After the long-overdue regime change for the New York Knicks, new General Manager Donnie Walsh had a plan — do anything and everything to cut payroll, get the team under the salary cap and by 2010 start going after big time free agents to drastically remake the roster.
But there are 32 games to play first, and priorities to clarify: Do the Knicks want to make the playoffs at any cost? Or will they focus on developing their young core of Gallinari, Chandler, Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas? It is an internal debate that has been brewing for two years.
Coach Mike D’Antoni has been hyperfocused on buffing up the Knicks’ record for the sake of restoring the franchise’s credibility and making it more attractive to top free agents. So he has given major roles to veterans with no place in the Knicks’ future, including Harrington, Robinson, Larry Hughes and Jared Jeffries. Meanwhile, Hill and Douglas, the Knicks’ top two rookies, have been stuck on the bench.
The trading deadline will tell who wins the battle of wills in the front office. If they go out and get another veteran, the goal is clearly to close the 4.5 game gap and get themselves into the playoffs. (That’s a lot of ground to make up.) If they stand pat, expect to see a lot more of Douglas and Hill, wins be damned.
But what about any part of this process looks attractive to LeBron James?
Hamidou Diallo is Superman for a night, wins 2019 Slam Dunk Contest
CHARLOTTE, N.C.— The Oklahoma City Thunder have more athletes on the wing than those couple of guys whose names you know playing in the All-Star Game on Sunday.
They have Hamidou Diallo, and he can climb the ladder with the best of them and knows how to throw it down.
Diallo had the best dunk of the night — a Superman-themed elbow dunk over Shaq — and is deservingly your 2019 All-Star Dunk Contest.
The problem with practicing a dunk over Shaq is the man himself is not around to practice with.
“It’s tough,” Diallo said. “My man Chuck (Millan) from Team Flight Brothers, we tried a bunch of things. We tried having people stand, putting basketballs on top of them, just to make sure I could clear the shot. So it was tough.”
Diallo edged out the Knicks’ Dennis Smith Jr. in the Finals. On his first Finals dunk, Smith tried to go with a between the legs 360 but missed twice. He changed it up for his third and final dunk attempt, a high bounce tomahawk, but he missed that one too. The judges generously gave him a 33, but he was destined to lose after that.
Smith still put on a show. On his second finals dunk, he brought out Stephen Curry and Dwyane Wade, taking the pass from Curry and leaping over Wade, and after a couple of misses he finally nailed it — for a full 50 from the judges (which the crowd in the arena didn’t agree with).
The contest itself was hit and miss (and for stretches much more miss), and the crowd in the arena did not seem into it, but there were highlights.
John Collins came out first and had one of the more underrated dunks of the night, slapping the backboard on one side then reverse dunking on the other. The judges gave him 8s across the board, which was low for a high degree of difficulty dunk.
Diallo was next and pulled Russell Westbrook out of the crowd. Westbrook threw it off the side of the backboard and Diallo grabbed it and threw it down. His 48 (out of 50) had him in the lead after the first round.
In the second round, Diallo brought out Shaq for that dunk of the night. That got him into the Finals.
Smith Jr. was next and started with a high bounce catch and dunk but had to do it a couple times after he missed the first one. His second dunk was one of the best of the evening — he brought out J Cole (Sunday’s halftime performer), put on Cole’s high school jersey, then did not hold back.
Charlotte’s Miles Bridges had the hometown crowd behind him, but when he missed every dunk attempt in the first round his night was destined to be short. For his second attempt, he brought out Charlotte legend Muggsy Bogues, rocked the Larry Johnson jersey, then went off the side of the backboard with Kemba Walker for a perfect 50.
CHARLOTTE – In North Carolina, where the Wright Brothers took flight, John Collins paid homage in the dunk contest. The Hawks big put on a cap, scarf and goggles befitting the Tuskegee Airmen and brought out a large model airplane to jump over.
Removing the goggles was disappointing enough. Then Collins broke the darn plane!
I love gimmick dunks, but you can’t break the prop.
Joe Harris holds off Stephen Curry in 3-point contest
Tonight, he beat the greatest shooter of all-time in the NBA’s 3-point contest.
Harris posted a 26-point final round, topping Stephen Curry‘s 24 and Buddy Hield‘s 19, to win the middle event of All-Star Saturday Night.
“I think you look at the makeup of our Brooklyn Nets team, and it’s a lot of guys that were sort of cast off and had a second opportunity,” said Harris, who washed out with the Cavaliers then got sent to the Magic in a trade-and-waive. “I personally was one of those guys.
“I got lucky going into a situation, going to a Nets organization that had such a strong value and emphasis on culture, skill development. And I’m sort of a byproduct of that system.”
Even as he has gained prominence in Brooklyn, it wasn’t certain Harris would get invited to the 3-point contest. He’s making 47% of his 3-pointers this season, but Spurs forward Davis Bertans is shooting 48% from beyond the arc on nearly as many attempts per game and didn’t get invited. In the greatest 3-point shooting era ever, spots in this event are hard to come by.
So, Harris made a promotional video to aid his campaign. He said his the Nets and his agency pushed it.
“Obviously, I was all for it,” Harris said. “I think to experience All-Star is quite unique.”