Gordon will be back this year to try to win the crown. He will go up against the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, the Pacers’ Glen Robinson III, and the Suns’ Derrick Jones Jr. The dunk contest is the highlight (usually) of All Star Saturday night, coming this year on Feb. 18 from New Orleans. It will be broadcast on TNT (so Charles Barkley can take some shots at LeBron).
Gordon will be the favorite, but watch out for Robinson. We know Jordan can dunk in game, but the exhibition dunk contest is a different animal (still, he has to have Chris Paul throw him a lob, right?).
Rather than words, let’s use videos to highlight the cases for each player.
I don’t know how Gordon is going to top this.
Jordan will bring the power dunks.
Glen Robinson III is a sneaky good choice for this contest.
Derrick Jones Jr. has played just 11 minutes total in the NBA across three games, spending more of the season with the D-League’s Northern Arizona Suns. He has taken one NBA shot. But the UNLV product can get up and dunk.
Report: Wilson Chandler wants to be traded out of Denver
Wilson Chandler‘s name has been a regular part of the trade rumor market for a couple of seasons now. Every February and then again in late June his name comes up as a guy Denver might move as they evolve their roster around quality younger players — Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, etc. — but no deal ever comes down.
According to two people with knowledge of Chandler’s situation, the player who came to Denver as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal six years ago wants to be traded. The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation.
Chandler’s frustration, according to the people, is born out of the inconsistency with his role. While he’s having a career year, averaging 15.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, two assists and 30.2 minutes per game for a 21-27 Nuggets team that is currently ninth in the Western Conference, he hasn’t started since Jan. 12 – a win over Indiana in which he had 22 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and had a plus-22 rating.
Chandler nor his people have directly requested a trade, Amick notes. It’s likely he will deny this publicly, as is the norm. Doesn’t mean it’s not true.
Chandler is making $11.2 million this season and is owed $25.4 million over the next two seasons (the second of those is a player option). In the skyrocketing world of NBA salaries, that’s reasonable for a guy who brings starter level play.
There is no word yet on which teams have serious interest, but as we move toward the trade deadline in three weeks (Feb. 23) expect Chandler’s name to come up. Danilo Gallinari also will be mentioned. The only question is does a deal get done this time.
Three things we learned Wednesday: MVP level Stephen Curry is back
1) MVP-level Stephen Curry is back. Because the Warriors weren’t dangerous enough already. Stephen Curry is not going to win a third straight MVP award this year, it’s either going to be James Harden (I think he’s the frontrunner now by a small margin) or Russell Westbrook.
However, after a rough couple of months to start the season, MVP-level Stephen Curry is back. Just ask the Hornets, who watched him drop 11 threes and 39 points on them Wednesday (a Warriors 126-111 win).
Those 11 threes left Curry one short of the record for most in a game (12, by Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall) but Steve Kerr didn’t play Curry in the fourth to chase the record (Curry played just 30 minutes). That’s not a game the Warriors are playing this season, chasing records.
Steve Kerr asked about putting Steph back in in the 4th: "Oh, I forgot I'm supposed to coach for records. My fault." pic.twitter.com/aMeJZRwVjt
Things changed for Curry after the Christmas Day loss to the Cavaliers. He knew he needed to be more aggressive (and not defer as much to Kevin Durant), and Steve Kerr knew he needed to put Curry in better situations to take advantage of his skill set. Curry was given a chance to run more pick-and-rolls (as he requested), and now it was Durant setting the pick more often. Curry’s shots went up by three per game, and while not all of those were “good” shots part of what makes Curry tick is taking some shots that nobody else should take — he hits a few, and it gets him going.
Curry looks like the best player in the league again (LeBron James doesn’t dial it up like this for the regular season anymore).
And woe is the rest of the league when Curry plays like this.
2) Or maybe Isaiah Thomas is the best player in the game — he drops 42 on Raptors to get Celtics win. This was a big game: It was for the lead in the Atlantic Division (if anyone actually cares about NBA divisions anymore), more importantly, it was for second place in the Eastern Conference. Guys stepped up for this game — Kyle Lowry was stunningly good on his way to 32 points. It was the Jared Sullinger revenge game, and he had 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Those two helped Toronto to an 11-point halftime lead, and the Raptors seemed to control the game.
Then Isaiah Thomas happened.
Maybe the hottest player in the game, he had 19 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter, and he led the Celtics to win the fourth 32-19 and the game 109-104.
Like Curry above, Thomas isn’t going to win the MVP award, but he’s going to get some votes down ballot (third, fourth, fifth) and deservedly so. He has the Celtics offense humming and the Celtics in second place in the East. Toronto fans would like to point out they did not have DeMar DeRozan for this game, and that’s duly noted. But this win matters because second place in the East matters — it means home court in the second round. Also, a hot Wizards team is just one game back of the Raptors now, just two-and-a-half back of the Celtics, the Wiz are in this conversation (at 22-9 they have the best record in the East since Dec. 1). What that really means is teams want to avoid being the four seed — nobody wants Cleveland in the second round. Which is why wins like this one by Boston matter. A lot.
3) Maybe the Bulls thrive in tensions and chaos, they pick up a quality win over Thunder on the road. Rumor still swirls around Chicago like paparazzi around Beyoncé. The team’s young players loveRajon Rondo more than the “leaders” of the squad. The Bulls don’t plan to trade Rondo, apparently, but the team the focus of trade rumors. Rival executives believeJimmy Butler will be available again via trade, in part because of tension with the front office dating back to Butler betting on himself and not taking the rookie deal extension management offered (and management threatened to play Tony Snell in front of him at the time, which didn’t go over well with Thibodeau). And all that is since the Butler/Wade bashing of the team’s young players and Rondo coming to their defense.
