Jimmy Butler All-Star

Jimmy Butler was the real winner of NBA All-Star Weekend

Quavo won the the Ruffles Celebrity All-Star game MVP. Spencer Dinwiddie won the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. Devin Booker won the JBL Three-Point Contest. Donovan Mitchell won the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest. LeBron James won his 3rd All-Star Game MVP dropping 29 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. All that stuff is great.

The real winner is Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Jimmy Butler. Jimmy Butler was an All-Star this year for fourth year in a row. He is averaging 22.4 points per game, 5.5 rebounds, 5 assists and 1.9 steals. He is one of the best two-way players in the league, capable of scoring 30 points while locking up the other teams best wing or guard at the same time.

None of those points are why Jimmy Butler is the real winner. He is the real winner because he didn’t have to do ANYTHING during All-Star weekend. He got to be in Los Angeles, CA where the weather was in the 70s over the weekend.

He got to clown around with TNT reporter David Aldridge and Toronto Raptors’ All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

He got to practice handshakes with a young fan before the game.

He got courtside seats to watch some of the best athletes in the world duke it out in the most competitive All-Star game in recent memory. Mind you, Jimmy Butler was picked as an All-Star reserve. He wasn’t just there to watch the game. He was picked to PLAY in the game. Yet Jimmy Butler played exactly the same amount of minutes as I did. And you know what, that is entirely ok. He got $25,000 to sit on the bench and cheer on Team Steph. Absolutely nothing but respect for that finesse. He did it all without playing a single minute.

During the game they mentioned he was a “bit under the weather.”

Twitter was not buying it.

Jimmy Butler got to do what everyone else was doing on Saturday night in LA. He went out on the town and had a good time. He came into “work” the next day and said I’m not feeling too hot you go ahead and do this without me.

He probably told Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, who was coaching Team Steph for the game, something along the lines of, “Be a REAL shame if I didn’t play any minutes in the All-Star game, a real shame.”

Although officially listed on the Box Score as DNP – Illness, it really should have said, DNP – Hungover, took to many shots of Moscato.

Lou Williams, the standout shooting guard for the Los Angles Clippers who had the numbers to make the All-Star team but was one of the snubs, was none to pleased when he saw Jimmy Butler play exactly  zero minutes in the game.

Much like the 1972 Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles’s nightlife is confirmed undefeated.

Featured Image: AARON LAVINSKY/Star Tribune

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Slam Dunk Contest

2018 NBA Slam Dunk Contest Preview

All-Star weekend is right around the corner, and with that comes the different competitions that take place before culminating with the All-Star game on Sunday February 18th. Arguably the most famous and important competition of the weekend is the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

The Slam Dunk contest will be on Saturday February 17th at 7:00pm on TNT. This year, the event is being held in Los Angeles, California at the Staples Center. The Staples Center is home to the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers of the Western Conference.

The contest features four contestants competing against each other in front of a panel of judges and is two rounds long. In the first round, each contestant gets two attempts to dunk and impress the panel. After each dunker goes both times, the two dunkers with the highest scores will advance. The two remaining dunkers will attempt to out duel each other by getting two more chances to show off their creativity and athleticism. The winner is then decided and a champion declared.

The Dunk Contest was originally introduced in 1984 during All-Star Weekend. Larry Nance defeated the great Julius “Dr. J” Erving in Denver, Colorado in that contest.

The previous three winners of the event will not be competing due to being out for most of the year with injuries. Zach LaVine won in 2015 and 2016, but he just recently returned from an ACL tear. Glenn Robinson III won last year’s event but is out after having ankle surgery in earlier this season.

Let’s meet this year’s dunkers.

Dennis Smith Jr.

 

Slam Dunk Contest

Dennis Smith Jr. dribbles down the court (Zimbio)

Dennis Smith Jr. is a rookie point guard for the Dallas Mavericks. He was picked with the 9th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft from North Carolina State. On the year, he is averaging 14.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. He is shooting 40.2 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three.

He is one of the standout players from one of the best draft classes we have seen in a while. During his pre-draft workout with the Los Angeles Lakers, he tied a record by registering a 48-inch vertical leap. That is extremely impressive, considering the fact that his is only 6-2 . He has already proved he is one of the most athletic guards in the league with several nasty jams, including ones against the Spurs and Warriors. Expect him to break out some good ones in the contest. 

Larry Nance Jr.

The second junior we have competing in the event, Larry Nance Jr. is a third year power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers. He was picked 27th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft out of the University of Wyoming. As previously mentioned, his dad Larry Nance won the inaugural dunk contest in 1984, so you can see where he got his hops from.

