Highlight: Wizards’ Nene spins and dunks over Pelicans’ Omer Asik

Washington Wizards forward Nene took it back to his younger days, as he posted up New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik then spun off him to throw down a thunderous dunk. The Wizards have been carefully easing Nene through the preseason, given his injury history and the fact he played for his native Brazil during the FIBA World Basketball Championships. When healthy, there is no denying Nene can produce moments like this. Asik got a whiff of what the Chicago Bulls saw in last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. [Vine] The post Highlight: Wizards’ Nene spins and dunks over Pelicans’ Omer Asik appeared first on KCM SPORTS.

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FIBA World Cup Group Play Turning into Highlight Show for Team USA

After just four games of preliminary-round play, Team USA clinched a spot in the round of 16 and won its Group C with a 106-71 victory over the Dominican Republic on Wednesday.

Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried led the way for the United States with 16 points, but the club’s fourth consecutive win was in large part due to another ensemble effort. For the second straight contest, every member of the roster scored—underscoring the depth and selflessness characterizing head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad.

As guard James Harden told reporters after the team’s victory over New Zealand, “We’ve got 12 guys that can score the basketball at any given moment, and tonight and every other night the focus is defense, and whoever scores the basketball, it’s USA points.”

And many of those USA points have been scored in style.

The United States’ active defense has translated into plenty of fast-break offense. The results have been something to behold.

Here are just a few of the highlights we’ve witnessed as Team USA prepares for its final game of group play against Ukraine.

Begin Slideshow

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WATCH: Every highlight from the Drew League Dunk Contest

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; height: auto; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; } This year’s Drew League Slam Dunk Contest featured the likes of Young Hollywood, Jonathan Clark, Airdogg, Chris Staples and Steven Mallory. And while those aren’t household names, the five Drew League players managed to put on a better show than one has seen at the NBA’s slam dunk contest in recent years. Young Hollywood may have won the whole thing but there’s plenty of great dunks to go around. Johnathan Clark’s pump-reverse dunk while splitting his legs was insane as was his flip into a dunk. If I had a vote, it’d probably go to him. Have to give it up for Young Hollywood though. His dunk over a dude standing on a chair was straight-up silly. [Youtube] Article found on: Next Impulse Sports

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SEC matchups highlight Iowa State’s schedule

SEC matchups, road game at Iowa highlight Iowa State’s non-conference schedule

      
 

 

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Villanova, Michigan highlight 2014 Legends Classic (Yahoo Sports)

NEW YORK (AP) — Big East champion Villanova and Big Ten champion Michigan are in the 2014 Legends Classic.

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Wednesday Tip-Off: Duke-UNC and Pitt-Syracuse highlight rivalry battles

The Duke vs. North Carolina rivalry never gets old.

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Paul George and Damian Lillard Highlight Exciting NBA Dunk Contest Roster

The dunk contest is back.

The last few fields have been rather lackluster, but 2014 is bucking that trend, thanks to the inclusion of three players who will also compete in the actual All-Star Game: Paul GeorgeDamian Lillard and John Wall

Stars make the contest exciting, and it’s hard to deny any of the aforementioned studs that status.

George has been a supremely impressive two-way threat for the Indiana Pacers, quickly developing into one of the few players in the league who seems capable of eventually challenging Kevin Durant and LeBron James for ultimate supremacy. Lillard, meanwhile, has been thriving as a dominant point guard for the upstart Portland Trail Blazers. 

As for Wall, he’s quickly becoming an elite floor general for the Washington Wizards thanks to his dynamic offensive contributions. Jumper or no jumper, he can’t be kept away from the rim. 

And they can all get up to throw down. 

George, one of the few players in the world who can do that (Vince Carter could back in the day), told Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star, “Exactly, I don’t want to add to it (All-Star weekend) by doing extra stuff.”

That came back in January, but fortunately his stance has changed, as reported by Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears

He’ll officially be joined by the man who can do this: 

Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com broke the news that Lillard will participate, and J. Michael of CSNWashington.com confirmed Wall’s entry. You know, the same Wall that has thrown down dunks in this vein:

It’s worth noting, though, that The Washington Post‘s Michael Lee says Wall has neither confirmed nor denied the report that he’s dunking for a trophy: 

We can only hope A) that Wall does elect to participate and B) that the rest of the field is as strong as the first three confirmed players. Rumor has it that our wish will be granted. 

Thus far, a Terrence Ross rumor has been reported by ESPN’s Marc Stein, and James Ham of NBA.com tweets that Ben McLemore could be included as well: 

Three unquestioned stars and two of the NBA‘s youngest highflyers

Yes please. 

Again, the dunk contest is back

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The Evolution of Blake Griffin from Human Highlight Machine to NBA Superstar

Blake Griffin—human highlight machine or NBA superstar? 

Take your pick from the two, because in the minds of far too many people, he can’t be both. Apparently, Griffin’s status as a dunking phenom prevents him from ever taking the next step as a well-rounded basketball player. 

Well, that’s just wrong. 

The two tags are not mutually exclusive, and it’s quite possible to be both a superstar and a constant producer of SportsCenter-worthy highlights.

