Archive for February 16th, 2008

Dwight Howard wins Slam Dunk contest

By InsideHoops.com

It’s 2008 NBA All-Star Weekend, and the hottest Saturday night event is up: the Slam Dunk contest.

Jamario Moon went first, started from the right side, lobbed it high, lept, 360-jumped, caught it just as he was completing the 360, and slammed. Beautiful. He has huge extension and great hang-time. Judges gave him a 46 out of 50.

Rudy Gay is next. He started from the right side, ran at the rim without dribbling, rocked it back and forth, and missed. And then did it again, slamming with the left hand. It was sweet but not mind-boggling, and he got a 37.

Big Dwight Howard is third. And he’s starting from out of bounds, behind back of the right side of the basket. He bounced it off the back of the backboard, caught it, soared from behind the basket to the front side of it, and missed — but the attempt itself was awesome. And then did it again, this time putting it down, almost hitting his head on the rim. He caught it off the back of the backboard with two hands, swung it around, and put it down with the left hand. Absolutely beautiful. Judges gave him a perfect 50.

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Defending champion Gerald Green is last but not least. Assistant Rashad McCants is holding a cupcake with a candle in it, and using a ladder climbs up, puts the cupcake on the back of the rim, on the support that connects it to the backboard. McCants then lit the candle. Green is apparently going to dunk, while blowing the candle out! This seems both dangerous and impossible. Yet - bam! - he got it! Insane! He caught the lob, put it down with two hands dunking on the left side of the rim and successfully blew the candle out! Judges gave him a mere 46. I thought he got robbed.

And now, the second set of dunks.

First up is Rudy Gay, assisted by Kyle Lowry. They both started from the deep left corner, with Lowry dribbling, Gay following. Lowry then bounced the ball off the back of the basket support, and Gay caught it on his left side and wrapped it around to his right side, dunking it nicely. It was impressive and creative but not quite as awesome as what Dwight Howard did. Judges gave it a 48, which may have been a point or two high.

Next is Jamario Moon, assisted by Jason Kapono. They’re putting white tape on the ground, almost a foot behind the free throw line. It would be mind-boggling if he really takes off from there. And now it appears Kapono is going to be near the basket and bounce the ball high up in the paint. And misses the first attempt. Moon did hit the second, but the tape on the ground was pointless — Moon took off about a foot inside the free throw line, which is still absolutely incredible. Judges gave him a 48.

Gerald Green is third. A ladder is in the paint again, with MCants climbing it and sitting on the top. The ladder is positioned slightly to the right of the rim. McCants is holding the ball in one arm, which is extended so he’s holding the ball in front o the rim. Just as Green launched himself up, Mccants flipped it up so Green could grab it with two hands, windmill it and slam it down. Awesome. He got a 48.

And now, Dwight Howard, assisted by Jameer Nelson. More white tape. And then Nelson reveals a red Superman cape. Then Howard, smiling, pulls off his away magic jersey to reveal a sleeveless Superman top. Howard then puts the cape on (everyone who reads the InsideHoops.com nba rumors page knew he was going to do this). The crowd loves it. Howard then stands at the baseline, center-court, right side, runs in, catches a pass, leaps from the dotted circle, soars high in the air and is up so high that rather than dunk it, he literally throws it down. A throw-dunk. Like how you might throw a crumpled up piece of paper down into a garbage can. That is possibly the most awesome dunk I’ve ever seen, aside maybe from some stuff Vince Carter did years ago. He got another perfect 50.

Total points at the end of the first round: Howard 100, Green 91, Moon 90, Gay 85.

We’re in the second and final round, with Howard against defending champion Green.

Green is up first, starting from the left elbow in three-point range, McCants, standing behind the basket on the right, is lobbing it over the top of the backboard. After some imperfect passes, and then one miss, Green came in, caught with two hands, windmilled it through his legs and slammed it down with one hand. Awesome.

No scores are being reported. It’s just picking one of the finalists or the other, after the dunks are over. Each judge has one vote, and the collective fan world, voting on the league’s official site or through text message, combine to have one vote.

