- Newly-minted Heat All-Star Bam Adebayo was confident coming into the season that he could make the All-Star team if he hit certain statistical benchmarks and his team was winning, according to Khobi Price of the Miami Sun-Sentinel. His goal was averaging 16 PPG, 10 RPG and 5 APG in a winning environment. He is currently averaging 15.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists for the 35-19 Heat, alongside fellow All-Star Jimmy Butler. “I guess my prediction was right,” Adebayo said during media availability Saturday.
The judges at Saturday’s dunk contest intended for the event to end in a tie, but their plan failed when three of them awarded nines on Aaron Gordon‘s final jam, according to Malika Andrews and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
After Derrick Jones Jr. and Gordon both received 50s on their first dunks in the dunk-off, Jones finished his night with a running slam from just inside the foul line that received a 48. Gordon sought to clinch the trophy in dramatic fashion by jumping over 7’5″ Celtics rookie Tacko Fall, but after a long wait the judges awarded him three nines and two 10s for a final score of 47.
“We thought it was going to be tied. We were like, ‘This is a tie!'” said hip-hop artist Common, who served as one of the judges. “But somebody didn’t do it right. I don’t know who it is.”
A second judge, Candace Parker, confirmed Common’s comments, saying the intent was for the dunk-off to end in a tie, which would have meant a poll of the judges to determine a winner.
“I really felt it was an even battle, and we, as judges, felt the scores should be even and they should just have a judge-off,” Common said after a breath-taking series of dunks from both competitors. “We had the cards. Put your card up for who had the best dunks.”
Gordon started the event with perfect scores on his first five dunks. He expected a sixth after dunking over Fall, and he and the crowd at the United Center in Chicago were visibly dismayed when the final results left him a point behind Jones. It was a familiar experience for Gordon, who also lost the 2016 dunk contest to Zach LaVine in a controversial decision.
“We’re here to do four dunks,” Gordon told reporters afterward. “It should be the best of four dunks. I did four straight 50s — five straight 50s. That’s over. It’s a wrap. Let’s go home. Four 50s in a row in an NBA dunk contest, it’s over. But I don’t know. Who’s running the show?”
There’s more on the wild finish to All-Star Saturday Night:
- Despite the controversy, Jones believes he was the rightful winner and was unhappy with the score he received on his final dunk, relays Andre Fernandez of The Athletic. “When I got that 48, it was tough because that was a dunk that I was doing since high school,” Jones said. “I know that’s 50-worthy. There’s no way I should have gotten a 48.”
- Jones also said he could have kept dunking as long as the contest remained tied (video link from Ben Golliver of The Washington Post). “I just turned 23,” said Jones, who had a birthday cake wheeled onto the court before his first dunk. “I’ve got legs for days, bro.”
- Fall tells Shelburne that his role in Gordon’s final dunk wasn’t pre-arranged (Twitter link). After a night that saw several dunks over other people, Gordon picked out the tallest man in the building. “I was scared for my life,” Fall admitted.
- Dwyane Wade, one of the three judges who gave Gordon a nine on his final attempt, denied that the score was a favor to Jones, his former Heat teammate. “I wasn’t the only one who gave him a 9, let’s talk about that!” Wade said in a video tweeted by Complex Sports.
- Several commentators suggested that the controversy may affect the league’s ability to get elite dunkers in future competitions. After watching the event, Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant, who many wanted to see participate this year, tweeted, “Y’all just made my decision easier,” then later sent out a video of American Idol judge Randy Jackson saying, “Yeah, it’s a no from me dawg.”
- Dwight Howard offered a tribute to Kobe Bryant with his second dunk, taking off his shirt to reveal a Superman jersey underneath, then taking away the S logo to to show a number 24. He told Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times that Bryant had agreed to be part of the dunk before his tragic death last month (Twitter link).
In Chicago to play in the 2020 All-Star game, Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler said it’s a “definite possibility” he could suit up for the Bulls once again later in his career, tweets Cody Westerlund of 670TheScore.
Butler spent his first six seasons in the Windy City, transforming from a 30th overall pick into a perennial All-Star. Chicago traded Butler to the Timberwolves in June 2017. Butler’s time in Minnesota lasted just over a season before he was dealt to the Sixers. He signed a four-year, $141MM deal with the Heat as part of a sign-and-trade this past summer.
The 30-year-old is committed to Miami for three additional seasons after 2019/20. However, he had praise for Chicago’s front office and what the team is building.
“I got faith in (Bulls) management,” he said, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). “They have a lot of young talent.”
In 46 games this season, Butler is averaging 20.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 6.1 APG for Miami.
