Storyline: All-Star Contests

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Glenn Robinson III isn’t the only Indiana Pacers player to win the NBA dunk contest. In fact, Fred Jones won in 2004, and Darnell Hillman won in 1977. But something was different about the 1977 contest. Hillman never received his trophy … not until Wednesday night, at least. While Hillman and Fred Jones were on hand to celebrate Robinson’s recent win, the Pacers made sure Hillman got his trophy as well. The best part is Hillman was completely surprised by the gesture from the Pacers.

These days, Gordon drives a Tesla, backs a mental awareness app called Lucid, and collects gadgets like they’re stamps or baseball cards. “Aaron and Drew discovered those full-wall projectors,” Davis quipped. “I’d come home and these grown people are doing blanket pillow forts in the family room watching the full projector set up.” The idea for a “Drone Dunk” came to Gordon this past year as he puzzled over how to top his 2016 performance in Toronto, which featured the Magic’s mascot spinning on a hoverboard. While surfing the Internet, Gordon had his “Aha” moment when he stumbled on a video of a drone delivering packages. “I thought, ‘Why not?’ Why couldn’t it just deliver a basketball? What if it just dropped an alley-oop?” No question, a drone is a clear step up from a hoverboard.

But then his biggest fear, the dunk’s timing, spoiled the show. Gordon’s first effort at the alley-oop finish, which involved passing the ball through his legs to dunk with his right hand, wasn’t particularly close. The drone team quickly reloaded the basketball and the pilots quickly repositioned the drone for a second effort, and then a third. The contest organizers then allowed him a fourth try, which he converted to earn 38 points out of a possible 50. Instead of celebrating, he shook his head with a somewhat disgusted smile, and his score reflected the judges’ intolerance for the missed attempts. “You can’t [recover],” he told by telephone, still sounding clearly disappointed more than an hour after the contest’s end. “After I didn’t get the first one down, I knew I was eliminated. I knew it was pretty much over after that.”

After years of campaigning to be in the Skills Challenge, Kings’ All-Star DeMarcus Cousins likes what he’s seen from the big men as they’ve now won it for the second consecutive season. New York’s Kristaps Porzingis knocked off Cousins on his way to winning the Skills Challenge, beating Utah small forward Gordon Hayward in the final. “He knocked my ball out man,” Cousins said after Porzingis eliminating him. “He knocked my shot out. I’m just glad one of the bigs won. It’s bigger than one individual in this; it’s about the bigs winning. We have to defend our crown.”

The Indiana Pacers shooting guard ran from the right and soared up and over his teammate, Paul George, grabbing the ball on the way and floating long enough to clear the Pacers mascot and a dancer too. His reverse slam, with his head grazing the rim along the way, was enough to win the event that, while entertaining, was nowhere near electric as last year’s legendary affair. And to think, Robinson is really a novice at this whole dunk thing. “It’s crazy. Like I said, I couldn’t dunk until my sophomore year in high school, and now not even a decade later, I won an NBA dunk contest,” he said. “Going into this, I hadn’t really practiced any trick dunks. I hadn’t really got time. I focused on playing. I focused on starting and playing to the best of my ability. When they gave me this chance, it took me a week to come up with some things that nobody’s ever seen in the NBA dunk contest. It was tough.”

He attempted to innovate again Saturday, beginning with the drone dunk. “I had two drone dunks,” Gordon said. “That was just supposed to be the one that was just going to get me going. I like to do creative things. I like to do over-the-top things. I guess I did a little too much.” Gordon was asked to describe the second drone dunk he had planned. He declined to do so. He said he might save it for a future competition. “This is very disappointing,” Gordon said.

Gordon, who has made 184 three-pointers and is shooting 38.5% from that distance this season, got the best of Irving – the 2013 champion – in the tiebreaker, outscoring him 21-19. “Towards the end, you get a little tired,” said Gordon, a first-time Three-Point Contest participant. “I wasn’t really concentrating on how many I made. It’s all about just focusing on just knocking down the shot. I never count it in my head or anything. You just go out there and shoot the ball. That last rack, it was just mostly fatigue.”

