NBA All-Star dunk contest/3-point shootout live blog

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Final note to David Stern: This night only works if you have a couple athletic dunkers and a couple stars. You need Dwight. You need LeBron. You need the stars to make it work. Love Shannon and DeMar, need the star power. Especially in LA next year, where it is all about the stars.

Everyone else, thanks for hanging out.

10: 51 pm And the uninspiring winner is… Nate Robinson. He has the hat trick.

10:47 pm
Really DeMar, that was it? If you can’t leave from the free throw line, you can’t do that dunk. Already been done by MJ and the Dr., you’re measured against greatness with that dunk.

10:44 pm Nate with the power pass off the backboard dunk. That was nice, but may not be nice enough….

10:41 pm
Nate Robinson brings out the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders then does nothing in the dunk with them? That’s it, I want DeRozan now.

10:37 pm  Gallinari comes out and lobs to Nate for a nice one. Great tweet from football Rez Zone guy Andrew Siciliano: That was Gallinari’s most significant contribution to the Knicks since being drafted.

10:33 pm DeRozan wakes up the crowd with the dunk of the night: Weems with the pass off the side of the backboard, DeRozan trailing him grabs it midair and rams it home. Now that was a dunk contest dunk!

10:30 pm Kobe out to throw the ally-oop to Brown. And that was a quality dunk. But the scores not all that great. Can we see if Dwight Howard is in the house and draft him into this? Is it too late?

10:24 pm Nate with the best dunk of the first round — catch the bounce pass mid-air two hand roundhouse. He leads after round one. DeRozan second, then Wallace, Brown. Nobody blowing the doors off the place yet. Crowd loves Nate early. Everyone does. Except D’Antoni.

10:22 pm Brown missed a quality dunk, got cautious. Not how you win this thing. Wallace goes for the power reverse. Nobody has made their first dunk yet.

10:19 pm DeRozan with a nice first dunk, between the legs reverse. But unlike last night, had to do it twice to get it right.

10:12 pm For the record, I’ll take LetShannonDunk in this. But Wallace is close in my mind, although apparently nobody else thinks that.

10:07 pm Odd little note on Pierce: He’s the only Celtic not loathed in Los Angeles, despite the 2008 Finals. He grew up in Inglewood, not far from the Los Angeles Forum (home of the Showtime era Lakers) and still has a lot of friends in town.

10:05 pm
Paul Pierce gets hot, hits the money balls just like he tends to do at the end of games, wins it. He’s lovin’ it, a little more than we are all loving Daryl Dawkins jacket.

9:56 pm Any three point shooter with any ties to a D’Antoni team can’t hit a shot. Coincidence? Then defending champion Cook comes out cold. Pierce and Billups , the two guys moving the slowest of anyone in the competition, take on the rookie in the finals.

9:46 pm Don’t care if Steph Curry is a rookie, that is one of the sweetest strokes in the game right now.

9:41 pm
Wow, did Ray Allen give Paul Pierce three ball advice? He’s better than that.

9:30 pm Finally, something good, let’s get the three point contest going.

9:20 pm So Steve Nash is the most skilled player in the NBA. Yea, that’s a shocker.

9:14 pm From Atomsk: Kobe and KG sitting together; I say put them on the court, give each a
mic and have a trash talking contest.

9:12 pm Westbrook looked slow and inefficient. Williams looked slow but efficient. Westbrook did not listen to Coach Wooden: Be quick, don’t hurry. He should have hurried a little.

8:55 pm Anybody who watches Lakers games knows if you need the desperation half-courter at the buzzer, you need Jordan Farmar, not Pau Gasol. So Team Texas wins the Shooting Stars competition thanks to Dirk Nowitzki, the unofficial host for the weekend. Nice trophy, by the way. But really, where you going put that in the house.

8:47 pm Chis Webber, for the rest of the weekend and maybe beyond, is going to be hearing about how Nicole Powell is a better shooter than he is. And the ribbers will be right, as of today she is. Results don’t lie. Atlanta, been nice knowing you.

8:38 pm Wow Atlanta shooting stars, I’ve seen better shooting from the guys they pull out of the stand at NBA games for the chance to win a $500 at the local Indian casino.

8:31 pm For those of us watching at home on TNT, let us stop for a moment and pray together that the rodeo theme intro pieces are done for the night. I’ll light a candle in church tomorrow. Promise. Thanks God.

8:15 pm What better thing have you got to do on a Saturday night than watch the best dunkers in the world — or at least that would do the contest this year — and the 3-poing shootout as well? Exactly. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, you can make it up to your significant other then. Take them to a nice dinner out. No, the Olive Garden is not a nice dinner out, either. You can do better.