The 6-9 power forward is averaging a career high 8.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 60 percent from the field. Over the past three years, we has seen his dunks and have wondered why he has not participated/been invited to the event. Now we don’t have to wait any longer as he gets to show off his ferocious ability in this year’s contest. He has sent many players to the NBA graveyard, including David West, Kevin Durant (2x) and Brook Lopez, as seen below.

Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo is fifth year shooting guard for the Indiana Pacers. He was originally drafted 2nd overall in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic, where he spent his first 3 years of his career. He then spent last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder before being traded to the Indiana Pacers in the Paul George blockbuster deal this past summer.

The 6-4 guard has proven that Indiana didn’t get fleeced by OKC, putting up a career high 24.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. He is shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from three, also career highs.

At the 2013 NBA combine, Oladipo wowed observers with a 42-inch vertical. He previously competed in the 2015 Slam Dunk Contest, where he lost to then-Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard Zach LaVine. He had arguably the dunk of the year last year, slamming it on the head of center Dwight Howard.

Aaron Gordon

Last but not least, we have Aaron Gordon. Gordon is a 4th year combo forward for the Orlando Magic. He was selected 4th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft out of the University of Arizona. This year, Gordon is averaging a career high 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. He is shooting 44.7 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from three.

He is an absolutely electric athlete who can wow you with every dunk he attempts. He competed in the event and lost the past two years, so we will see if he comes up with something new to excite the crowd and impress the judges this time around. Below are his highlights from his epic duel with Zach LaVine in 2016.

Luca’s prediction: Dennis Smith Jr.

Dennis Smith Jr. has enough juice to get this done. I believe he has some great dunks up his sleeve and will impress the casual fans who do not yet know how special of a talent he is. He is a smaller guard with a ton of hops and he can play that to his advantage and get the win.

Featured photo by Dan Savage/NBA.com

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Rap and basketball

Rap and basketball: Forever intertwined through lyrical references

Rap and basketball go together like peanut butter and jelly. Players are name-dropped in songs and rappers sit courtside. Players have become rappers (Iman Shumpert, Damian Lillard and Nick Young) and rappers have become owners (Jay-Z and Nelly). Getting name-dropped in a song shows that you’ve done enough as a player, for better or worse, to warrant the shoutout.

“Once I got referenced, that is when I felt like I had made it in pop culture” – Dwyane Wade

The better and more successful a player is, the more likely he is to be name-dropped more often in a song. Michael Jordan has been mentioned 194 times in a song and Brevin Knight has been mentioned once (back to Brevin later). Listed below are 16 of the best NBA player references in rap history and my breakdown of the lyrics.

“If Jeezy paying LeBron, I’m paying Dwyane Wade”

Rap and basketball

Dwayne Wade shares a laughs with Jay-Z. (Kelly Dwyer/Yahoo Sports)

“Empire State of Mind” – Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys (2009)

Jeezy is “paying” LeBron because he had recently made a song titled 23,24 where he mentions LeBron and Kobe a bunch. Jay-Z hops aboard the Dwyane Wade bandwagon in Empire State of Mind instead.

D-Wade was at his peak in 2009 when he lead the NBA in scoring by averaging 30.2 points per game. He was the best shooting guard in the NBA at the time, and Jay-Z is stating that he would back Dwyane Wade since Jeezy already backed LeBron James.

“Pyrex, cook it up like Kyrie, trade you off (let’s go), green and white like Celtics, don’t play with me, play with a fork.”

“All da Smoke” – Future and Young Thug (2017)

In this song off the recently released collaborative album Super Slimey, Future talks about the Kyrie Irving trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets 2018 first-round pick.

Pyrex is a cookware brand, and he compares cooking in the kitchen to Kyrie cooking defenders on the court.

Green and white is in reference to the Celtics colorway and the color of money, which Future has a whole lot with his net worth being around $8 million.

“I been Steph Curry with the shot, been cookin’ with the sauce, Chef Curry with the pot boy, 360 with the wrist boy.”

“0 to 100/The Catch Up” – Drake (2014)

Drake starts out the line by comparing himself to Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. He is stating that he is a dead-eye shooter and doesn’t miss on tracks, like how Steph Curry seemingly doesn’t miss shots, especially from deep.

The two-time MVP is a career 43.6 percent 3-point shooter and has made over 2,000 threes already in his career. This puts him at eighth all time, and he is only 29 years old.

