Damian Lillard, Paul George

2014 Slam Dunk Contest the most star-studded ever

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It’s been 14 years since the Slam Dunk Contest has featured multiple All-Stars.

Heck, in the last two years, no All-Stars have participated.

But after years of pleas, the NBA has finally assembled a Dunk Contest field that includes the game’s top talent. Paul George, Damian Lillard and John Wall headline the 2014 event – matching the most All-Stars ever to participate.

By volume, this Dunk Contest is special. Only 1988 (Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler) and 1985 (Jordan, Julius Erving and Larry Nance) have featured this many All-stars.

But percentage, it’s unprecedented.

The Dunk Contest field has varied in size over the years, ranging from four to nine players. This year will have six participants – Terrence Ross, Harrison Barnes and Ben McLemore have also been invited – which means half the competitors are All-Stars. That’s never happened before.

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The last time even two All-Stars competed in the Dunk Contest was 2000, when Vince Carter and Jerry Stackhouse dunked Saturday then played Sunday. The NBA really needed a boost that season. After three years without an All-Star in the Dunk Contest, the league dropped the event completely before reviving it in 2000.

And, with the multiple All-Stars participating, the dunks were the best ever.*

Carter won the event, slipping his elbow through the rim on one dunk and then catching a bounce pass, putting the ball between his legs and dunking on another. Really, though, the whole display was impressive.

*Only the 1988 Dunk Contest could make an argument, but that one was great more due to the dunking rivalry between Jordan and Wilkins than the actual dunks. Don’t get me wrong. The dunks were great in 1988, too. They were just a little better in 2000.

This year, instead of just two All-Stars like in 2000, we have three.

Are George, Lillard and Wall NBA’s biggest stars? No. The league didn’t reel in LeBron James, who would have been the biggest catch.

But that’s not a fair standard.

Just two players have ever competed in the Dunk Contest after finishing better than 10th in MVP voting – Erving and Jordan.

Erving entered the first two NBA Dunk Contests, 1984 and 1985, but his best dunking and playing days were behind him. If Erving, who won the 1976 ABA Dunk Contest, had begun his professional career in an NBA that had a Dunk Contest, he likely would have participated during his first few seasons and then outgrown it.

Jordan reached such great heights at such a young age, he rose up the honor list quicker than he could bow out of the Dunk Contest. But once he won his first MVP, he never competed in the Dunk Contest again.

Most of the great stars who participated in the Dunk Contest – players like Kobe Bryant, Clyde Drexler and Scottie Pippen – didn’t become great stars until after they participated in the Dunk Contest. We remember their Dunk Contest showings and their superstar statuses and conflate the two, but they really came at different points in the players’ careers.

Maybe Paul George, Damian Lillard or John Wall will eventually become megastars and get treated the same way.

For now, we know those three are at least stars of the moment, as their inclusion in the All-Star Game shows. That they’re also competing in the Dunk Contest puts the 2014 event in historical footing.

Everyone yearning for more of the NBA’s stars in the Dunk Contest has gotten their wish. Now, we’ll see whether that actually translates into better dunks.

Corey Brewer: “James (Harden) is going to play defense this year”

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 18:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets walks across the court during their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Toyota Center on March 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  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.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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James Harden‘s defense is not as bad as its reputation.

Well, at least it wasn’t two seasons ago — his near MVP season he was in good enough shape that he could put in a respectable effort on that end and still handle his massive offensive load. There were still some mental lapses, but his focus was better and his improvement lifted the team defense. Last season, he regressed back to youtube “highlight” defense Harden — his conditioning was not where it needed to be, he didn’t expend as much effort on that end, and it showed.

Harden got a massive contract extension this summer, and Dwight Howard is Atlanta’s problem — now Harden has to lead the Rockets. By example. Corey Brewer told ESPN you’re going to see that on defense.

“I think this year he’s going to play better defense, We’re going to let the past be in the past. It’s the future of the Rockets, man. James is going to play defense this year.”

We’re all Missourians on this one: Show me.

