I'm not a fan of the "The dunk contest IS BACK!" meme. Every year, someone exclaims it and it is pretty meaningless.
But last night, at least the 4 contenders tried to raise the bar, creatively. I'm not talking about that contrived Ibaka dunk where he rescued the teddy bear for the kid actor. (Ugh.)
And I'm definitely not talking about the Blake Griffin dunk over the Kia, which -- let's be honest -- was far more sizzle than steak. (At least they decided to go all-in on it with the choir.) In the light of the morning, the stunt feels kind of embarrassing for everyone, Griffin included. He's better than that.
But JaVale McGee did a couple dunks that no other player in the NBA -- including Blake Griffin -- could do: The "two balls on two hoops" and the "dunk three balls at once" dunks.
McGee deserved to win. As Free Darko pointed out last night: Would it have been so terrible if Blake did his Kia dunk and yet still lost to the better dunk-contest dunker?
But DeMar DeRozan had one of those "lost beneath the hype of other dunks" performances: He only had 2 dunks. His first try was muffled by repeated misses. His 2nd dunk was, arguably, the most spectacular of the night.
Say this for the dunk contest: You had to stop what you were doing and watch, because you just didn't know what you might see -- and, on that front, it delivered.
Carmelo: Is it over yet? Nope. Let's try to make sense of the several strands:
He met with the Knicks. Yes, he met with the Nets. But apparently, he only met with the Nets because it was a precondition by the Nuggets for him to meet with the Knicks.
Carmelo affirmed he has no interest in the Nets. The Nuggets would still rather do a deal with the Nets than Knicks. (Tough luck.)
The Nuggets keep asking the Knicks for a ton. Knicks prez Donnie Walsh doesn't want to gut the starting lineup to get Carmelo; owner Jim Dolan (and Isiah Thomas) do. Guess who wins?
(In an added twist, apparently Deron Williams made it clear to friends that he has every intention of signing with the Knicks when he becomes a free agent in 2012. If I was the Jazz, I would call the Knicks and say "We'll take the Carmelo package for Williams RIGHT NOW." And if I was the Knicks, I'd much rather have Williams in hand than Carmelo.)
And so what happens now? Dolan gives up whatever it takes to get Carmelo, and in the next few days -- possibly today -- Carmelo is a Knick. The team makes the playoffs but gets KO'ed in the first round -- as they will next year, too. Then they get Williams in 2012. This is progress?
RIP Dave Duerson. The details that came out yesterday are horrifying -- he killed himself, but just before he did, he told friends to make sure his brain went to research to see what kind of damage he did to it playing football. This is the most troubling brain-injury-related development yet for the NFL. They can continue hoping/banking on people not paying attention or glazing over the details, but this is an awful new chapter in the story.
College Hoops Yesterday: Just in case you thought you had a handle on your bracket, Pitt loses to St. John's and Texas loses to Nebraska. Let's not put too much stock in any single games, but it should serve as a reminder that winning 4 straight to make the Final Four -- let alone 6 straight to win a national title -- is a brutal challenge to predict, this year more than most.
Stern's "State of the NBA": Like the NFL, the league has absolutely nothing to lose by playing hardball with the union to get the deal they want, even if it means losing next season. The league is so good right now that its avid fans will come right back. It's not quite as extreme an advantage as the NBA enjoys, but the NBA won't wipe out all the momentum it has built up by missing half of next season, if it means the owners get the long-term deal they want. As with the NFL, the owners' priority is the long-term; the players' priority is the short-term. That means the players will blink first, and the owners should know it.
(Speaking of blinking first: Will Sacramento give the Kings what it wants or will the team move to Anaheim? For those playing at home, that would make three NBA teams in L.A. Hard to believe that other markets -- Kansas City? -- wouldn't pony up to get the Kings.)
Daytona 500: It's the one NASCAR event each year I watch. This whole conjoined, tag-team, double-drafting stuff is novel, but a bit lame. But if the finish is anything like it was at the Nationwide event yesterday, with Tony Stewart winning by a foot or two, coming from behind in the final fraction of a second, then it's going to be a great race.