Bulls guard Zach LaVine, a two-time Slam Dunk Contest winner, flirted with the idea of taking part in this year’s event in his home arena. However, after suggesting that he’d only participate if he was named to the All-Star team, LaVine has stuck to that stance. That means fans in Chicago this weekend won’t get the opportunity to see a rematch of the 2016 final, which pitted LaVine against Aaron Gordon in perhaps the most memorable Dunk Contest of the decade.
Gordon will participate though, and he’ll be one of the most experienced dunkers on the court this Saturday night. Besides finishing as the runner-up to LaVine in 2016, Gordon also took part in 2017’s contest. Having fallen short twice before, the Magic forward is confident the third time will be the charm, telling Josh Robbins of The Athletic, “I’m gonna win.”
However, it’s Dwight Howard – not Gordon – who has the most Dunk Contest experience of any of this year’s participants. This will be Howard’s fourth time taking part in the event, and he even has a win under his belt.
That win came in 2008 though, and the Lakers center hasn’t participated in a Dunk Contest since 2009, more than a decade ago. A win this year for the 34-year-old Howard would be unprecedented in an event that’s typically a young man’s game. Dominique Wilkins, who had just turned 30 when he won 1990’s contest, is the oldest all-time winner. The second-oldest? Nate Robinson, who was 26 when he beat Howard in 2009.
If you believe that youth will win out in 2020, you’ll have to consider Bucks wing Pat Connaughton an underdog as well. The 27-year-old will be participating in his first NBA Dunk Contest, and is flying under the radar as Saturday’s festivities near — something he says is just fine with him.
“No one’s worried about me and hopefully Saturday night they’ll be like, ‘Damn, I should have been worried about him,'” Connaughton said this week, per Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The fourth contestant this year will be Heat swingman Derrick Jones Jr., who will also be celebrating his birthday on Saturday, as he turns 23. Jones finished as the runner-up to Glenn Robinson III in 2017’s event and will likely have some new tricks up his sleeve this time around.
What do you think? Will Howard defy the odds and win his second Dunk Contest? Will Gordon or Jones get over the hump after placing second in past competitions? Will the first-time Connaughton make a name for himself with a win on Saturday?
Vote below our poll, then head to the comment section to share your thoughts!
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When the Heat made their seven-player deadline trade with Memphis and Minnesota last week, it was clear the team acquired Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder with an eye toward working them into the rotation. However, Solomon Hill‘s outlook was murkier. The veteran forward, who is in the final season of a four-year contract, looked like a potential buyout candidate, but he says he hasn’t approached the club about that possibility and doesn’t intend to, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.
“That hasn’t come across in discussions; I definitely want to be here,” Hill said. “This is an amazing place and winning culture. When you talk about winning, this is the definition of winning. To be in an organization like this and guys like this, this is a chance not only to try to force my way into some minutes but learn as much as I can.”
Hill has been active for the Heat’s last three games but hasn’t yet played a single minute for the team. Still, that doesn’t mean he’s not in head coach Erik Spoelstra‘s plans going forward, as Jackson relays.
“We really like him,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t want these last (three) games to be an indication of what his role will be. I’m not going to figure out that role for the foreseeable future. That’s not fair right now for the team. He’s a detailed defender, has size and quickness to guard multiple positions. He really has improved his shooting. Someone who fits with our style of play. He’s on my mind. He’s the next guy in line. He needs to stay ready.”
Here’s more on the Heat:
- Within that same Herald article, Jackson suggested that Tyler Herro (ankle) seems closer to a return than Meyers Leonard (ankle), and noted that Andre Iguodala agreed to his new contract extension without even talking to Spoelstra or Heat president Pat Riley. “I pretty much knew, had a good feel for the team,” Iguodala said. “Playing against them in the playoffs, playing against them in the Eastern Conference and kind of seeing the scope of their organization, you pretty much know what it is.”
- Besides opening up cap room for the coming summer and improving their 2021 flexibility, the Heat’s trade last week also created a clearer path to locking up Derrick Jones Jr. beyond this season, as Jackson explains in a separate Miami Herald story.
- ESPN’s Zach Lowe takes a fascinating, in-depth look at Bam Adebayo‘s road to the NBA and to his first All-Star nod. Lowe shares some entertaining stories about Adebayo’s first workouts for NBA teams, the impression he made on Miami leading up to the 2017 draft, and how his hunch that he’d be selected by the Hornets fell by the wayside when Charlotte traded for Dwight Howard two days before the draft.
Justise Winslow is thrilled about his new start in Memphis, but in an interview with Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel he offered little insight into an injury that has forced him to miss all but 11 games this season. Winslow has taken the court just once since December 6 because of a lower back bone bruise. “The (Miami) coaching staff thought I was able to play,” Winslow said without further explanation.
After being taken with the 10th pick in the 2015 draft, Winslow developed into a versatile forward for the Heat and often handled play-making duties. However, the lingering injury and the development of young talent in Miami made him expandable in last week’s trade for Andre Iguodala.
