The the NBA All-Star Weekend officially went into tact last night, after the Celebrity game (Arne Duncan looked like Tim Duncan) and the Rookie-Sophomore game, in which rook Tim Hardaway Jr. went off for 34 points, resulting in Marc Berman climaxing over Twitter. Tonight is perhaps the most exciting event (not to DeMar DeRozan or Dwight Howard) out of every event included on All-Star Weekend, besides the All-Star game itself, and that is the dunk contest.
Even though fan voting has been iffy at times (voting Kobe Bryant into this year’s All-Star game while being injured for 95% of the season. James Harden is his replacement), Adam Silver and NBA brass did a good job in letting the fans vote via social media for the dunk contest, except, what the heck is this brand spankin’ new formatting? Just like the three point contest, the dunk contest has the same exact format that’s carrying into this year. The Eastern Conference will have three players represent the conference and the Western Conference will have three players represent their conference. It sounds simplistic at first. But it doesn’t stop there. After the inaugural freestyle round, there will be a battle round, just the right time to make it sound even more confusing. Because I can’t explain clearly, here’s the Association explaining the format with, hopefully, clarity:
The Battle Round will feature head-to-head matchups pitting East dunkers vs. West dunkers, with the judges choosing a winner for each battle. Upon losing a head-to-head battle, that dunker is then eliminated from the competition. The first team to win three battles will win the competition and be crowned 2014 Sprite Slam Dunk champions.
Alright, I’m still perplexed. Is this the NBA’s version of the common core or what? I think what they’re basically saying is that it’s a team competition, rather than basing the competition off of individual performance. The interesting thing, though, is that the contest still has a “Dunker of The Night” title, code name for best individual performer. So, I guess they still do grade individual performance? SB Nation gives a lucid take on the format. Once you read it, you’ll understand. Hey! Now, I understand it (I think)!
This year’s cast of characters don’t sound pretty shabby at all: Paul George, John Wall, and returning champ Terrence Ross for the East and Damian Lillard, Ben McLemore and Harrison Barnes for the West. Also, some stats and stuff: This is the second time in NBA history in which three All-Stars (George, Lillard and Wall) are participating in the contest. The first time was in 1988, in which a guy by the name Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler participated (have no idea who those guys are, pfffffffft). For the fans that are so malcontent about the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant not participating in the dunk contest, even though LeBron thinks he could win the dunk contest, George makes up for the two of them.
The East as a collective will probably annihilate the West in the freestyle round for a couple of reasons. 1. Terrence Ross did this to Kenneth Faried a couple weeks ago, in what is definitely the dunk of the season so far, indubitably and 2. Terrence Ross single-handedly eradicated the dunk contest on his own last year, especially when he gave his pretty sweet tribute to Vince Carter. Who knows? Maybe Damian Lillard will jump over LaRue Martin, maybe Terrence Ross will invite the same kid he jumped over from last year. Ben McLemore could convert that 720 dunk he was talking about, just like “The Air Up There.”
Odds are Paul George will probably win the “Dunker of The Night” accolade. According to betting website Bovada.lv, George has a 7/4 odds to win. The man behind him is Ross with a 3/1 odds and after that is John Wall with a 9/2 odds. See, even oddsmakers have all three Eastern Conference participants as the top three to win. This is the only form of Eastern Conference bias I’ve read this year, because, you know, the East after the Pacers and Heat is Keith Richards’ ashtray, with the Knicks being several feet deep in the tray.
A lot of people do have Harrison Barnes as their outside shot to win “Dunker of The Night.” For Warrior fans, he’s been pretty difficult to watch this season. With Andre Iguodala playing in front of him, it’s like Mark Jackson has no idea what to do with him but relegate him to the bench as the backup small forward and as a small ball stretch-four. And whenever he checks in, he’s been mediocre at best. Barnes can use a good dunk contest performance to relieve his bleeding.
I would love to see the Ross repeat. With a title already under his belt, that does give him the benefit of the doubt repeating this year. And the fact that he did J.R Smith’s behind-the- back dunk from J.R’s rookie year in 2005, he earned some immense respect from myself (it was so much better than Andre Iguodala’s version of it). There have been five repeat winners, former Knick Nate Robinson being one of them. But the preponderance of people, including the oddsmakers, have George as victorious. Even with Ross’s baptism on Faried and his hand-switching jam in his 51 point outburst against the Clippers, George has been the better overall dunker in-game this season, despite Ross’s dunks being more exquisite than a Rembrandt work. We’ll just have to wait and see until tonight.