Howard is up. He started from the right side, halfcourt, lobbed it, so it bounced in the paint, ran, jumped, and in mid air tapped it with his left hand against the backboard, then caught it off the glass with his right hand and dunked it. That is one of the most amazing dunks ever, second only to stuff InsideHoops.com editor Jeff Lenchiner does in secret gyms against NBA players during the off-season.

Green, trying to be creative, took his shoes off, autographed them, put them on the judges table, and did a through-the-legs windmill. It was a slightly lesser version of his earlier dunk, minus the shoes.

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For the final dunk, Howard’s assistant, Jameer Nelson, has put a little Nerf-looking mini-hoop on the lower right corner of the front of the backboard, and then rested a full-sized basketball on it. Howard is starting from the right side of the court, outside the three-point elbow. He runs in, jumps, takes the ball off the little rim and tires to slam, but misses. And then runs in, takes it off the little rim, windmills it and slams it in. It was the least impressive of his dunks tonight, and the only one he did that didn’t truly wow the crowd, but it was still very good.

And now, the voting.

The judges picked Dwight Howard. So, he’s going to win, regardless of what the fan voting says. That’s assuming I understand how the voting works this year. And the fan vote is in: 70% voted for Dwight Howard.

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Jason Kapono wins 3-point Shootout

By InsideHoops.com

It’s 2008 NBA All-Star Weekend, Saturday night, and we’re up to the NBA Three-Point Shootout. Jason Kapono won it last year.

Richard Hamilton is up first. He hit 2 shots on the first rack, 4 on the second, 3 on the third, 3 on the fourth, and 4 on the last — but two of his last-rack shots were discounted by the refs because Rip stepped on the line. Hamilton actually shot well but did not hit a single money-ball except on the very last rack, but that shot was one of the shots discounted by the refs. Rip’s final score wound up being 14.

Daniel Gibson went second, and started from the nontraditional left side. He struggled early, but then picked things up. Gibson hit 1 shot on the first rack, 4 shots (including a money-ball) on the second rack, 3 shots (including a money-ball) on the third rack, 3 shots on the fourth rack, and 3 shots (including a money-ball) on the last rack, getting 17.

Steve Nash went third, also starting from the left side, and was awful from start to finish, getting a pathetic 9 points. They should have let InsideHoops.com editor Jeff Lenchiner shoot.

Dirk Nowitzki was next, continuing the new tradition of starting from the left side. He shot a very long, slow, high-arc release which wasn’t very fitting for this competition. After a slow start he picked it up, and on the five racks he hit 1, 5, 3, 3 and 3 shots, with money-balls on the second and fourth racks. Dirk finished with 17.

Next is Peja Stojakovic, starting from the right side. He hit just one shot in the first rack and his first money-ball attempt hit the side of the backboard. His struggles continued until he got to the top of the key, which he rocked. And then stepped up on the last rack. In the five shooting areas Peja hit 1, 2, 3, 3 and 4 shots, with money-balls on the third and fourth racks. He got 15 points.

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Last up is defending three-point champion Jason Kapono, who starts from the left side. He is shooting very quickly and did well all-around, though missing the money-balls, but rocked in the end when he needed it. From the five racks he hit 2, 4, 3, 4 and 5 shots, with money-balls on the second and fifth racks. Kapono finished with an awesome 20 points.

Reaching the second and final round is Kapono, Dirk and Gibson.

Starting first is Gibson, shooting very quickly, picking up steam halfway through and again at the end. The money-ball saved him. In the five racks he hit 2, 2, 3, 2 and 4 shots with money-balls on the first, third, fourth and fifth racks, finishing with 17.

Nowitzki is up second, high arc and all, and did decently but struggled with money-balls. In the five racks he hit 1, 4, 2, 3 and 3 shots, with just one money-ball, the very last shot. He got 14 points.

Kapono must beat 17 to win it. And unleashed one of the best performances ever, hitting every single money-ball, and on the five racks making 3, 5, 4, 4 and 4 shots, finishing with an awesome 24 points.

