Mason Plumlee wants you to know Duke, Nike had nothing to do with him making Team USA

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Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee did not expect to be in Spain right now with Team USA. He was invited to the Las Vegas training camp as part of the USA Select team — the group of young players that the big guns go against. Basically young sparring partners.

But he impressed and more importantly he fit as a role player — other players described his style as “easy to play with.” DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond are more athletic and talented (and they are playing more) but Plumlee just kept making the right plays and providing needed size. Mike Krzyzewski had Plumlee for four years at Duke and told PBT he was surprised by his level of play.

In the end Plumlee made the 12-man roster while guys like Kyle Korver and Damian Lillard did not. Team USA went with four centers on the roster.

That led to conspiracy theories in some corners of the Internet. One, that he went to Duke and that’s why he (and Kyrie Irving) made the roster over Lillard. Second, Nike has a lot of influence over Team USA and Plumlee is a Nike guy while Lillard is an Adidas star.

A journalist in Spain asked Plumlee about those questions and he politely shot them down reports Ball in Europe (via Eye on Basketball):

“I’m very proud that I went to Duke and I’m very proud that I wear Nike, and that has nothing to do with it,” Plumlee said, via Ball in Europe. “If you were at our practices and our training camp, anybody that was there, they would see why I made the team.”

My problem with conspiracy theories are that in some corners of the Internet people find a conspiracy in the Pope always being Catholic. The Web can be a place where logic and reason don’t always find a foothold. But the whispers about Plumlee and played into long-running conspiracies that existed already — and I agree Nike has had real influence with Team USA over the years.

The problem here is that Plumlee fits. He’s a legitimate choice. He’s the guy at the end of the bench — he’s played just 16 minutes through two games — but he has a place. When it came time to assemble the roster Coach K had his rotation bigs set (Cousins is getting good run off the bench) but he was looking for specialists to round out the roster. Looking ahead to teams like Lithuania and Spain with NBA-caliber front lines that stand in the USA’s path, Coach K opted for size. There’s a real logic to that. It fits.

But logic and conspiracy theories rarely go hand-in-hand. So put on your tinfoil hat and think what you want of Plumlee. He doesn’t care, he’s in Spain and wearing the uniform.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell wins throwback Dunk Contest with Vince Carter tribute

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LOS ANGELES — The 2018 Dunk Contest went retro.

And it worked.

The throwbacks started with Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. going quick-change to pay tribute to his father, the 1984 winner of the Dunk Contest.

Nance later had the best dunk of the night, but it wasn’t enough in the face of Utah’s Donovan Mitchell‘s strong and consistent night highlight by his throwback dunk — donning a Vince Carter Toronto dinosaur jersey and doing VC’s famed 360 dunk — which got Mitchell the 48 points he needed to hold-off Nance and win the contest. It was over.

“Growing up I was a big dunker,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t really much of a basketball player. I just dunked and played defense, and I watched a lot of Vince’s videos. I’ve been seeing what he’s been doing all year at his age, which is incredible.

“So I figured, you know, at my size if I was able to get it, it would be a great dunk and a way to finish it, you know. And actually, funny story is I haven’t made that dunk in like half a year. I tried it in practice the past two days and tried it this morning, didn’t make it. Tried it last night, didn’t make it… But to be able to make it was why I was so excited.”

Earlier in the night, Mitchell had done another tribute worn a Darrell Griffith jersey — Utah’s Dr. Dunkenstien, who went to Louisville like Mitchell — for an off-the-side-of-the-backboard jumping over Kevin Hart dunk.

“You know, just knowing your history, I think, is the biggest thing,” Mitchell said of the throwbacks. “Just understanding where this game originated, I guess the OGs of the game, I guess you would call it. But just understanding. Even if it’s just dunking. Whether it’s dunking in the NBA in general, Darrell Griffith, we went to the same school in college. I know Darrell very well. Both got drafted by the Jazz, and he was an incredible player. To be able to pay homage to him meant a lot to me.”

For my money, Nance had the dunk of the night, his first in the Finals, a double off-the-backboard throwdown that you had to see on replay to get (it wasn’t as evident in the building what he had done until it was re-shown on the big screen).

It was a fun contest all night long.

Mitchell (the leader in the Rookie of the Year race) started it off brilliantly — he brought out a second backboard, and did a self-alley-oop off one to the other.

Larry Nance Jr. did his tribute to his father with his first dunk, and on his second one came from behind the backboard, going around the world, and threw it down hard. That got him into the Finals.

Oladipo missed all three of his dunks in the first round, which almost doomed his night. He, however, did a dunk wearing the Black Panther mask for his second dunk, which impressed.

Mitchell said he wanted to beat Dennis Smith Jr. because the Mavericks’ point guard had beaten him in dunk contests for years. Smith had one monster dunk, when he went between the legs and threw it down hard and got the full 50. It just wasn’t enough to get Smith to the Finals.

Nance started off the final round by bringing out his father again to throw an alley-oop to a windmill. Mitchell responded with a self-alley-oop to a windmill that was flat-out wicked. That got Mitchell a 50-46 lead after one round of the Finals.

Then Mitchell went to Vince Carter and “it was over.”

Larry Nance Jr. throws alley-oop to himself, throws alley-oop to himself (video)

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LOS ANGELES — Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. immediately motioned for the replay to be shown of this dunk. It was necessary to properly appreciate it.

Best dunk of the night.

Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest, though.

Larry Nance Jr. plays tribute to father — rock-the-cradle dunk in Suns uniform

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LOS ANGELES — Back in 1984, high-flying Larry Nance Sr. won the first NBA All-Star Dunk Contest with this set of dunks — most famously a rock-the-cradle move.

Larry Nance Jr. came into the 2018 Dunk Contest and went nostalgic — all the way back to the Suns’ throwback uniform and the same dunk.

That and a good second dunk got him into the Dunk Contest finals. In that round, Nance Sr. threw an alley-oop to his son for the windmill.

Donovan Mitchell throws alley-oop to himself – off second backboard (video)

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LOS ANGELES – Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell set a high standard with the first slam of the 2018 dunk contest.

Very creative. Very well-executed.

Looks like all that preparation paid off.