It’s official: Jeff Van Gundy to coach Team USA in AmeriCup 2017, World Cup qualifying

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We’ve known this was coming, but now it is official: Jeff Van Gundy is coming out of the broadcast booth and getting back on the sidelines to coach Team USA in the AmeriCup 2017 (you might remember it better as the FIBA Americas Championship) and the World Cup Qualifying games over the next two years.

“USA Basketball is excited and appreciative that coach Van Gundy is willing to undertake this challenge and help lead the United States in these competitions,” said Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball Men’s National Team managing director in a statement. “Qualifying for the 2019 FIBA World Cup is the first step in our attempt to repeat as gold medalist, and we’re delighted that we were able to secure a coach of Jeff’s caliber to lead these USA teams.”

Van Gundy may be the highest profile coach available, and he will get the instant respect of the D-League players on this team because of his standing. He’s a smart, high-level coach who can work with the talent given to play an up-tempo international style taking advantage of the USA’s general superior athleticism to its opponents. No, that’s not what Van Gundy’s NBA teams were known for, but he is certainly a coach capable of more than one style of play.

Yes, you read that last paragraph right, we’re sending D-Leaguers. Remember that FIBA — the body that oversees international basketball competitions — changed the timing of the qualifying for the 2019 Basketball World Cup from the summer to the fall and winter. Of course, those times fall during the NBA season, not to mention the seasons of other major leagues around the globe. This is not soccer where breaks are built into the season to allow international competitions — nor will it ever be — so the USA is sending a team of D-League players to those games, as well as the FIBA Americas tournament this year. Van Gundy will coach them.

Despite winning the last World Cup (and last Olympics), the USA has to qualify for the 2019 World Cup through the games in November and next February. Gregg Popovich will coach a team of NBA players in the 2019 World Cup in China. If the USA is one of the two best teams from the Americas in the World Cup — which it will be — that will qualify the USA for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Popovich will coach that as well (with likely much of the same roster from 2019).

Van Gundy will still have plenty of time to be an NBA broadcaster for ESPN/ABC. Could this be the first step to him returning to an NBA bench? That’s up to him, he’s had plenty of offers before, and he can get one if he wants.

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.