With all that noise and chaos around them, the Bulls have picked up two quality wins in a row. First, it was a hot Sixers team, then Wednesday the Bulls opened a six-game road trip with a victory over Westbrook and the Thunder. Butler had 28 points on 17 shots, Wade had 18 points and seven assists, and Cristiano FelicioDoug McDermott each had 11 points off the bench. Rondo had another strong game leading the second unit. The Bulls looked comfortable in the win.
The question isn’t “are the Bulls on track or in turmoil?” Rather, it’s “do the Bulls thrive in turmoil?” We’ll find out over the next couple weeks, because the turmoil isn’t going away during this six-game road trip, which is followed immediately by Boston and Toronto at home.
As an aside, the highlight of the Bulls/Thunder game unsurprisingly went to Westbrook, with his rejection of Butler.
Isaiah Thomas has another big 4th quarter, Celtics beat Raptors
BOSTON (AP) —Isaiah Thomas scored 19 of his 44 points in the final quarter to lift the Boston Celtics over the Toronto Raptors 109-104 on Wednesday night in a showdown for first place in the Atlantic Division.
It was the fifth straight win for Boston, which moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Raptors in the division and holds the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed.
Jae Crowder scored 14 points for the Celtics and Al Horford had 11. Thomas had 18 of Boston’s final 23 points.
In a final quarter that rivaled playoff intensity, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown was fouled on a breakaway attempt and walked over and had words with Lowry – before a few others player joined in and had to be separated by the officials. Boston’s Terry Rozier and the Raptors’ DeMarre Carroll were each given a technical foul.
With the Celtics trailing by eight, Thomas scored nine straight points to give them their first lead of the game – 95-94 on a driving basket with 4:39 to play.
The lead changed hands six times over the next 3 1/2 minutes – with Thomas’ 3-pointer from the left wing giving Boston a 103-101 edge with 48.1 seconds left.
Toronto led by 11 at the halftime and scored 13 of the first 19 points in the third, pulling to a 75-57 edge on Lowry’s 3-pointer from the right corner.
Raptors: G DeMar DeRozan was out for the fifth time in six games with a right ankle injury.
Celtics: G Avery Bradley missed his eighth straight game with a right Achilles tendon injury. Coach Brad Stevens said he’s practiced the last two days, but the team wants “to make sure that when we get him back, he’s back on the court and limit the chance that it’ll happen again.” … F Kelly Olynyk was out with a strained left shoulder.
Stevens talked about the play of Lowry before the game, admiring both the overall guard play in the league and that of Toronto’s star.
“There are so many guards right now that can make exceptional plays off the dribble,” he said. “Maybe more so and a higher efficiency than I’ve seen before, and Lowry’s one of the best of them.”
Thomas hit a 36-foot 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left to cap off his 16-point first quarter.
No contest: Heat push win streak to nine, roll Hawks 116-93
MIAMI (AP) — Ask anyone in the Miami Heat locker room how this is happening, and the answers will all be largely the same.
They can’t explain.
That doesn’t bother them, either.
The NBA’s hottest team stayed that way Wednesday night, as Goran Dragic scored 27 points, Dion Waiters added 20 and the Heat had no trouble with the Atlanta Hawks on the way to a 116-93 win. It was the ninth straight win for the Heat, the longest current run in the league and Miami’s best streak since winning 10 in a row from Nov. 12-Dec. 1, 2013.
“We’re just having fun,” Waiters said.
It matched the largest victory margin of the season for Miami (20-30), which plays its next six games against opponents with losing records. A team that was on the cusp of having the NBA’s worst record just a couple weeks ago is now in the thick of a playoff race, and dominated a Hawks team that beat Miami in the first two matchups between the clubs this season.
“A lot of credit to Miami. They’re playing really, really good basketball,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “You can see why they’ve won nine games in a row now. Both ends of the court, their activity, their aggressiveness, just really impressed with their players, their coaching staff, everything they’re doing.”
Hassan Whiteside scored 18 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for the Heat. James Johnson scored 16 points before getting ejected in the fourth quarter for Miami (20-30).
“They’re doing a great job,” Schroder said after complimenting Waiters, Dragic, Johnson and Whiteside. “And we didn’t.”
Atlanta’s Taurean Prince was ejected midway through the fourth quarter for pulling Whiteside down from behind and being assessed a flagrant two. James Johnson retaliated in Whiteside’s defense and was ejected after getting a technical.
That was about the only moment in which the game was competitive after halftime. Miami tied San Antonio for the third-best streak in the NBA this season, with only Golden State (12) and Houston (10) having more consecutive wins.
“It hasn’t been about the result for us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We felt like our team was getting better. And throughout all of it, you do have to maintain perspective.”
Hawks: Atlanta outscored Miami 108-72 in the paint in the first two meetings between the clubs. The Hawks were outscored 54-36 in the paint Wednesday. … Dwight Howard (six points, 11 rebounds) saw his string of five consecutive double-doubles end. … Atlanta had 13 assists, to Miami’s 23.
Heat: Miami led by as many as 26. … Dragic has drawn fouls on four 3-point attempts in his last three games. … Atlanta’s Paul Millsap drew a technical at the end of the first half, so Dragic took and made the subsequent free throw – 15 minutes later. He then made a 3-pointer on the same possession. … Waiters has at least 17 points in each of his last seven games.
With the Hawks going to Houston on Thursday, it should mark Howard’s first time playing there as an opponent since Dec. 4, 2012. Howard spent the last three seasons with the Rockets, averaging 16 points and 11.7 rebounds. He signed a three-year, $70.5 million deal with the Hawks last summer.
Whiteside’s 10th rebound was No. 2,000 of his career. He also had two blocks, leaving him one shy of No. 500 there.