Jazz's Evans Long Shot To Repeat As Dunk Contest Champion
The NBA's Slam Dunk Contest used to be more anticipated than the All-Star Game itself, but that is certainly no longer the case. Whereas the likes of Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Clyde Drexler, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin have competed in the event, stars are now staying away.
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LeBron James could resuscitate interest in the Dunk Contest by himself, and he teased some fans last week by tweeting "Dunk Contest?", only to say he wasn't interested the next day. So for the second year in a row the contest features players who won't be recognizable to the average fan. Utah's Jeremy Evans will defend his 2012 title on Saturday night in Houston against the Nuggets' Kenneth Faried, the Clippers' Eric Bledsoe, the Knicks' James White, the Raptors' Terrence Ross and Indiana's Gerald Green.
The 6-foot-9 Evans averages less than six minutes a game for the Jazz and more often than not doesn't get off the bench unless it's mop-up duty. He wasn't originally in the 2012 field but was a late addition for the injured Iman Shumpert of the Knicks. Evans won the fan voting thanks in large part to dunking two basketballs while jumping over Utah teammate Gordon Hayward as well as donning a throwback uniform of former Jazz legend Karl the Mailman Malone and slamming over comedian Kevin Hart, who was dressed as an actual mailman.
Evans has yet to announce any plans for this year, although Hayward won't be involved as he will be at home in Indiana. Evans is the 8/1 co-long shot with the Nuggets' Faried. Five previous players have won multiple Dunk Contests, the most recent being Nate Robinson, the only three-time winner.
Faried is the only player in this contest who starts for his team, and the 6-foot-8 second-year player out of Morehead State is among the NBA leaders in dunks this season. The 5/4 favorite at Bovada is White, a 6-foot-7 swingman who plays sparingly for the Knicks but is known as being one of the best dunkers when he does play. The 30-year-old, nicknamed Flight, won the dunk contest in the D-League in 2009.
The Pacers' Green is the third-favorite at 4/1, and he won the Dunk Contest at the 2007 All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas while with the Celtics. Toronto's Ross is 7/2 and the Clippers' Bledsoe is 5/1. Bledsoe is easily the shortest competitor at 6-foot-1.
The three players from the Eastern Conference will compete against their Western counterparts. The highest-scorer from each conference advances to the finals and then those two will battle for the $100,000 first prize - as voted by fans.
While the Dunk Contest is rather void of big-name players, the Three-Point Contest features two All-Stars, the Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving and Pacers' Paul George, as well as one player who should have been one, the Warriors' Stephen Curry. The rest of the field consists of the Hornets' Ryan Anderson, Spurs' Matt Bonner and Knicks' Steve Novak.
As in the Dunk Contest, the East's best will compete against the West's best in the championship round. Curry and Novak are the 5/2 favorites. As of Wednesday, Curry was No. 3 in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage and Novak No. 5.
Curry leads the NBA in three-pointers made per game, followed closely by Anderson (4/1), who leads the league in attempts per game. He competed in last year's event, won by Minnesota's Kevin Love in an upset over Kevin Durant. Irving (4/1) has improved his distance this season and is in the top 15 in three-point shooting. Bonner (5/1) is second to Atlanta's Kyle Korver in three-point percentage. George (15/2) is the worst long-range shooter of the bunch, hitting just under 39% from behind the arc.
Look for a total north of 280 for Sunday night's game in Houston between the Eastern and Western Conferences as defense isn't exactly a priority in All-Star Games.
The West is going for its third-straight win and fourth in the past five. Its starting five has an L.A. feel with the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard joining the Clippers' Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, along with the Thunder's Kevin Durant. It's the second-straight year four players from L.A. teams have started, with Howard replacing former Laker Andrew Bynum this year. Howard says he plans to play as long as his injured shoulder doesn't prevent it. The West is coached by the Spurs' Gregg Popovich.
Durant won game MVP honors last year, with the West winning 152-149 in Orlando as a three-point underdog. It was the second-most total points scored in an All-Star Game. Durant had 36 points, while Kobe had 27 to become the game's all-time scoring leader over Michael Jordan. Bryant, who also holds the record with four game MVP awards, was the victim of a hard foul in the game by the Heat's Dwyane Wade that led to a bloody nose and a concussion for Kobe.
Wade had a triple-double last year, the third in the ASG history. LeBron had 36 points to lead the East. Those two will start again this year for the East with the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony and Celtics' Kevin Garnett. Boston's Rajon Rondo was voted as the fifth starter but is out for the season. Nets center Brook Lopez replaced Rondo. It's expected that Erik Spoelstra, the coach of the East and the Heat, will chose his own Chris Bosh to replace Rondo in the starting lineup, although Spoelstra could go with Cleveland's Irving if he wants another point guard.
Durant is the opening 13/2 favorite to repeat as MVP, followed by LeBron (7/1), Kobe (15/2) and Griffin (15/2). The Rockets' James Harden, the hometown favorite, is 14/1.
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