NBA Capsules: Utah's Evans wins Slam Dunk Contest - Brownsville Herald

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — His nickname is the Human Pogo Stick and Utah's Jeremy Evans set out to put some bounce back into the Slam Dunk Contest.

Evans endeared himself to the fans with a mix of props and creativity, and they voted him the winner of one of the marquee events of the NBA's All-Star Saturday festivities.

Evans, who got into the competition as a replacement for injured New York guard Iman Shumpert, earned 29 percent of the 3 million votes cast. He beat out Houston's Chase Budinger, Indiana's Paul George and Minnesota's Derrick Williams for the Jazz's first-ever trophy in the contest.

In a departure from past dunk competitions, fans were given complete voting power and cast their ballots by text message after each of the four participants competed in three one-dunk rounds.

Evans dunked with a camera on his head, slammed two basketballs while jumping over a seated assistant and donned a Karl Malone jersey to dunk over mailman-dressed comedian Kevin Hart.

Evans said the Jazz didn't have any input in the Malone-themed idea.

"Not at all," he said. "I was just thanking the Jazz fans. You want to do something to get them in it. So I felt that was a good way. And Dwight Howard, he helped me big time. That was huge."

Budinger got just as many cheers from the Amway Center fans as Evans, and some in the celebrity-filled crowd sighed when the winner was announced.

Budinger got his biggest reaction when he donned a Cedric Ceballos jersey and imitated his 1992 blindfolded dunk, completing it with a reverse slam.

"I've very happy with my performance. I went out there, I had a plan and I executed the plan and the fans voted and I didn't win and that happens sometimes," Budinger said. "But I had great dunks and they're going to be great memories as well."

Kevin Love knows something about dunking. He does most of his dirty work inside for Minnesota, but he got to show off his outside touch on Saturday night.

Love beat out Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant to win the 3-Point Shootout. The former UCLA star was consistent throughout, but had to survive a tiebreaker in the first round and sweat out the last few shots from Durant to pull out the 17-14 victory in the final.

Love is in the middle for a breakout year for Minnesota, averaging 25 points and 9.9 rebounds a game. But he also has connected on 49 of 141 3-point attempts for the Timberwolves.

"You know, I'm a guy that loves to rebound the ball, a guy that loves to play inside, really a physical player," Love said. "But for me, coming into the league, I was told not to shoot 3-point shots, so to be where I am now and continue to work on my game; I think this definitely speaks to my versatility. I think I'll just continue to improve year in and year out."

Celebrities lined the court for the appetizer before Sunday's NBA All-Star game, and the first event saw the continuation of the good vibes that New York Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin has brought to the Big Apple recently

With Knicks super fan Spike Lee looking on, Team New York had the touch from the outside and won the Shooting Stars event. Former Knicks star Allan Houston nailed his third attempt at a half-court shot to give his team consisting of current Knicks guard Landry Fields and Cappie Pondexter of the WNBA's New York Liberty the victory.

San Antonio point guard Tony Parker then won the Skills Competition. Parker was the only one of six participants to break 30 seconds in the first round (29.2) and this time of 32.8 in the final run on the obstacle course was better than Boston's Rajon Rondo (34.6) and New Jersey's Deron Williams (41.4).

Love was tied for third after the opening round of the Shootout and beat Miami's Mario Chalmers 5-4 in a tiebreaker. Defending champion James Jones led all shooters in the opening round with 22 and Durant was next with 20.

Orlando's Ryan Anderson just missed eliminating both Love and Chalmers, totaling 17 after missing his final 2-point money ball.

Love and Durant both had 16 in Round 2 to advance to the finals, with Jones posting 12.

Houston, Fields and Pondexter completed the shooting course in 37.3 seconds in the final round. It was better than the 47.6 posted by the Team Texas trio of former Houston Rockets star and TNT analyst Kenny Smith, current Rocket Chandler Parsons and Sophia Young of the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Team Orlando and Atlanta posted the slowest times of Round 1 and were eliminated.

The speedy Parker put together an impressive display on the skills obstacle course, which involves participants moving through a dribbling circuit, successfully throwing chest passes through a hanging tire and driving for a layup.

Williams, the 2008 winner, holds the record for the skills' course at 25 seconds, but had trouble completing a pass in the final round on Saturday.

Stern: Silver worthy successor as NBA commissioner

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — David Stern will reveal only two things about his future as NBA commissioner. He'll be retired within five years, and he hopes Adam Silver replaces him.

Stern endorsed Silver for the job on Saturday, calling the deputy commissioner and 20-year employee of the NBA a "first-rate, top of the class executive."

"I guess I would say that one of the things that a good CEO does, and I try to be a good CEO, is provide his board with a spectacular choice for its successor, and I think I've done that, and that's Adam," Stern said, with Silver sitting at a table to his right.

"That's ultimately, if I had the decision, if I were doing it myself, he would be the commissioner."

However, Stern said the choice would be left to the owners, and he's given them no indication when they will have to make it.