LeBron James does it for the Miami Heat. Kevin Durant does so for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Stephen Curry earns both labels while leading the Golden State Warriors, and so too does Paul George with the Indiana Pacers

Now you can add Griffin to the list for the Los Angeles Clippers

While keeping his team right near the top of the Western Conference standings as Chris Paul continues to rehab his shoulder, Griffin has made the leap. He’s become a full-fledged superstar. 

 

Growing Offensive Capabilities

Thinking that Griffin is “just a dunker” is stupid—moronic, even. 

Seriously, it’s one of the most indefensible myths spouted out by ill-informed fans who clearly haven’t taken the time to watch the Los Angeles superstar dominate opponents throughout the 2013-14 season. His game may not be pretty and smooth, but it’s incredibly effective and based around so much more than dunking. 

How else do you average 23.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game? Last time I checked, it was literally impossible to drop a dime by dunking. The same goes for rebounding, and I’m pretty sure that Griffin doesn’t dunk the ball home over 10 times each contest. 

There are two keys to this: the development of his post game and improved capabilities shooting the ball from outside the paint. 

Early in his career, it was accurate to claim that Griffin couldn’t score with his back to the basket. He couldn’t. 

That started to change during his sophomore season, when the big man from Oklahoma began using his devastating spin with more and more frequency. But now it’s very much false, as Griffin can score out of the post, and he does so quite often. 

Just look at the points per possession that he’s recorded in such situations over the course of his career, courtesy of Synergy Sports (subscription required): 

This season, Griffin has scored 0.96 points per possession out of the post, and that leaves him ranked No. 26 throughout the entire Association. And that’s among all players who have gone to work at least 25 times with their backs to the basket, so there are a few guards scattered among those beating him, sheerly as the result of small-sample-size effects. 

He’s shooting 48.2 percent in this situation and drawing plenty of fouls and and-1 opportunities. Everything points toward impressive play from the post, and there’s one scary aspect I have yet to mention. 

Griffin has gotten better since Chris Paul separated his shoulder against the Dallas Mavericks.

Not only is he going to the blocks with more frequency, but he’s also been even more effective once he receives the rock. He no longer needs feeds from a talented passer, because he can create his own looks. 

You can scream all you want that Griffin doesn’t have a post game,” writes Grantland’s Zach Lowe. “You are just wrong, and your argument looks increasingly like the hysterical shouting of a crazy person who points to a sunny sky and tells you it’s raining.”

But that’s not the only area of improvement in his scoring arsenal. Take a look at the work he’s done over the course of his career from 16 to 23 feet, just as an example: 

Year FG% FGA per game
2010-11 33.5 2.59
2011-12 37.1 3.76
2012-13 34.0 3.24
2013-14 40.8 4.57

There’s obviously still plenty of work to be done, but Griffin’s jumper is improving across the board. Not only is he making a higher percentage of his looks, but he’s also firing away with much more frequency.  

Another way to look at this is through heat maps, which come courtesy of Basketball-Reference. Take a gander at the progression throughout Griffin’s career, starting with his rookie season in 2010-11: 

The perimeter game filled out a bit more during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, and it only kept getting better.

Here’s 2012-13:

Griffin started adding more of a three-point shot to his game, though he still contributed in limited fashion from beyond the arc. 

And now, the current 2013-14 campaign: 

The colors are different because we’re so early in the season. Griffin hasn’t made enough shots to turn zones into more primary colors, but you can already see the trends starting to form. 

Not only is he hitting more shots from beyond the arc—eight three-pointers made is more than in the past two seasons combined—but he’s also knocking down attempts from all over the court. In fact, he’s even developing a new hot spot from the left elbow rather than doing the majority of his jump-shooting work along the baseline. 

As Griffin told The Associated Press (via ESPN) after helping beat the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 24, “(I want to be) a leader for us, knocking down shots and being able to mix up my game, going inside when I felt the need to and going outside when I needed to.”

He can now. 

Griffin is an evolved player, and it’s a shame so many people are overlooking that, especially because the evolution only grows stronger when you account for smaller improvements like his work from the charity stripe and his defensive play. 

  

Responsibility in the Clippers Offense

Griffin’s ascent to superstardom has been about more than just an improving game, though. He’s been able to take control of a team and steer it on to victory time after time. 

When Paul went down with a separated shoulder on Jan. 3 against the Dallas Mavericks, it would’ve been easy to assume that the Clippers would fall back in the Western Conference. However, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Although Jamal Crawford deserves a lot of credit, you can credit Griffin for L.A.’s ability to remain near the top of the pile. His game hasn’t declined; if anything, it’s taken a slight step forward even though he lost the player who created so many opportunities for him. 

The Clippers have gone 11-5 in CP3′s absence, and Griffin has averaged 26.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game while shooting 55.4 percent from the field. But the numbers are one thing. 

The involvement is another. 

  USG% AST%
Before CP3 Injury 27.1 14.9
After CP3 Injury 30.3 22.9

As you can see from those stats, which come from Basketball-Reference, Doc Rivers has placed an incredible amount of trust in Griffin whenever the Clippers have the ball. Not only has his usage rate increased since the point guard was lost to injury, but his assist percentage has risen as well. 

