Markelle Fultz happy to land with Lakers, Celtics

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Markelle Fultz wants to be the first player chosen in the NBA draft next week, either by the Boston Celtics or whatever team ends up with their No. 1 pick.

Just in case he isn’t, he also wants the Los Angeles Lakers to know what they can get at No. 2.

Fultz went through an hour-long private workout for the Lakers on Thursday before meeting with the team’s top brass at their training complex. The Maryland-born University of Washington product is generally expected to be the top pick, but he has stayed in close contact with the Lakers since the draft combine.

“It was a family decision,” Fultz said of his willingness to work out for Los Angeles. “Giving everybody the opportunity. Never know where I might land, so I just wanted to see how it is out here.”

Fultz didn’t have to work out for anyone at all, and some consensus No. 1 picks choose to work out only for the top team. The Celtics already hosted Fultz, but the slick scorer said he isn’t afraid of a little extra scrutiny.

“I’m blessed to play the game,” Fultz said, still wearing his gray Lakers workout gear. “I’d like to go (No.) 1, but wherever I land is where I go.”

Fultz’s talent has put him in a unique position between two of the NBA’s most iconic franchises, but he welcomes the possibility of ending up on either side of the famed Celtics-Lakers rivalry.

“Really, to me, it doesn’t matter,” Fultz said. “Wherever I go, I’m going to be the same guy. I’m going to be humble. Of course, coming here with the Hollywood lights, it’s going to be great publicity. I’ll get my brand out there and just build it myself.”

With his mother, agent and personal trainer in attendance, Fultz went through numerous offensive drills while Magic Johnson and Luke Walton looked on. Fultz said the Lakers were interested in his ability off pick-and-roll sets and his shooting mechanics.

The 6-foot-4 guard believes he would fit well alongside D'Angelo Russell, the Lakers’ similarly sized third-year guard.

“Basketball players who are pretty good at what they do learn how to play with each other,” Fultz said.

After lunch, Fultz planned to visit the Lakers’ new training complex under construction just down the street from the current building.

He hasn’t decided whether to work out for even more teams in the final days before the draft, but he’ll discuss it with his family.

With the No. 2 pick for the third consecutive season, the Lakers know they’ll be able to choose either Fultz or Lonzo Ball, the UCLA playmaker widely considered the second-biggest talent in the draft. Ball is eager to stay home with the Lakers, and he went through an extensive workout in El Segundo last week.

Ball is meeting with the Lakers again Friday in a private setting as Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka hone in on their strategy for next week.

Fultz acknowledges he is developing a personal rivalry with Ball through the draft process. He wouldn’t mind if they ended up on opposite sides of the NBA’s most storied team rivalry, either.

“I’m a competitor, so anybody that’s in front of me, I’m going to try and take them out,” Fultz said. “Lonzo is a great guard, so we’re both competing for the same position. Stepping on the court, I’m going to try and beat him in everything I do, if that’s tying my shoe faster or anything.”

The two famous franchises with the top two picks have one major current difference: While the Celtics were the Eastern Conference’s top playoff seed last season, the Lakers are coming out of the worst four-year stretch in franchise history. Fultz is intrigued by the chance for immediate postseason contention, but the Lakers’ promising young core presents its own intrigue.

“I thought about both,” Fultz said. “Being a young team would pretty much feel like college again. But either/or. Coming to a young team or an old team, I’m just blessed to play the game.”

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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.