As always, this was a fun competition.

Kapono repeats as the three-point shootout champion.

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Deron Williams wins Skills Challenge

It’s 2008 NBA All-Star Weekend and the Saturday Night events are on. Now up is the Skills Challenge competition.

Deron Williams went first, missing a straight-in pass and one of the top-of-the-key shots, finishing in 31.2 seconds.

Jason Kidd went second and was flawless until shooting the top of the key shot, which he missed five times (after five misses a player can stop shooting and continue with the course), finishing in 39.7 seconds.

Chris Paul was up net, missing a bounce pass, but otherwise running the whole course perfectly, flying in at 29.0 seconds.

Last up was Dwyane Wade, who fumbled the ball during the obstacle-dribble in the beginning and had to go chase it, then missed three from the top of the key and quickly fired the next two up just to get through it, blew some passes, and slowly dribbled to the end, but then missed the layup, and missed the follow, for a disgustingly awful performance of 53.9 seconds.

CP3 and D-Will advance to the second and final round.

In the final round, D-Will went first. He dunked the first shot, ran the dribbling, hit the straight-in pass, and the bounce pass, swished the top-of-the-key jumper, hit the next straight-on pass, and ended it with a dunk, finishing with in terrific 25.5 seconds time, setting the all-time record best time for this event.

Paul is up and has to be virtually perfect for a shot at winning. He hit the first layup, dribbled the obstacles, missed the first straight-on pass, hit the bounce pass, missed once from the top of the key, hit the last straight-on pass, and hit the layup, getting 31.2 seconds — a respectable time but D-Will wins it with a brilliant performance.

Team San Antonio, with Tim Duncan, David Robinson and Becky Hammon, won the 2008 NBA All-Star Weekend Shooting Stars competition Saturday night. After the team got through the regular shots, Tim Duncan quickly hit the half-court shot.

The other team in the Shooting Stars second and final round was Team Chicago, with Chris Duhon, Candice Dupree and B.J. Armstrong. They did well with the regular shots and easily could have won, but took forever to hit the half-court shot, losing it for that reason.

Team Los Angeles wasn’t too hot. And Team Phoenix had potential, but Eddie Johnson struggled.

Kings trade Mike Bibby to Hawks

The Sacramento Kings today acquired forwards Shelden Williams and Lorenzen Wright, guards Anthony Johnson and Tyronn Lue and a 2008 second round draft pick from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for veteran guard Mike Bibby, it was announced by Kings’ President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie. In a related move, the Kings requested waivers on forward Justin Williams and guard Dahntay Jones.

“Today we acquired Shelden Wiliams, Lorenzen Wright, Anthony Johnson and Tyronn Lue,” explained Petrie. “We’re excited about adding another young frontcourt player who was the fifth pick of the 2006 draft in Williams, along with some experienced veterans to the team. We’re looking forward to seeing how they integrate in with the rest of our roster.

“I want to thank Mike for his terrific all around play. He’s had a great run here as a King and has participated in and contributed to some great moments on the court and I wish him all the best.”

Full release on the trade is here.

The draw for EuroBasket and EuroBasket Women 2009 as well as for all 2008 youth championships took place this afternoon in Venice, Italy in front of a packed house at the Venice Casino.

Representatives from 50 FIBA Europe member countries were on hand to see who their national teams would face.

A total of nearly 300 teams will be participating in the EuroBasket 2009 and EuroBasket Women 2009 Qualifying Round and the three age categories (U20, U18 and U16) of the 2008 Youth European Championships.

There are 221 teams participating in the FIBA Europe youth competitions: Division A and B U16 Men and Women, Division A and B U18 Men and Women, and Division A and B U16 Men and Women.

The number of teams that have entered the FIBA Europe youth competitions is an all-time record. 215 teams participated in the 2007 editions and 191 in 2006.

The highlight of the afternoon was the draw for the EuroBasket and EuroBasket Women 2009, Division A.