Stern committed to a minimum of five more years on the job after the previous collective bargaining agreement was ratified in 2005. He said he's told them nothing now, though he said the discussion would come "very soon." He repeated what he's said previously about not being around to handle the next round of negotiations, which could be in 2017 if either side exercises its right to opt out of the 10-year deal.

"I'm not going to be here when it either is or isn't reopened in six years," he said.

Silver was already the lead negotiator during the recent labor talks, leading owners through a five-month lockout to a new deal in which they saved about $280 million a year in player salary costs.

Stern has leaned on his longtime assistant and the former president of NBA Entertainment more frequently in recent years, often leaving it to him to answer difficult questions. He passed the microphone to Silver on a couple of occasions Saturday for questions about the league's future that Stern, 69, may not be around to answer.

He has plenty of business to complete now.

He will meet Sunday with leadership from Sacramento and the Maloof family, who own the Kings, as the sides try to beat a March 1 deadline to complete a plan to finance a new arena the city needs to keep the team.

"We'd like the city, on behalf of the Maloofs, to make the largest possible contribution," Stern said. "The city would like the Maloofs to make the largest — both have come up with very substantial contributions. It's really getting there. It's just not there yet. And we're looking for ways, imaginative ways, to bridge the gap."

Also Saturday:

— Stern said the league is in discussions with one unnamed group, with another sitting behind, for the sale of the Hornets. He is optimistic a deal can get done in a week to 10 days.

— Stern doesn't see expanding beyond 30 teams in North America, but neither he nor Silver would rule out overseas in the next decade.

— Silver said the league is working to schedule games in London next season, after this season's games at the O2Arena had to be scrapped because of the condensed schedule.

— Silver said Nike and Adidas, in the wake of reports they try to steer stars to large markets, have assured the league that the incentives they build into contracts are based on winning, not market size.

— Stern said the league will return to Orlando for another All-Star game, though didn't say when. The game hadn't been here in 20 years, but Stern said there's "no better building in the world" than the new Amway Center.

— Silver said the league is in discussions about playing preseason games next season in China, perhaps in Shanghai, where former Houston All-Star Yao Ming owns the Chinese Basketball Association team.

-- Brian Mahoney

Union chief Hunter pleased at halfway point

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — At the halfway point of an already whirlwind NBA season, union leader Billy Hunter is pleased overall while still reserving judgment about the game in the aftermath of the prolonged lockout.

"Obviously the TV ratings are up. The attendance is up. Merchandising is up. So all the signs are positive, that's what I'm getting from (NBA Commissioner) David (Stern)," Hunter said Saturday. "The early report is that things are positive."

After a summer spent haggling mostly over revenue sharing, Hunter said the union is waiting to see the first official revenue figures from the league.

Early indications are the players will be pleased with what they eventually see.

The league shares its financial projections with the players' association on a quarterly basis, and the next update is due in March. Adam Silver, the NBA's deputy commissioner and chief operating officer, has informally conveyed to Hunter that the numbers are higher than expected.

There are several reasons for the positive numbers, but Hunter did allude to the recent surge in popularity of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin as one possible culprit.

Hunter said he's not at all surprised that the league has been able to rebound so swiftly after a contentious summer.

"I believed that the electricity was in the air and what was going to happen was the same thing that happened to football," Hunter said. "(There was) just a groundswell of support when the NFLPA and NFL got their deal. Everybody was concerned of whether there would be a problem or downturn, and it didn't happen.

"I think the appearance of some of the new talent that they either weren't aware of before or the ones that we've seen that have kind of upped their game, and I think it's a time where people are impressed and turned on."

As far his satisfaction level with the new collective bargaining agreement that allowed for the compressed 66-game season, Hunter said he isn't ready to offer judgment just yet.

"I think it's too early to tell," he said. "I think when you look back at the players that were free agents that signed this past summer, the guys that we anticipated that would get paid got paid. That's what the system allows. So I think when some of the free agents come out this season, I think you're gonna see the same kind of response with what teams step up.

"It's not that they're not gonna be in a position to pay the players. The players deserve it."

Hunter will be looking at specific numbers when he measures the effect of the new agreement on free agency.

"The criteria is at what level guys sign, what they sign for and the length of the contracts," he said. "I think it's more about revenue sharing. I don't think the owners of the teams can sit back and say they have a problem with the ability to pay players and be able to make money. I think they got revenue sharing and many other things that they wanted."

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recently told that from his fellow owners' perspective, how they feel about the new deal may take even longer — perhaps as much as three or four years. Cuban even alluded to the possibility of the owners choosing to exercise their option to opt out of the 10-year deal in six years.

That did little to rattle Hunter's optimism about the future, though.

''We're not intimidated by that," Hunter said. "Trust me, all of that is just, how can you characterize that? It's a lot of hot air."

-- Kyle Hightower

Notebook: Bryant the owner wouldn't settle for overlooking Lin

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — If Kobe Bryant ever owns a team, his personnel department better not overlook a guy like Jeremy Lin. Bryant said he is still amazed that nobody drafted Lin and two teams cut him this season before the Knicks picked him up.