“I’m not going to give any dates (for a possible return), I’m sorry,” Winslow said. “But it’s been an ongoing thing this season. That’s the bottom line. I’m sure the Miami Heat did everything that they thought was right to try to help me. Things didn’t work out. I’m here now. I wish I could tell you a date that I’m expected to be back, but there isn’t one.”
There’s more from the Southeast Division:
- Jimmy Butler has finally found a team that views the NBA the same way he does, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. Butler clashed with teammates, coaches and management in his previous three stops, but his ultra-competitive attitude is welcome with the Heat. “When [Butler] was in other places, he got knocked for (speaking his mind),” Iguodala said. “He was disruptive toward his other teammates, but you put him around some guys that actually want to get to the grind, what did he do for them? He upped their level of play, right?”
- Jerome Robinson sees the Wizards as an ideal fit and is ready for the opportunity he never got with the Clippers, relays Chase Hughes of NBA Sports. Robinson was a lottery pick in 2019, but often languished on the bench as L.A. focused on challenging for a title. He’s hoping for more playing time in Washington after being traded there last week. “Experience, that’s what you really learn from,” Robinson said. “To grow as a player and a person, I think this is a great step for me right here.”
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer believes the Hornets should pounce on the opportunity if Sixers center Joel Embiid ever goes on the trade market.
The Trail Blazers, Heat, and Thunder all reduced their projected end-of-season tax bills with their moves leading up to the trade deadline, while the Rockets and Warriors got out of tax territory altogether. The Timberwolves ended up sneaking slightly over the tax line as a result of the D’Angelo Russell trade, but the league-wide tax penalties for 2019/20 will be very modest overall, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter).
According to Marks’ calculations, the Trail Blazers will have the highest bill, at around $5.94MM, followed by the Heat ($2.96MM), Thunder ($2MM), and Timberwolves ($1.34MM). If those numbers don’t change between now and the end of the regular season, it would mean the league’s other 26 teams receive approximately $236K apiece in tax distribution, which would be the lowest mark in league history, according to Marks.
- The Hawks, Knicks, and Pistons project to have more than enough cap room for a maximum-salary player this summer, with the Heat and Hornets potentially joining them, says John Hollinger of The Athletic. As Hollinger observes in his preview of the NBA’s 2020 cap outlook, there are several other teams that could create some cap room if free agents walk or players turn down options, but there won’t be much league-wide space this offseason.
Heading into the trade deadline, no Pistons player had been with the team longer than Reggie Jackson — except for Andre Drummond. So when Detroit swung a deal that sent Drummond to the Cavaliers, it made sense that Jackson would be among those most affected by the move.
“He was my best friend on the team and it’s been like that for five-and-a-half years. He acclimated me when I first got to Detroit and we built a great friendship and brotherhood,” Jackson said of Drummond, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “That’s my guy forever, so it was a tough day seeing he got traded to the Cavs but wishing him nothing but the best for him and his family.”
As Drummond gets acclimated to his new home in Cleveland, here are a few more Cavaliers-related notes:
- Second-year Cavs guard Collin Sexton has been added to the U.S. roster for the Rising Stars game in Chicago this weekend, the league announced today. Sexton will replace Heat guard Tyler Herro, who is nursing a right foot injury.
- Alfonzo McKinnie‘s new four-year contract with the Cavaliers includes a $1.5MM guaranteed salary for the 2019/20 season, according to Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights (Twitter link). That’s significantly more than the $623K McKinnie would have received had he signed a prorated minimum deal. And that’s likely a big reason why he was willing to tack on three team-friendly, non-guaranteed years at the minimum. Cleveland was able to exceed the minimum and go up to four years using the mid-level exception.
- Following the expiration of his 10-day contract with the Cavaliers, Marques Bolden rejoined the team’s G League affiliate, the Canton Charge, per JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors (Twitter link). Since Bolden just signed a single 10-day deal with Cleveland, he’d be eligible to sign a second one between now and the end of the regular season.
The Knicks have had a miserable 12 months, finishing the 2018/19 season with a league-worst 17 wins, missing out on their top free agent targets, and then firing head coach David Fizdale and president of basketball operations Steve Mills during the 2019/20 season.
None of that seems to have had a noticeable impact on the team’s market value though. Once again, the franchise is considered the most valuable of any of the NBA’s 30 clubs, according to a report from Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes. The Lakers and Warriors aren’t far behind, having both surpassed the $4 billion mark for the first time this year.
For the first time, all 30 NBA teams have a perceived worth of $1.3 billion or more, per Forbes’ annual report. Every team’s value increased by at least 6% since Forbes put out their 2019 valuations last February, with a handful of franchises jumping by 20% or more.