Seven teams will qualify for EuroBasket, which will take place in Poland from September 7-20, 2009, via the Qualifying Round. The 17 teams were drawn into three groups of four and one group of five. The top team in each group and the three best placed runners-up will advance directly to the finals while one more team will earn a spot via the Additional Qualifying Round.

Latvia and Portugal, the team that knocked them out of last year’s EuroBasket, will meet each other again in an intriguing clash. The two teams were drawn into Group B along with Estonia and FYR Macedonia.

Latvia, who had Golden State’s sensational young center Andris Biedrins in their team, had split their first two games against Croatia and world champions Spain last year in Seville and seemed likely to advance to the quarter-final round but the Baltic side were upset by Portugal in its third game and exited the event.

Wade speaks on Shaq trade

Here’s Dwyane Wade at All-Star weekend:

Q: Talking about the trade … what does Shaq bring to the Suns and Marion bring to your team?

Dwyane Wade: Well, first of all, Shaq … is really made for the Playoffs — to slow the pace down for them and really give them a halfcourt dominance. He’s really going to make Amare [Stoudemire] and them tougher. They’re really going to be able to compete with guys on a different level than they have been in previous years. But what Shawn [Marion] brings to us is excitement and consistency. He’s a guy that’s going to give you what he gives you every night and he’s a guy that, with myself, is [part of] the rebuilding tools … for the future. Two totally different directions: Phoenix is looking to win now and we’re looking to rebuild now.

The interview is short and the rest is about All-Star stuff, but read more here.

Doc Rivers: No curfew for East All-Stars

Here’s the head coach of the Boston Celtics and the 2008 East All-Star team, Doc Rivers

Q: Do the players have a curfew on Saturday night?

Doc Rivers: No, I’m going to tell them all to go out and I’m going to play all the guys, but my guys as many minutes as possible. That’s the key for me.

Q: Would you be in favor of a change like in baseball where the winner of the All-Star Game gets home court in The Finals?

Doc Rivers: No, I don’t like that. There’s some guys who may be in the game whose team has no chance of being in the playoffs, so what vested interest would they have in the game? I would, and I certainly do. I like the way it is. I’ve always said that I would love winner take all. I don’t know what the pot is — the winners get a certain amount of money and the losers get a certain amount of money. I think they should make it one, and the winners take all. I think that would change it a little bit. Other than that, I like it exactly the way it is.

Q: Are you worried about your team peaking too soon?

Doc Rivers: Well, no, because we have so much room for improvement. I know, at least I hope, that because we’ve not been together but five months – it’s not like we’ve been a team that’s been together for a long time. We understand that we’re playing catch-up to all the teams. We don’t go by record. We don’t. We look at Detroit, Cleveland, San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix, all those teams have gone through everything that we’ve not gone through. So we understand that we can’t relax and that we have a lot of room to improve.

Report: Hawks may get Mike Bibby

The Sacramento Bee (Martin McNeal) reports: The Kings have reached an agreement in principle to send veteran guard Mike Bibby to the Atlanta Hawks for guards Anthony Johnson and Tyronn Lue and forwards Lorenzen Wright and Shelden Williams, sources told The Bee on Saturday. The deal is contingent upon league approval that could come as early as today. According to sources who did not want to be identified because of ongoing trade discussions, there is a 1 p.m. conference call scheduled between the two teams and league officials.

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Dwight Howard speaks

Here’s Dwight Howard talking to the media at All-Star weekend. He’s one of the four dunkers in the upcoming Slam Dunk contest.

Q: Have you talked to the other contestants about their dunks at all?

Dwight Howard: Well you know, we talked, but nobody is going to tell their dunk secrets to anybody. It’s just going to be a lot of fun, I just can’t wait.

Q: Is it safe to say your dunks will be things we’ve never seen before?

Dwight Howard: I think about three of my dunks have never been seen before. Well, all of them have never been seen, so hopefully I get a chance to do it. If not, I do have two of my dunks on Youtube.

Q: What’s your favorite Bourbon Street memory here in New Orleans?

Dwight Howard: Ah, man, I haven’t really been out on Bourbon Street, but I did go to a restaurant and they had some fried barbeque oysters and they’re awesome.