I’ll be watching that (and the shooting stars and the skills competition, where Derek Rose is out) and updating with commentary on the festivities throughout the night. Put your thoughts in the comments below (I may pull some of them up to the post). Also, follow along on Twitter.

Let’s have some fun.

As Summer League ends, what are teams taking away from Las Vegas?

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LAS VEGAS — Knicks fans were lined up out the door, literally overflowing the Cox Arena on the UNLV campus to get a glimpse of Kevin Knox, who averaged 21.3 points per game at Summer League and suddenly was seen as the newest star on Broadway — the perfect pairing for Kristaps Porzingis.

Top pick Deandre Ayton filled the building and had Suns’ fans dreaming of rings with his star power. Memphis’ fans were saying they saw the future of the franchise with Jaren Jackson’s combination of shooting and shot blocking. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s looked like a steal and his play gave Clippers’ fans hope. Atlanta’s Trae Young went from “bust” to “future franchise cornerstone” over the course of two weeks as his play improved through July.

As Summer League has grown over the years — all 30 NBA teams were represented in Las Vegas, every game was televised nationally — so has the importance of these July exhibitions in the minds of fans.

But what do teams — their coaches, scouts, and GMs — take away from Las Vegas?

A baseline.

“It’s just benchmarks for the guys,” new Hawks’ coach Lloyd Pierce told NBC Sports in Las Vegas. “I got bear cubs right now. I saw Omari (Spellman) at Villanova, but I hadn’t touched him. I saw Trae (Young) at Oklahoma, but I hadn’t touched him. Kevin (Huerter) I still haven’t touched (hand surgery).

“So we have a couple areas with Trae, and we have a couple areas with John Collins and a couple areas with Tyler Dorsey where we say, ‘you know what, I know what we need to work on.’ More will come, but at least I have a starting point, and we can have a conversation now.”

That conversation is about how much more work needs to be done.

Summer League has become big business for the NBA, it’s marketed and put on a bigger stage, and with that it’s natural that Summer League games have grown in importance in the eyes of fans (and media). But for teams, the purpose hasn’t changed since the games were an almost forgotten part of the NBA season at the Pyramid on the Long Beach State campus.

Multiple NBA coaches and executives told NBC Sports is just the first post-draft step in evaluation, and where a player is on the scale right now is not nearly as important as where he goes from here. Those decision makers know that 90 percent of the players in Las Vegas will not even be invited to an NBA training camp, then combine that with limited practices and there is only so much big-picture evaluation that can take place.

“I don’t get wrapped up into the rookies, as far as being discouraged with what you see here,” said Bobby Marks, former assistant general manager with the Brooklyn Nets and current ESPN analyst. “I think I’m more discouraged if I have a second- or third-year player who does not play well here…

“You take gradual steps. You look at where you were when you first get to Vegas, where they were at the end of June or early July, then you see where they are in the middle of July.”

A lot of the evaluation from teams is not in those televised Las Vegas games, but rather on the practice court.

“The first thing is you evaluate how coachable they are, because you don’t have a lot of time, but there’s a few things you emphasize just to see if they do it,” said Utah Jazz Summer League coach Alex Jensen. “Summer League is one of those things where they are always trying to showcase themselves, so sometimes it’s not the easiest thing to do, but we want to see how coachable they are.”

For those first-round and high second-round picks, it’s also a chance to put players in NBA situations. For example, Portland Summer League coach Jim Moran said they run a lot of the same sets in Las Vegas they will run come the fall, with the goal of getting guys like Gary Trent Jr. or Anfernee Simmons shots they will see come the games that matter.

“We’re trying to put them in situations they’ll be put in the regular season,” Moran said. “So whether it be defensively having our bigs switch out on smaller guys, or learning how to move and keep smaller guys in front of them, or offensively just getting them a feel for where their shots are going to come from in certain plays, we want to see it.”

For a first-round pick such as Portland’s Simmons or the Knicks’ Knox or Atlanta’s Young, Summer League is a showcase. Every first-round pick has a guaranteed NBA contract — they are going to get paid come the fall. That’s not to say they don’t play hard or take it seriously, but no matter what happens in Las Vegas they will be on a roster come October.

The real business of Summer League is second-round picks, undrafted players, and guys coming back from playing overseas trying to get noticed — by NBA teams, ideally, but at least by European scouts who can land them good paying gigs playing basketball. It’s an on-court job application for almost everyone in uniform. NBA staffs are taking notes on these guys, as well.

“Second-rounders, undrafted guys, guys you might sign to two-ways, guys you might need to call up on a two way, because you don’t really know,” ESPN’s Marks said of who he watched closely at Summer League in his executive days. “There could be guys who were playing in Europe last year, or maybe from lower level schools and you didn’t bring them in for a workout, there’s a newness to this. So I think it benefits them more than your first round picks.”