The Lakers All-Star got a good look at Linsanity when the Knicks beat the Lakers 92-85 on Feb. 10. Lin outscored Bryant 38-34, just a night after Bryant said he wasn't familiar with the former Harvard guard's game. It may be OK for a player to be unaware. Bryant wouldn't stand for it from his talent evaluators.

"The biggest thing to me is how everybody missed that," Bryant said. "They all would be fired if I was owning a team. I hear this stuff about it came out of nowhere, and I think it's (wrong).

"You can't play that well and just come out of nowhere. There has to something there and everybody missed it, so heads would roll."

PLAY BALL: LeBron James delivered his familiar chalk toss, though this time there was no basketball game to be played. He was actually standing on a baseball field.

James helped dedicate renovated athletic facilities at a local Boys & Girls club Saturday in what's becoming an All-Star tradition for the Miami Heat forward. He did the same last year in Los Angeles and was cheered in both cities, even though he wears an enemy uniform.

"Any time I get an opportunity to be out in the public forum like this, it's been great," James said. "They don't judge me by me wearing the Heat uniform, even though the Magic are one of our rival teams."

The project was a partnership between James' foundation and Sprite, which launched another program involving James this weekend. He and Kobe Bryant will serve on opposite coaching staffs for teams that will compete in the "uncontainable" game at All-Star 2013 in Houston. Amateur players can try out to play on one of the teams by uploading their moves on, and judges will choose 24 to compete.

But James doesn't want kids to focus only on basketball. Along with the renovated baseball and soccer fields, and a picnic area, 25 iPads were also given out at Saturday's dedication.

"Anything those kids want that's going to help them in everyday life, we try to provide for them," he said. "We want to steer them to letting them know how important education is, also how important these types of atmospheres are, Boys & Girls Clubs and things of that nature, to be able to be around other kids your age and gain friendships and things that will last forever."

L.A. STORY: With two All-Stars starters and a spot atop the Pacific Division, the Los Angeles Clippers are getting praise that's usually reserved for the other team in Los Angeles.

Kobe Bryant was asked if he could have imagined that city having four All-Star starters.

"Yeah, they were just in Laker uniforms," Bryant said. "Clippers had none, but it's been a great turnaround and Los Angeles is obviously well represented."

The Lakers did have four All-Stars in 1998, with Shaquille O'Neal, Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones joining Bryant. This time, the Clippers' Blake Griffin and Chris Paul will start for the Western Conference on Sunday, along with Bryant and Lakers center Andrew Bynum.

The Clippers' rapid turnaround came after they traded for Paul in the preseason, and Miami's Dwyane Wade is happy for his friend's success.

"Hopefully they take a little while to get real, real, real, real good, but they're fast tracking that thing over there in L.A. and I'm happy for him," Wade said.

The Clippers went into the break with a 1½-game lead over the Lakers in the division. And if the Clippers go on to reach the NBA finals, don't expect Bryant to be cheering for them to win one for Los Angeles.

"I'll be on an island somewhere, how about that?" he said.

RISING RATINGS: More people watched the Rising Stars Challenge than the game featuring the future superstars from the Class of 2003. Friday's game on TNT drew 2.7 million viewers, most in the event's history and a 12 percent increase from last year's game. The telecast earned a 1.7 national rating, up 13 percent from 2011.

The previous record was set in 2004, when nearly 2.2 million viewers watched a game that included current All-Stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony.

This year's game featured rookies and second-year players competing on the same team for the first time, and earned extra attention when the Knicks' Jeremy Lin was a late addition.

HELPING OUT: Union executive director Billy Hunter joined several current and former players Saturday afternoon distributing food and other household items to more than 3,000 families as part of partnership between the union, Feed the Children and the City of Orlando.

Players that participated in handing the supplies included union vice president and Washington forward Maurice Evans, Boston's Keyon Dooling, Minnesota's Anthony Tolliver, San Antonio's Matt Bonner and Atlanta's Willie Green. Former players included Theo Ratliff and Kermit Washington.

Recipients received a 25-pound box of food items and 10-pound bag of other supplies, which are supposed to last a typical family about a week. The NBPA sponsored eight semi-trucks full of items that gave out items at different locations.

Tom Sellars, a spokesman for Feed the Children, said the NBPA's impact is noticeable for a city where 1 in 4 children are living below the poverty line.

"The presence of these players and former players help us put a spotlight on that," he said.

AROUND ALL-STAR: Gerald Green, the 2007 slam dunk champion, picked up another All-Star weekend award. Green, a former first-round pick of Boston now playing for the L.A. D-Fenders of the NBA Development League, earned MVP honors at the D-League All-Star game after scoring 28 points in the West's 135-132 win over the East. ... Singer Kayla Brianna, daughter of former NBA player and current TNT analyst Kenny Smith, will perform during Sunday's pregame concert on NBA TV. She will appear with the Knicks City Dancers, making her national TV debut this weekend in the city where her father had the biggest night of his career. Smith made a then-record seven 3-pointers as the Houston Rockets won Game 1 of the NBA finals, getting started on the road to a sweep of the Magic for their second consecutive NBA title.

-- Brian Mahoney

26 Feb, 2012

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