Your Los Angeles Lakers are 0-2 and look very confused

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Stability mattered more than ever this season. Shortened training camps and just two preseason games means switching systems was going to be a challenge.

But Jim Buss was intent on wiping all traces of Phil Jackson from the Lakers, not keeping Brian Shaw and the triangle offense with a team built to run it. No, Mike Brown is in as coach with new systems on both ends of the floor. The result is confusion.

The bottom line is the Lakers are 0-2 after falling 100-91 to Sacramento Tuesday. That is two games in a row where they played poorly at the end (they blew an 11 point lead Sunday, scored on basket in the final three minutes Monday). Look at the words of Metta World Peace after the game to Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.

“We had two games in the preseason, and Coach (Mike Brown) is trying to figure out who he wants to start. We had Andrew (Bynum) in the preseason. One game he started Matt (Barnes), and the next game he started Devin (Embanks). Now he’s going with Devin, so now everyone has to get accustomed to a whole new look. We played two games with Andrew, and now he is out for four games. It’s normal to have a little letdown right now, especially given the circumstances that we’re under.”

The Lakers defense was not good in this one as the Kings guards were able to beat their man on the perimeter and get in the lane, and the Lakers missed Andrew Bynum to clean that up (he is serving the second game of his four-game suspension for flattening J.J. Berea in the playoffs). Tyreke Evans had 20 points and did a lot of the damage; Marcus Thornton had 27 to lead the Kings. But since the preseason the Lakers pick-and-roll defense has been bad and until they fix it they will see a steady stream of it.

Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were not bad, but neither was dominant either. Gasol was outworked on the glass, Kobe needed 24 shots to get his 29 points.

The Lakers long-range shooting woes continue over from seasons past as L.A. was 1-of-16 from beyond the arc. This kills their inside-out offense Mike Brown wants to install — the Kings defense collapsed on Gasol and took away driving lanes inside but never paid a price for falling back.

Where the Kings really made their runs was against a Lakers bench pressed into big minutes on the second night of the Lakers back-to-back-to-back to start the season (they lost to the Bulls on Christmas and have Utah in Los Angeles on Wednesday).

These are the nights you look at that young Kings core and think they could be special in a few years, if they all grow and mature their games together. Evans was maybe the best player on the floor, a leader, Thornton was efficient and the Kings seemed to get all their key shots to fall. We’ll see if there can be more of these nights, but if you are a Kings fan that wants to believe this is what you need to see.

For Lakers fans, it’s too early to panic. But it’s not too early to be concerned about what the ceiling is for this roster.

Hamidou Diallo is Superman for a night, wins 2019 Slam Dunk Contest

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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.

On Collins’ second dunk he brought out a mini-replica of the Wright Brothers plane, went with some “first in flight” gear, and…he clipped the plane but made the 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.

Hamidou Diallo elbow-dunks over Shaq (video)

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CHARLOTTE – Vince Carter‘s elbow dunk in the 2000 dunk contest is legendary.

Hamidou Diallo just one-upped it.

The Thunder forward put his entire forearm through the rim – while dunking over Shaquille O’Neal.

Compare that above video to Carter’s iconic dunk. Diallo’s path to the rim is far more impressive than Carter’s:

John Collins breaks airplane on Wright Brothers tribute dunk (video)

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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

AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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CHARLOTTE – Three years ago, Joe Harris got waived.

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.”

Full results

Round 1

Stephen Curry 27

Buddy Hield 26

Joe Harris 25

Danny Green 23

Devin Booker 23

Damian Lillard 17

Dirk Nowitzki 17

Seth Curry 16

Kemba Walker 15

Khris Middleton 11

Round 2

Joe Harris 26

Stephen Curry 24

Buddy Hield 19