LeBron on if Durant/Warriors superteam is good for league, “Well, I can see it from both sides,”

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OAKLAND — This is the quote that will launch a thousand conspiracy theories. It is a bit cryptic.

LeBron James had said previously that Kevin Durant going to the Warriors was good for basketball, but that opinion is certainly not shared by everyone. With the Warriors on the doorstep of a title and then heading into next season heavy favorites to repeat, the question of competitive balance keeps coming up. LeBron was asked if he could see the other side of the argument on the Warriors.

“Well, I can see it from both sides,” LeBron said Sunday. “Not going to exactly give you my opinion on how I can see it from both sides. I will at some point in my career. I’m not at that point right now because I know what I say kind of gets — people take it the wrong way. So I have my opinion on how people see it from both sides, and I have pretty good knowledge about it. So a few years from now I’ll tell you how I really feel about the whole situation. But they’re a great team. They’re assembled as good as you can be as a professional team, and they’re on a quest to win a championship. You can respect that.

“But they’re a great team. They’re assembled as good as you can be as a professional team, and they’re on a quest to win a championship. You can respect that.”

I’m curious what LeBron’s view is, does he see things as a future team owner? However, in trying not to start a controversy he accidentally fed the overactive imaginations of conspiracy theorists — “LeBron knows something we don’t about these Warriors.”

Here’s the reality: Golden State’s management was smarter than everyone else. What the NBA wants is a league where any team that drafts well, sets up a good culture, and uses its money in free agency wisely can win. That’s what the Warriors did. They drafted Stephen Curry, Dryamond Green, and Klay Thompson, then developed them. They built a culture and system that the players bought into. And while the spike in the NBA salary cap with the new television deal made it easier, they managed their cap to be in position to get Durant without breaking up the core. They handled it well.

The NBA has always had super teams that dominated an era — ’60s Celtics, ’80s Lakers (and Celtics), ’90s Bulls — or good teams that dominated a window (Bad Boy Pistons, Shaq/Kobe Lakers, for example). It’s not a coincidence that is when the league is most popular (ratings this series have been the highest since the 1990s). Did you dislike Jordan’s Bulls, they were more dominant and certainly more arrogant than these Warriors?

Some fans don’t like the players having the power now, with them working to help form their own superteams (LeBron to Miami, Durant to Warriors), but that’s actually about perspective. It’s okay if white guys in suits put together superteams, but if the players do that it’s somehow collusion or dirty?

I’m curious what LeBron’s “other side” is. And I think the topic of if a dominant Warriors team ultimately hurts the league’s ratings is legit. However, if LeBron didn’t like the spike in the salary cap, or wanted to do other things to help flatten out the talent pool in the league, well, he is VP of the players’ union. The union fought smoothing in the money from the TV deal. I guess we’ll find out in a few years.

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.