The second part of the lyric Drake refers to Ayesha Curry. Ayesha is Steph’s wife, and Drake mentions her ability to whip up feasts in the kitchen. It also refers to James Harden’s “stir the pot” celebration.

“And you can live through anything if Magic made it.”

“Can’t Tell Me Nothing” – Kanye West (2007)

Kanye references Lakers Hall of Fame point guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s AIDS diagnosis in this lyric. On Nov. 7, 1991, Johnson held a press conference and shocked the world when he announced that he was retiring from the NBA because he was HIV-positive.

At the time, the disease was deadly as they were still in the early stages of developing drugs to manage the disease. Kanye refers to this by saying you can live through whatever you are suffering through because Magic was able to survive his dire diagnosis.

“I am just like DeRozan, if I shoot it, it goes in.”

“iSpy” – KYLE ft. Lil Yatchy (2016)

This is a questionable lyric at best. KYLE is comparing himself to Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan by saying any track he makes is a hit, just like any shot DeRozan shoots he hits.

This is just a factually incorrect statement. Although DeRozan has improved his 3-point shooting percentage to a more than respectable 35 percent, he is still a 29 percent career shooter from deep. He also shoots 44.9 percent in his career from the field, meaning he makes less than half of the shots he attempts.

To make his lyric even more incorrect, this is the only song he has ever had in the Billboard Top 100, when ‘iSpy” peaked at No. 4. Although KYLE may improve his numbers just like DeRozan has, next time he should choose a better shooter to compare himself too.

“I been ballin’ so hard I swear I think that I’m Kobe”

Rap and basketball

Kobe balled pretty hard over his career. (Photo by AP / David J. Phillip)

“Kobe” – Chief Keef (2012)

Chicago legend Chief Keef believes that he has put in so much work and made so much money that he is convinced that he is Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

Bryant averaged 25 points per game, 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists over his career. He has earned over $770 million in his career from advertisements and contract money.

On the other hand, Chief Keef has a net worth of around $6 million. Chief Keef feels as if he is on the same level as Bryant because he is making hit after hit. His debut album Finally Rich was a superb success, debuting at No. 29 on the Billboard Top 200 list. Not bad at all for a 17-year-old rapper.

“I’m not from round these parts I’m Stojakovic”

“Pump It Up (Remix)” – Joe Budden ft. Jay Z (2003)

Joe Budden, a rap old head, joins forces with mogul Jay-Z for the song Pump It Up (Remix). There are plenty of references in the song, but the best is the one listed above. It is a remix to Joe Budden’s most successful and acclaimed song Pump It Up.

Budden exclaims that he is foreign to the neighborhood, just like former NBA sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic. Stojakovic is from Serbia and averaged 17 points per game in his career and shot over 40 percent from three. He is one of the best international players of all time.

Just like Stojakovic is from Serbia and not familiar with his surroundings, neither is Joe Budden in this song.

“Klay Thomp’, corner shot (brrr), Eight-Ball, corner pocket(ayy)”

“Call Casting” – Migos (Quavo) (2017)

Migos gives a shoutout to Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson on the track “Call Casting” from the standout album Culture. Thompson is the second “Splash Brother” along with point guard Stephen Curry. They are two of the most accurate and deadly three-point shooters of all time. Thompson has hit many corner threes in his lifetime and will hit many more in the future.

In the second half of the lyric, Quavo talks about his Billiards knowledge by stating that he is calling the corner pocket of the table for the eight-ball when he is going for the win. An eight-ball may also refer to Quavo dealing with an eighth, or 3.5 grams, of a drug.

“James Harden, Swaggy P runnin’ up the budget”

“Facts (Charlie Heat Version)” – Kanye West (2016)

Kanye West is not only a rapper, but a clothing feign. He signed with Adidas after starting his clothing brand with Nike. Both of the athletes mentioned in this lyric also left Nike for Adidas as well. The Yeezy line is one of the most popular clothing and pop culture lines in the world.

West points to Adidas signing both Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden and then Los Angles Lakers shooting guard Nick “Swaggy P” Young. He states that their Adidas contracts are causing the budget to rise. Harden’s contract with Adidas is a reported $200 million over 13 years. That will certainly run up the budget.

“Got a thing for aesthetics, straight shooter like Redick”

“102” – Vince Staples (2011)

Vince Staples states that he enjoys beauty and the pretty things in life. Staples then compares his gun-toting abilities and accuracy with a glock to that of Philadelphia 76ers shooting guard J.J. Redick. Redick is one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA. He is a career 41.4 percent shooter from deep and has made 1,369 threes in his career so far. Redick is someone you don’t wanna leave open from deep, otherwise you might as well chalk up three points for the other team.