Q: Are things easier for the Magic now with trades sending players to the West?

Dwight Howard: No, we still got a tough road in front of us. We’re fighting to be a great team and some teams that we look up to as far as the Detroit Pistons and the Boston Celtics, you know, they’re great teams and we want to be right there in the mix. I think people always forget about the Orlando Magic when they talk about good teams in the East, so we really want to build on becoming a good team.

Q: Do you think there will be years ahead of Yao versus you, two true centers?

Dwight Howard: Oh yeah, I think there will always be that between me and Yao. Like everyone says, big men are like dinosaurs, they’re becoming extinct. Me and Yao and Andrew Bynum, Amare Stoudemire, Tim Duncan, there’s not a lot of us. We’re trying to keep centers going and let everyone know you still need a good center to win basketball games.

Report: Kobe wants out of All-Star

The New York Post (Marc Berman) reports: Kobe Bryant has said he doesn’t want to play in tomorrow’s All-Star Game because of a pinkie injury, but likely will be forced to make a cameo, according to a league source. An NBA rule says a player can’t skip the All-Star Game if he plays the game before and the game after. That would subject him to a suspension. “I’m not going to play,” Bryant said. “The important thing is for me to get as healthy as I possibly can within the rules of the NBA and get ready for Tuesday.” The Lakers and league officials have been in negotiations for two days to figure out how to handle this. Having Bryant miss the game entirely would be a massive blow to the event, as he’s the leading candidate for MVP this season and the league’s most electrifying and best-known player.

LeBron guarantees Team USA Olympic gold

This summer, the USA Basketball senior men’s team and other top national basketball teams around the globe head to China to compete in the 2008 Olympic basketball competition.

Team USA are clearly a favorite, and on paper the top favorite, but as we know from past international basketball competitions, many other countries put together some extremely effective squads who play very well together. But LeBron James today made a loud, clear statement. The Akron Beacon Journal (Marla Ridenour) reports:

When questioned by an international reporter, LeBron James guaranteed a U.S. victory in the 2008 Olympics in Bejiing. ”We will win. We’ll be Olympic champions this year,” James said.

Asked why he was so confident, James said: ”I think we have a great coach in (Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski) who allows us to do what we want to do as long as we abide by some of his rules. Then we have leaders and guys who don’t want to lose. We have a guy like Jason Kidd, who has not lost in FIBA sports his whole life. He’s like 30-something and 0. ”We’ve got Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard that hold down that starting lineup and guys coming of the bench who are going to be good for us, Dwyane Wade. We’ve got so many players, it’s going to be unbelievable. It’s going to be hard for us to be beat.”

InsideHoops.com will provide full previews and coverage of the summer’s competition.

ESPN (Chris Broussard) reports: The chances of Jason Kidd wearing a Dallas Mavericks uniform this season are shrinking by the day. First, Devean George refused to consent to the trade to New Jersey. Now, according to a league source, the league will not allow the Mavericks to bring back Jerry Stackhouse if he is traded and subsequently waived by the New Jersey Nets. According to one league source, the NBA has already made one of the teams aware of its position. “The league has taken Stackhouse out of the deal,” the source said. “They said, ‘He can be in the trade, but he can’t go back to Dallas after that.’ “

Kobe interview about his injury

Friday afternoon Kobe Bryant talked about his injury. Here’s a bit of what he said:

Q: Kobe, can you tell us how your finger is and your injury?

Kobe Bryant: It’s sore. Just trying to rest it. Doing what we can to try to get it as healthy as we can for the second half of the season.

Q: So you were offered surgery as an option, and didn’t like it?

Bryant: Well, no, that’s bad timing. I’ve been playing with it, so it’s kind of routine to do that. But we have a great medical staff and we’ll stay on top of it.

Q: Can you protect it more than you did at Minnesota?

Bryant: You’ve just got to be careful. It’s tough though. Especially when you’re rebounding, offensive rebounds. It’s always tough. But what more can I do? It’s torn anyway.

Read the full interview here.

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