces can be made to work. But do these teams want to deal with one another? Maybe so.

Mike D’Antoni thinks “synergy” between James Harden, Chris Paul will be beautiful thing

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It’s been one of the most interesting questions of the offseason — how will Chris Paul and James Harden share the ball and control of the Rockets?

In particular, how will they do it in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo system that made Harden an MVP candidate and is not the calculated, surgical style that CP3 uses to carve defenses up?

Mike D’Antoni isn’t too worried about it. In an interview with our old friend Matt Moore of CBS Sports, the 2017 NBA Coach of the Year said the greats figure out how to work things out.

Team USA is an interesting example. Mike Krzyzewski wants to play fast (the USA is far more athletic than any team they face, they should take advantage of that) but he gives his players freedom within that outline to do what works. D’Antoni sounds like he wants to give Paul and Harden some space to figure out how to play together, what works for them. (The advantage is Team USA plays inferior opponents, often vastly inferior, and that will not be the same case for the Rockets in the NBA.)

Do the same rules apply if/when Carmelo Anthony gets traded to Houston? Probably.

D’Antoni is rightfully high on the Rockets’ offensive potential.

The real question is on the other end of the court. The Rockets were a middle of the pack defensive team last season (18th in points allowed per possession), but they have added quality defenders in Paul, P.J. Tucker, and Luc Mbah a Moute. Can the Rockets become a top-10 defensive team, one with players who can match up with Golden State? Because we know the Warriors are going to finish the season top three on both ends of the court.

It’s going to be a fascinating season in Houston.

Morris twins have day in court next week on 2015 assault charge

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Back in 2015, brothers Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris — both then playing for the Suns — were investigated and eventually charged with felony aggravated assault joining three other men to allegedly beat up Erik Hood at a recreational basketball tournament in the Phoenix area (hood ended up in the hospital with a broken nose and other injuries). The motivation allegedly had been Hood sending “inappropriate” text messages to the Morris brothers’ mother. From the start, both brothers have denied any involvement.

Next week, the brothers will get their day in court. The Boston Globe has the details (Marcus now plays for the Celtics, Markieff for the Wizards).

Celtics forward Marcus Morris and his brother Markieff, each facing aggravated assault charges stemming from an incident in 2015, will get their day in court on Aug. 28 in Arizona.

Often cases like this are pled down to a lesser charge that the defendant accepts, and that usually happens close to trial. However, it is unclear if the Morris twins would be willing to do that — any admission of guilt would likely come with some level of suspension from the NBA in addition to whatever punishment is ordered by the court. If convicted of a felony, each Morris brother would face a minimum 10-game suspension from the NBA.

If the Morris twins were not involved, they are right to fight this. Either way, it will head to court next week.