“Back-to-back like I’m Jordan ’96, ’97”

“Back to Back” – Drake (2015)

This lyric is from the second of two diss tracks by Drake against Meek Mill. The beef started after Meek Mill called out Drake for allegedly using a ghost writer to write his verses.

Drake responded by dropping “Charged Up” and “Back to Back,” taking shots at Meek Mill and his entourage the entire time. He compares him dropping back-to-back diss tracks with Chicago Bulls shooting guard and the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan winning back-to-back championships in 1996 and 1997.

“She said she need a ring like Carmelo”

“Nikes” – Frank Ocean (2016)

Frank Ocean talks about a woman in his life that he is with that wants to get married. The woman wants to solidify her relationship with Ocean by having the ring. He compares this to Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Carmelo Anthony not having won an NBA Championship, despite being one of the best players of the decade and one of the best individual scorers of all time.

He has averaged over 24.4 points per game over his 16-year NBA career. Therefore, he wants a ring that signifies being a champion. Many pundits and fans believe that’s the last thing Anthony needs to accomplish in his career, despite having one an NCAA Championship with Syracuse in 2003.

“I’ma beat they (butt) up like Ron Artest”

“Floyd Mayweather” – Young Thug ft. Gunna, Travis Scott and Gucci Mane (2016)

In the standout song off of Young Thug’s third major release mixtape Jeffery, Young Thug profusely states that he will beat the up the next person who tries to rob him, and make sure no one threatens him again.

He compares his fighting ability to Ron Artest’s (aka Metta World Peace). Artest is infamously known for his part in the Malace at The Palace fight. In a game between rival Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers in Detroit, the two teams got into a heated brawl in the closing seconds. The fight spilled into the stands with Ron Artest fighting fans after they threw things onto the court at him. It is one of the most infamous moments in NBA history.

So yeah, don’t get into a fight with Young Thug or Ron Artest.

“I bring all my guns to work, Gilbert Arenas”

“Spend It” – 2 Chainz ft T.I. (2011)

2 Chainz states he is always strapped up with weapons in the workplace like Gilbert Arenas was in the Washington Wizards’ locker room. Arenas was the star point guard for the Wizards when he was suspended for the rest of 2010 season after getting in a locker room dispute with teammate Javaris Crittenton. They reportedly drew weapons on each other in the locker room after arguing over a gambling debt.

On a somewhat related note, Crittenton is currently serving 23 years in prison after being found guilty of manslaughter.

“Boomin’ out in South Gwinnett like Lou Will, 6 man like I’m Lou Will”

Rap and basketball

Lou Williams with his two girlfriends. (Lou Williams Instagram)

“6 Man” – Drake (2014)

Drake love the Raptors so much he dedicated a song off the album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late to one of their players.

“6 Man” is dedicated to shooting guard Lou Williams, who at the time was a high-scoring guard for the Toronto Raptors. He had recently won the Sixth Man of the Year award for the Raptors in 2014-15. Drake also shouts out South Gwinnett, which is where Lou Williams went to high school in Georgia. He also shouts out producer Metro Boomin with the first word of the lyric.

Drake states he is the 6 man like Lou Will because he is the man of the 6, which is what Toronto is known as. A fun fact about Lou Williams is that he once had two girlfriends at the same time, and one of his girlfriends had a twin.

“I take my Glock and I point god/point guard like Brevin Knight”

“Put ‘Em in the Grave” – Jedi Mind Tricks (2006)

I told you we would get back to out mutual friend Brevin Knight. In one of the most obscure rap references of all time, Vinnie Paz of Jedi Mind Tricks talks about pointing his pistol and guarding himself and his homies, like point guard Brevin Knight guarding people on defense.

Brevin Knight was a journeyman backup point guard who played for nine teams in his career and averaged 7.3 points per game. While it is a very slick metaphor and lyric, it is still quite odd that he picked perhaps one of the most random NBA players in history.

The only reason I knew Brevin Knight existed was that I had his Utah Jazz basketball card as a kid. I’m sure 99.9 percent of people reading this don’t know who he is, which is quite fair because he did absolutely nothing notable in his career besides being known as a decent defender (I had to look that up).

Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did writing this.