They’re all signs that Griffin has been much more active, and NBA.com’s SportVU data shows just how involved he’s been throughout the 2013-14 campaign. Below you can see the leading non-point guards in touches per game: 

  1. Kevin Love, 86.0
  2. Blake Griffin, 80.2
  3. Josh McRoberts, 76.8
  4. LeBron James, 75.0
  5. Joakim Noah, 74.8

Throughout the entire NBA, only 21 players record more touches per contest than Griffin, and it’s because so much of the offense runs through him. In fact, it’s gotten to the point that plays rarely unfold without the power forward receiving the rock on the left elbow. Even if he doesn’t go to work with a scoring mentality, his ensuing pass kick-starts the offense. 

And that’s one of the reasons that the All-Star starter is right up near the lead in secondary assists, at least among non-guards. Marc Gasol is the only qualified big man who records more hockey assists than Griffin’s 0.9, and the LAC power forward stands out even more when we isolate the number of passes he throws each outing. 

Checking in at 55.6, Griffin throws fewer passes than only 30 players throughout the NBA, and he’s only 0.2 per game behind Kyrie Irving, just to put things in perspective. 

There’s no longer any doubt that he’s become an offensive hub for the Clippers, and that’s been the largest development in his ascent to superstardom. 

In the past, Griffin was a valuable player. He’s never been “only a dunker,” because such a player couldn’t possibly have produced the numbers he blessed L.A. with during his first season out of Oklahoma. 

But he’s so much more than that now. 

Griffin is taking over games, producing MVP-caliber numbers and—most importantly—spurring the Clippers on to victory after victory. Without him, LAC would’ve fallen well behind the top teams in the Western Conference, rather than currently sitting with a legitimate shot at overtaking everyone else once Paul gets back on the court. 

You’re welcome to overlook Griffin, but you now do so at your own peril. 

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Kansas’ Tyler Self Hasn’t Played a Minute This Season, Still Gets Highlight Tape

Kansas guard Tyler Self has yet to play a minute in the 2013-14 season and played only 24 minutes as a freshman. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a legend at Allen Fieldhouse.

The son of coach Bill Self received minutes here and there last season, but he never played more than three minutes in any game. He scored only four points in his first season with the Jayhawks.

The lack of playing time may make it hard to find enough highlights to create a video reel, but one fan found a way to show off the younger Self’s best moment on campus.

Self’s highlight came on the first shot of his career, which came against Colorado.

[YouTube, h/t The Big Lead]

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NBA All-Star 2014: Stephen Curry, Kevin Love Reportedly Highlight 3-Point Field

Bombs away.

According to BasketballInsiders.com’s Eric Pincus, the list of participants for the NBA All-Star Weekend’s Three-Point Shootout, which will be held Saturday, Feb. 15, and be broadcast by TNT, is just about set:

The pool for the three-point shootout has yet to be named but the early list, subject to change, includes Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Marco Belinelli (San Antonio Spurs) representing the West.

Belinelli is leading the league with a three-point shooting percentage of 49.3 percent.

Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers) is expected to have a chance to defend his title. Kyle Korver (Atlanta Hawks) is also believed to be getting an invite.

The sixth participant isn’t clear just yet, but the final shooter would come from an Eastern Conference franchise.

Tough, if not impossible, to argue with those named by Pincus.

Each of those five is shooting better than 37 percent from deep this season. Irving, last year’s winner, actually checks in with the lowest three-point percentage, converting 37.2 percent of his long balls.

Love won the three-point contest in 2012. Injuries prevented him from attempting to defend his title last year, so this will be a defense of sorts for him.

The world is still waiting for Curry to win one of these, though.

Curry leads the league in three-pointers attempted per game with 8.4 and is connecting on 39 percent of them, an incredible clip when you consider the volume. Last year, he was eliminated in the first round, watching as Matt Bonner and Irving battled in the finals.

But this has been a year of firsts for Curry, who was just selected to his first-ever All-Star team—and as a starter no less. Kevin Durant also recently offered the Golden State Warriors sharpshooter the highest of praises via Twitter:

Winning this year’s contest would certainly help strengthen his case as the best shooter ever. All-Star Weekend accolades are essentially worthless, but Ray Allen, one of the greatest shooters ever, nabbed a three-point contest title in 2001.

After receiving more than a million All-Star votes, Curry called the whole experience “surreal,” per The Charlotte Observer‘s Rick Bonnell. Outshooting the league’s best three-point gunners would make his All-Star endeavor even more fulfilling.

Not that it will be easy. Five other players will be coming for him. 

The sixth challenger has yet to be picked, but as Pincus notes, there are no shortage of options. He names Anthony Tolliver of the Charlotte Bobcats (44.5 percent) and Mirza Teletovic of the Brooklyn Nets (43.6 percent) as potential participants, either of whom, in addition to Love, Irving, Belinelli and Korver, would be tough outs.

“The game has been good to me,” Curry said after hearing he was named an All-Star starter, via Bonner. 

For someone, maybe Curry, it’s going to get even better.

 

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