Blake Griffin will not be back to defend his All-Star Dunk Contest crown, and you can bet no Kia cars will be on the court this time.
He wasn’t the only big name to stay away — all the stars are staying home. There are some quality dunkers in the field but all the names casual fans would know — and would draw good television ratings — are staying away. No Griffin, no LeBron James, no anybody.
Iman Shumpert (Knicks): The rookie guard out of Georgia Tech was a dunking phenom long before he got to the NBA and he has put on a show under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. I make him the early favorite because he gets to have another Knicks rookie — Jeremy Lin — will be lobbing him passes during the contest (you knew the NBA would find ways to get Lin into the weekend).
Derrick Williams (Timberwolves): The No. 2 pick in last year’s draft has thrown down some huge dunks this season — which you get when Ricky Rubio is throwing you lob passes. The one thing Williams does consistently at an NBA level is finish with authority.
Chase Budinger (Rockets): One of the better, more unheralded athletes in the league. This guy was heavily recruited out of high school as an elite volleyball player but chose to take his huge vertical to college (Arizona) and the NBA. Dark horse to win this thing.
Paul George (Pacers): Another guy who may not get a lot of pub but has had some of the best in-game dunks this season.
For the record, I’m disapointed to not to see the human pogo stick that is Jeremy Evans in here, not to mention the Clippers DeAndre Jordan. But this is still a good field, just not filled with names the casual fan knows. It’s also guys who are great at in-game dunking, but that is different from the exhibition that is this contest. We will see.
Joel Embiid says Michael Jordan isn’t the GOAT (VIDEO)
Joel Embiid is a big man like we haven’t seen in some time. He’s both an interior force and a range shooter, and is one of the more talented 7-footers in recent NBA memory.
So it makes sense that the Philadelphia 76ers star leans toward former big men when it comes to discussing the greatest players in league history. While most are obsessed with the back-and-forth between Michael Jordan and LeBron James, Embiid told Jason Concepcion of the Ringer this week that he didn’t think either were the best player ever.
It’s sort of cool that Embiid decided to choose a different player as is greatest of all time. Whether or not that’s true — or whether Embiid truly believes in his choice — is another thing altogether.
LeBron James confirmed ‘Space Jam 2’ begins filming this summer (VIDEO)
I’m not sure how excited I am to watch “Space Jam 2”. I think LeBron James is a slightly better actor than Michael Jordan, and the original “Space Jam” was nothing to shake a stick at. I’m the perfect age for Space Jam to have meant something to me, but having watched the film as an adult I can tell you it’s largely underwhelming.
Still, Space Jam 2 is set to film this summer and we finally have a confirmation of that fact from LeBron himself.
Speaking at All-Star Weekend, James told a crowd in Charlotte that they are indeed going to film once the season is over.
I think filmmaking has evolved, particularly animated filmmaking in the wake of things like Toy Story, Shrek, and other big franchises. There is no doubt that Space Jam 2 will be a better movie than the original. The director of the film certainly thinks so.
Kids will love it, and it’s exactly the kind of thing that James want to get involved in when he moved to the Los Angeles Lakers this summer.
I’m sure that basketball Twitter will have a steady stream of opinions when it comes out in theaters. Maybe I will catch it when it’s on at Netflix a month later.
Report: Celtics aren’t long-term destination for Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis recently made mention that all 29 NBA teams other than the New Orleans Pelicans are on his list to land when he becomes trade eligible again this summer. Teams like the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Los Angeles Clippers will vie for his services with the best packages they have the to offer.
But which of these teams will be long-term solutions for Davis, whose current contract runs out in the summer of 2020?
That is likely to be where the conversation around Davis shifts as we move into the spring. In fact, according to Shams Charania, at least one interested team isn’t on Davis’ radar long term.
Davis and agent Rich Paul severely overplayed their hand when it came to negotiating a trade request with the Pelicans as they tried to steer Davis to the Lakers before the deadline.
New Orleans remains firmly in control of Davis and any offers for him, although it’s possible the player could retain some additional influence by making it known that he would not re-sign anywhere outside of his preferred destinations. According to Charania, that’s the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Bucks.
Still, a player’s status as a potential risk in free agency is affected by how good he is and how close to a championship the receiving team thinks they are. We saw a Toronto Raptors take a chance with Kawhi Leonard, who could very well leave this summer.
Might a team trade for Davis without the guarantee that he could leave in 2020? That seems possible, and I wouldn’t rule out anything wild happening in trade market come summer.
Pat Riley on LeBron leaving Miami: ‘I saw a dynasty fly out the window’ (VIDEO)
LeBron James spent just four years with the Miami Heat, grabbing two championships with pals Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. LeBron then left South Beach to bring a title to his native Ohio with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
James is now part of the Los Angeles Lakers, an organization that Miami Heat president Pat Riley is innately familiar with (Riley was on the coaching staff of the Lakers from 1979-90). Riley was famously upset when he took the podium in the summer of 2014 after James had informed him that he was not going to come back to Miami.
We are approaching the half-decade mark from that interaction, and Riley appears to have cooled off a little bit.
Speaking with ESPN’s Dan LeBatard, Riley said that he felt disappointed because of how long a tenure that Heat team could have had.