 

Featured image by Jason Merritt/Getty Images North America

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Zach LaVine is back for the Chicago Bulls

One of the most prolific dunkers in the NBA is back this weekend as Zach LaVine returns from an ACL tear. The 6-foot-5 189-pound wingman has been rehabbing his knee since the summer and has not played a game yet this year. LaVine is expected back on Saturday, making his Bulls debut against the Detroit Pistons. In a twist, LaVine tore his ACL against the Pistons almost a year ago while playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

[su_quote cite=”John Paxson” url=”http://www.nba.com/article/2018/01/09/chicago-bulls-zach-lavine-season-debut#/”]Zach will play 20 minutes a game to start and not play back-to-backs until after the All-Star Break. [/su_quote]

The Bulls staff introduces Markkanen, LaVine and Dunn at the Advocate Center in Chicago. (James Foster/for the Sun-Times)

LaVine came to Chicago in the Jimmy Butler trade during the 2017 NBA Draft. He was sent to the Bulls along with guard Kris Dunn and the 7th pick in the draft, in return for Jimmy Butler and the 16th pick. With the 7th pick in the draft, the Bulls chose Lauri Markkanen from Arizona, and he has turned out to be one of the best rookies out of the draft so far.

Zach LaVine is considered the centerpiece of the trade and Bulls fans have been waiting all season to see him take the court. With Kris Dunn looking more and more like the point guard of the future and Lauri Markkanen continuing to develop, the Bulls have a nice core to build around. If LaVine can show he is fully recovered from the injury and showcase the athleticism and scoring we saw from him pre-injury, the Bulls will be in a great spot in their rebuild with lots of cap-space and a likely top-5 pick in the upcoming 2018 NBA Draft.

What He Brings to the Table

Zach LaVine is known to even the most casual fans for his outrageous athleticism shown in winning back-to-back NBA Slam Dunk Contests in 2015 and 2016.

Many people forget that Zach LaVine is a scorer, plain and simple. After averaging 10.1 and 14 ppg his first two years in the league, LaVine bumped his scoring average up to 18.9 ppg last season before his injury. He increased his scoring averages by bumping up his three-point percentage to 39 percent on 6.5 attempts per game. LaVine also played over 37 minutes a game, up from 28 minutes the year before. The increased minutes lead to more scoring opportunities, and LaVine took advantage of them. He improved his overall field goal percentage to 46 percent while increasing his shot attempts to over 15 a game. This shows that LaVine is fully capable of being a high-octane scorer while still be efficient in his attempts.

Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine dunks over Alex Len of the Suns.(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

LaVine was able to improve his efficiency by cutting down his contested mid-range attempts and by taking and making more three’s. He uses his quick first step to blow by defenders and attack the rim, which is bad news for the defense. When LaVine goes up to slam it home, the defender is more likely to end up on a poster in kids bedroom that block the dunk.

It also allows him to break down the defense and kick it out to the open man because the defense is scrambling to help out the beaten man. He will add scoring, athleticism and 3-point shooting to a young, rebuilding Bulls team that needs it. The Bulls are currently 29th in the league in Field Goal percentage and 25th in scoring. LaVine can help in both of those categories while developing chemistry with the other young guys such as Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis and David Nwaba.

How LaVine’s Return Impacts the Rotation

Currently, the Chicago Bulls starting lineup is Kris Dunn, Justin Holiday, Denzel Valentine, Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez. With LaVine coming back and sliding into the starting lineup, Fred Holberg will have two options.

The first option is having LaVine play shooting guard, sliding Justin Holiday to Small Forward and moving Denzel Valentine to the bench. This would allow for the lineup to not sacrifice defense will adding offense and shooting. This is the option that I believe Hoiberg and the Bulls will go with.

The second option is have LaVine start at shooting guard and Valentine stay at his small forward position. This option Justin Holiday would be moved to the bench. In this case the starting lineup still has a ton of shooting, but less defense as LaVine and Valentine are not plus wing defenders.

In any of the above scenarios, Paul Zipser would cease getting minutes off the bench because of LaVine coming back and Valentine, Nwaba and Holiday’s minutes would be reduced. This makes the Bulls bench deeper and allows them to more opportunities mix and match lineups based on the opponent.

LaVine is on the last year of his rookie deal so he is not only playing for a new team but playing for the future. If he shows that he can be the offensive playmaker that we saw last year before he got hurt, then he could be in for a huge payday from the Bulls or another team in Restricted Free Agency this summer.

I will leave you with some Zach LaVine’s best dunks, least you forget after a year off what a freak athlete he is.

Video by:

NBA2KShow TV

Featured image by Terrance James-Chicago Tribune

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