The NBA-wide average of $2.12 billion per team in 2020 is also a new record — that league-wide average surpassed the $2 billion mark for the first time. NBA franchise values are up almost sixfold over the last decade, according to Badenhausen.
Here’s the full list of NBA franchise valuations, per Forbes:
- New York Knicks: $4.6 billion
- Los Angeles Lakers: $4.4 billion
- Golden State Warriors: $4.3 billion
- Chicago Bulls: $3.2 billion
- Boston Celtics: $3.1 billion
- Los Angeles Clippers: $2.6 billion
- Brooklyn Nets: $2.5 billion
- Houston Rockets: $2.475 billion
- Dallas Mavericks: $2.4 billion
- Toronto Raptors: $2.1 billion
- Philadelphia 76ers: $2 billion
- Miami Heat: $1.95 billion
- Portland Trail Blazers: $1.85 billion
- San Antonio Spurs: $1.8 billion
- Sacramento Kings: $1.775 billion
- Washington Wizards: $1.75 billion
- Phoenix Suns: $1.625 billion
- Denver Nuggets: $1.6 billion
- Milwaukee Bucks: $1.58 billion
- Oklahoma City Thunder: $1.575 billion
- Utah Jazz: $1.55 billion
- Indiana Pacers: $1.525 billion
- Atlanta Hawks: $1.52 billion
- Cleveland Cavaliers: $1.51 billion
- Charlotte Hornets: $1.5 billion
- Detroit Pistons: $1.45 billion
- Orlando Magic: $1.43 billion
- Minnesota Timberwolves: $1.375 billion
- New Orleans Pelicans: $1.35 billion
- Memphis Grizzlies: $1.3 billion
The Raptors are among this year’s big “winners,” with their value rising 25%, from $1.675 billion a year ago to $2.1 billion this year following their first NBA championship. The Clippers also had a noteworthy bump, moving from ninth place on Forbes’ list to sixth after landing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer.
Although every franchise’s value increased, the Nets had the smallest jump, just 6%. The Magic‘s modest 8% increase resulted in the team slipping from 23rd on last year’s list to 27th this year.
It’s worth noting that when a franchise has been sold in recent years, the price often exceeds Forbes’ valuation, so these figures are just estimates.
Things have felt a little off in Philadelphia this season. Widely considered a top-two team in the Eastern Conference entering the season, the fifth-seeded Sixers have fallen short of those expectations so far and have struggled to smoothly incorporate major offseason signee Al Horford.
Franchise center Joel Embiid hasn’t been immune to the ups and downs of the 76ers’ season, having spoken last week about wanting to “get back to the fun Joel.” On Sunday, when Philadelphia hosted the Bulls, Embiid heard some boos from fans during pre-game intros and later appeared to shush the home crowd and say “Shut the f–k up” after hitting a dagger three in the fourth quarter (video link via Michael Lee of The Athletic).
Embiid, who claimed after the game that his comment was aimed at himself and not Philadelphia fans, said he didn’t care how it looked, adding that he wants to get back to being a “good a–hole.” On Monday, he posted an Instagram photo of that shushing moment, accompanied by the caption, “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
Not content to leave it at that, Embiid later exchanged comments with Heat swingman Jimmy Butler, who replied to his former teammate’s Instagram post with the message, “I know a place where villains are welcome,” an apparent reference to Miami. Embiid’s response? “Damn right my brother.” (hat tip to Bleacher Report).
It’s premature to read too much into Embiid’s on-court actions on Sunday and his social media posts after the game. Considering the way the 76ers’ season has played out, the big man was probably just letting out some frustration and then engaging in some light trolling. He published a tweet later on Monday night reasserting his commitment to Philadelphia.
Still, given the ongoing drama, this is a situation worth keeping an eye on. When the Sixers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs last spring, head coach Brett Brown‘s job security seemed tenuous, and if the team doesn’t advance even further in this year’s postseason, changes of some kind are probably coming.
A head coaching change and/or secondary roster moves are much more likely than anything drastic involving Embiid or Ben Simmons, but teams around the NBA are monitoring the situation. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his podcast this week (hat tip to RealGM) that rival executives have started to openly wonder whether the Sixers would consider moving Embiid. As Windhorst acknowledged, that’s an extremely unlikely scenario, but it’s notable that execs don’t believe it’s an impossibility.
“My point is people are talking about that,” Windhorst said, per RealGM. “I don’t think they would do that without making an adjustment to the head coach. It’s such a radical thing. But the fact that we’re in mid-February and the people who work in the league, who have to prepare in advance, are mulling over Joel Embiid potentially coming to market, whether that’s true or not… I mean, (Sixers owner) Josh Harris can come on this podcast and deny it if he wants, but the fact people are talking about it, is not good. It’s a symptom of where they are.”