They call him “The Unicorn” because his size, speed, athleticism, fluidity and skills are those of a mythical creature. Now the Knicks forward is a Skills Challenge champion, winning the All-Star Saturday Night contest that seems almost built for him. “It’s a good feeling that I’m able to showcase my skill with my size and show to the kids that you’re capable of doing that even if you’re tall and lanky like me,” Porzingis said after beating Gordon Hayward in the final. “I think a lot of kids now growing up will improve those perimeter skills just seeing guys like – I don’t want to mention myself, but big guys with perimeter skills that can do it.”

FS: What do you remember most about that night? Wilkins: “It was hot. It was hot in that building. It was standing room only! It was standing room only. I knew it was going to be a show. I knew it was going to come down to me and Michael before the contest. It was just his weekend. It came down to being probably the most epic ever.” FS: A lot of people think you should have won. Wilkins: “Probably. [Laughs] You know, I hear that every day. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear about that dunk contest at least once. It’s amazing. You’re talking 25, 27 years later and we’re still talking about it. It was just a lot of fun for us.”

The NBA announced today that Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić has been selected to replace injured Joel Embiid in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 18 at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans during NBA All-Star 2017. Jokić, 21, has appeared in 48 games (34 starts) for Denver this season, averaging 16.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 26.8 minutes per game, making him one of just five players to average 16.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists this season (Antetokounmpo, Cousins, Griffin, Westbrook,). Among second year players, Jokić ranks second in rebounding, third in assists and fourth in scoring. He also ranks fourth in the NBA among all centers in assists per game and has registered at least five helpers in 19 games.

Q: Is part of you a little disappointed Steph won’t be back in the Three-Point Contest to try and take your crown from you? Klay Thompson: I wish he was there, but I’m not disappointed. I know he’s done it a lot. He needs his rest, man. … We want him fresh come May and June. I’m not too hurt he’s not doing it. It makes my life a little bit easier, get that crown again. The fans want to see it, but I mean, (I’ll do it) at least one or two more times before my career’s over.

Aaron Gordon’s right-foot bone bruise will prevent him from playing tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers and could force him to withdraw from the All-Star dunk contest on Feb. 18 if the injury doesn’t heal as quickly as Gordon and team officials hope it will heal. Asked if he’s concerned that the bone bruise will keep him out of the dunk contest, Gordon answered, “Maybe. I’m not sure. It’s day-to-day. If I can get back and play one of these games before the All-Star break, I’ll probably go ahead and just do the dunk contest, too.”

When the season began, Kristaps Porzingis hoped to complete the All-Star weekend triple crown — the Rookie-Sophomore game, the Skills Challenge and the main event. He will have to settle for two of the three after being passed over for the All-Star Game. Nevertheless, Porzingis said he is “excited” about being one of the eight guys named to the Skills competition, which will take place during the Saturday night festivities Feb. 18 in New Orleans. “Big guy like me — 7-3 — participating in the skills challenge, it should be fun,” Porzingis said Saturday before his foul-plagued performance in the Knicks’ 111-104 loss to the Cavaliers in which he scored just nine points and finished with more personal fouls than field goals. “I believe [I can win it]. I think I have a shot.”

Jordan couldn’t help but offer a humorous explanation, squirming out of answering firmly whether or not he’ll be participating in this year’s dunk contest. “Like, if I do the dunk contest, then they got to let me do the 3-point competition, something like that – or the skills challenge,” Jordan said. “It’s crazy, because they don’t know, like, I’m a pretty good passer. I got dimes. I’m pretty sure I could make that layup. I don’t know about that free-throw you got to shoot.”

Damian Lillard may not be able to represent the Portland Trail Blazers in the All-Star Game, but Portland will have at least one representative in New Orleans for All-Star weekend as his backcourt mate C.J. McCollum will compete again in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest. “I will [compete],” McCollum said at practice on Saturday. “At first, I was against it, I didn’t really want to go but seeing as how I performed last year, and my girl can’t go on vacation because she has a test on Monday, it kind of changed my view on it.”

A shrug of the shoulders. That’s how Aaron Gordon reacted when he was asked Friday about Zach LaVine’s decision not to participate in the 2017 All-Star dunk contest. “No reaction,” Gordon said. “I don’t doubt that Zach will be in the dunk contest in the future.” Last February in Toronto, Gordon and LaVine staged one of the most epic duels in the contest’s history. After two tiebreakers, LaVine was crowned the winner in a controversial decision by the judges — a decision so controversial that Indiana Pacers’ superstar Paul George has said Gordon was “robbed.”
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October 16, 2017 | 6:02 pm EDT Update
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