Remember that the Rockets will be out and running — Mike D’Antoni is the coach now, and Daryl Morey is going to get the up tempo ball he wants (which Kevin McHale had them doing, but Harden didn’t like him so…). D’Antoni’s teams in Phoenix played better defense than their reputation — points per possession they were middle of the pack — but that has never been his focus.

Will Harden be able to run like he needs to on offense and still defend at a reasonable level?

If he can, it’s a big step toward the Rockets being a dangerous team in the West because if he does it others will follow. Otherwise, every Rockets game will be a shootout, which is entertaining but not going to get a team deep into the playoffs.

 

Watch Drake hit a half court shot while doing a situp

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26:  Singer Drake celebrates after Terrance Ross #31 of the Toronto Raptors sinks a 3-pointer in the second half of Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Indiana Pacers during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on April 26, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, 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.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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I can see the questions on Twitter/in the comments already so let me save you some time.

Because it’s summer.

Because it’s Drake (he’s a celebrity and an NBA hanger-on with some quasi-official position with the Raptors).

Because Stephen Curry did it, too.

Because what other hoops are you watching on a late August afternoon?

And besides, you clicked on it. You know you want to see it.

So here it is, Drake, hitting a halfcourt shot while doing a sit up. Enjoy.

FOR THE KIA!!!!! @highlighthub @bleacherreport

A video posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

Mario Chalmers says he’s cleared to play

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers moves the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, in Washington. Chalmers was ejected in the first half. The Wizards won 100-91. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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Mario Chalmers was thriving with the Grizzlies after a midseason trade from the Heat when a torn Achilles ended his season.

Not the way Chalmers wanted to enter free agency.

Still unsigned, he says he’s progressing.

Chalmers:

Can he go 100%, though? If not, when?

A few teams could use another point guard. If Chalmers shows his health, he belongs in someone’s rotation. But that might require taking a low-paying deal and working his way up from the third point guard spot – or even just onto the regular-season roster.

Report: John Wall ‘rankled’ by James Harden’s high-paying Rockets contract

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards is defended by James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets in the second half at Verizon Center on March 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. 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. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Bradley Beal isn’t the only player bothering John Wall.

James Harden – who’s earning a lot of money from the Rockets and adidas – is drawing the ire of the Wizards point guard.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:

One league source familiar with Wall’s state of mind simply put it this way: “Wall’s got jealousy issues. He’s always upset with someone who makes more money than him.”

A front office executive tells The Ringer that Wall was “rankled” after Harden signed a four-year, $118 million extension with the Rockets.

O’Connor also pointed out this line from Nick DePaula of Yahoo Sports on Wall rejected adidas’ offer:

“He wanted Harden money,” a source told The Vertical.

I wonder how Wall feels about Beal’s max contract, which pays much more than Wall’s deal. Wall didn’t like Reggie Jackson, another lesser player, earning the same amount as him.

The union rejecting cap smoothing in light of the new national TV contracts has certainly adversely affected Wall, who locked in long-term just before the salary cap explosion became known. As other players sign huge contracts, he’s stuck on his old-money deal.

Washington could’ve renegotiated and extended Wall’s contract, but it would have been more complicated than Harden’s arrangement. Wall has three years remaining to what was previously two for Harden. How much extra money would the Wizards have paid Wall over the next three years just to get him committed for one more year? Instead, they signed Ian Mahinmi, Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith.

I’m also unsure Wall would’ve accepted an extension. He doesn’t seem overly happy in Washington, and a raise via renegotiation was coming only if Wall provided something in return – an additional year of team control added to his contract.

And don’t lose track of this: Harden is better than Wall.

I don’t mind Wall monitoring other players’ contracts. That jealousy or whatever you want to call it has driven Wall to become a star NBA player. Whatever motivation works.

But demanding Harden’s deal is unrealistic. The Wizards also ought to be mindful of how Beal’s new contract affects chemistry, but that’s their problem.

Wall’s issue – as a player, not endorser – is primarily theoretical. He’s tied to his current contract, and lesser players will earn more than him due simply to timing. He must find a way to make peace with that.