Put in a good showing and guys can find their way onto a roster — Trevon Bluiett out of Xavier averaged 18.3 points per game for the Pelicans, and they signed him to a two-way contract. A handful of other guys did the same, or will get training camp invites out of Las Vegas.

Because of that those guys are hustling — say what you want about the glorified pick-up game nature of Summer League play, guys go hard because paychecks are on the line.

However, for bigger name, higher drafted players, performance in Las Vegas matters more to fans than it does the franchise.

“There are takeaways, it gives you a baseline for the rest of the summer,” Marks said.

And that’s just the first step. By Halloween, all these games will be a distant memory.

Report: LeBron James to skip USA Basketball mini-camp next week

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Next week in Las Vegas, many of the best basketball players walking the face of the earth — Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, just to name a few — will get together under the guidance of Gregg Popovich for the USA Basketball mini-camp.

It is the first workout of the pool of 35 players — which will ultimately be narrowed down to a dozen — who will represent the United States at the 2019 World Cup in China and 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. It also will be the first workouts for the team under new coach Gregg Popovich. It’s a who’s who of NBA talent.

Except new Laker LeBron James will not be there, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

LeBron James will not participate in USA Basketball’s minicamp in Las Vegas next week, multiple sources familiar with James’ plans told ESPN.

LeBron, who already has two Olympic golds and has competed in three Olympics, may choose to sit out a World Cup at age 34 and an Olympics at 35. He was not part of the 2016 gold medal team in Rio. LeBron certainly has done his service on the Team USA front, and the USA does not need him to win gold in those tournaments.

All eyes in Las Vegas will be on the dynamic between Popovich and Kawhi Leonard, who is expected to be at the workout. Most likely the dealings between them will be civil if a little cold, but it’s worth watching.

Lakers headed to second straight Summer League title game

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Josh Hart scored 37 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 112-109 double-overtime victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday in the semifinals of the NBA Summer League.

Los Angeles advanced to the championship game for a second straight year after winning the 2017 title behind game MVP Kyle Kuzma and league MVP Lonzo Ball.

The Lakers will play Portland, which knocked off Memphis in the other semi-final.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes made the play of the game when he snatched a loose ball and fed Jeff Ayres with a pretty touch pass under the basket with 45 seconds left in the second overtime. Rathan-Mayes followed Ayres’ lay-in with a slashing lay-up to put the Lakers up 110-106 with 22 seconds left.

Cleveland’s Billy Preston missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Svi Mykhailiuk scored 31 points for the Lakers (6-0), while Ayres added 20.

Collin Sexton led the Cavaliers with 27 points, while Jamel Artis and John Holland each scored 17.

Trailing 105-102 in the first overtime after Sexton made a short jumper, Rathan-Mayes buried a 3-pointer to tie the score. Hart made it 106-105 by hitting the second of two free throws with 5.7 seconds remaining. Sexton did the same at the other end, splitting two free throws and tying it at 106 with 3.3 seconds left.

The Cavaliers (5-2) erased an early 11-point deficit and tied the score at 95, when Vladimir Brodziansky buried a 3-pointer with 2:00 left in regulation.

After Mykhailiuk made one of two free throws to give the Lakers a 96-95 lead with a little more than a minute left, Hart grabbed a defensive rebound and at the other end dished to Mykhailiuk, who hit a running jumper just above the free throw line to push the lead to 98-95.

But Sexton answered with a 3-pointer to tie the score with 26 seconds left. Hart missed a 3-pointer with 3.0 seconds left, and Sexton missed one from long range at the buzzer.

The Lakers went on an 18-2 run to take a 28-17 lead led by Mykhailiuk, who was 4-for-4 from long-range in the first quarter. Los Angeles shot 50 percent (9 of 18) in the opening period and was 5 for 9 (55 percent) from beyond the 3-point line.

Hart took over in the second quarter, scoring 10 of his 14 first-half points to help the Lakers take a 50-47 lead at halftime.

USA Basketball to host World Cup qualifier vs. Uruguay on Sept. 14 in Las Vegas

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (AP) — USA Basketball’s quest to qualify for next year’s FIBA World Cup will resume Sept. 14 in Las Vegas, where the Americans will face Uruguay.

That will be the first U.S. game in the second qualifying round for next year’s world championships in China.

Like the first round, the U.S. will continue being coached by Jeff Van Gundy and will have a roster made up primarily of G League players. The Americans went 5-1 in the first round.

The U.S. and Uruguay are among 12 teams from the Americas zone vying for seven World Cup spots. The others are Argentina, Panama, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Canada, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The United States is a heavy favorite to qualify, then will send NBA players to China for the World Championships (there is a workout for some of those players coming up in Las Vegas in a week).

Second-round qualifying ends in late February. The World Cup begins in August 2019.