Still Writing Letters To Jordan Brand: 2nd Entry
4.3 The Cooler

Wizards/Cavs is a rivalry again, and the best dunk contest of 2009

By 04.03.09
Gilbert Arenas (photo. Tim Tadder)

Gilbert Arenas (photo. Tim Tadder)

Even without Gilbert Arenas, Cavs/Wizards games have managed to stay interesting this year. There was the closer-than-expected Christmas Day game, where Mike James came out looking like an All-Star and the Cavs had to score 11 straight in the final 1:30 to pull out a win. Then a couple weeks later there was the infamous Crab Dribble game. But with Arenas on the court last night, the rivalry felt official again. Just like he’d done in his season debut the other night, Agent Zero was playing more like a point guard than a points guard, racking up 10 assists along with 11 points (3-11 FG) and six boards as the Wizards snapped Cleveland’s 13-game win streak. “We hope that this’ll give people a bit of a preview of what we will be next year,” Wizards coach Ed Tapscott said afterwards. “It’s what we thought we would be this year.” … LeBron put up 31 points and helped bring the Cavs back from a 14-point hole in the second half to get them within four in the last minute and a half, but some turnovers and bricked jumpers down the stretch kept them from catching up … For the second time this week, the Jazz went to the gym of one of their Northwest Division rivals and got outclassed. While the Blazers pretty much dominated from start to finish in Portland the other night, last night the Nuggets fell behind early, allowed a late rally in the fourth, but owned the game between those stretches … You know how ballplayers always act like they don’t know what kind of numbers they’re putting up? Like the dude who drops 40 and says with a straight face, “I didn’t even know I had that much until the guys on the bench told me I had 38”? (This obviously doesn’t apply to Ricky Davis or Anthony Bowie.) Well, Birdman Andersen isn’t one of those dudes. He was definitely counting his stats; flashing the number of blocks he had with his fingers after each one, and in the fourth quarter you could see him head toward the scorer’s table and clearly ask somebody how many rebounds he had. Birdman ended up with seven points, 10 boards and eight blocks; if the Jazz hadn’t started sending him to the line in the last few minutes, he had a decent shot at getting a 0-point, 10-board, 10-block binary stat line … Coldest move of the night: J.R. Smith (28 pts, 7 asts, 8 threes) mixed Kyle Korver up in the corner, stuck a three in his eye, then smacked him on the ass. That was some prison basketball league sh*t right there. Serious question: If Korver really is an underrated defender like some Jazz fans keep insisting, why does every one of Utah’s opponents want to run iso’s for the guy he’s guarding? …

Carmelo Anthony (photo. Mannion)

Carmelo Anthony (photo. Mannion)

Carmelo (23 pts) has been more mature on the court and better defensively this year, but he still has his lapses. Once in the second half ‘Melo didn’t get a foul call he wanted, so while the Jazz went down and started their offense against four Nuggets defenders, ‘Melo was arguing with the ref before finally making it past half-court like 10 seconds after everyone else. He was still outside the three-point line when AK-47, unguarded, went up for an alley-oop and ‘Melo just pointed at him like it was somebody’s else’s man … Maybe the Sixers won’t be too bad after all without Thaddeus Young for the next couple weeks. It took them a minute to get used to playing without Young — turning the ball over 13 times in the first half against Milwaukee and getting booed by the home Philly crowd — but eventually they turned it around and ran away from the Bucks in the second. Andre Iguodala scored 20, Andre Miller had 18 and 11 assists, and Lou Williams put up 21 points off the bench … When can a player go into the stands at The Palace at Auburn Hills and everyone cheers for him and wants him to throw stuff? When it’s part of the NCAA dunk contest. UNC-Charlotte’s Charlie Coley III enlisted Rhode Island’s Jimmy Baron (who was in the three-point contest earlier) to go into the crowd and toss him an ‘oop from DEEP, which Coley caught off the bounce and tomahawked. Even if the dunk itself wasn’t majorly impressive, the fact that they got it on the first try deserved a 50 by itself. Coley also got a 49 or 50 when he touched the backboard with his left hand and spun around to dunk with his right (finally, justice for Darvin Ham); had another sick dunk where he jumped over Jack McClinton (who won the three-point contest) and windmilled; and one where he put Jalen Rose in a director’s chair and hurdled him … But beating Coley out by literally one point and taking the title belt — yes, it was actually a title belt — was New Mexico’s Tony Danridge. Getting moral support from UNM coach Steve Alford (who would have mopped the three-point contest field even in his loafers), Danridge pulled off a two-ball dunk, a right-to-left J.R. Smith behind-the-back dunk, and capped it with a cuff reverse windmill where he circled it around twice in mid-air. Danridge and Coley are gonna wreck shop on the AND 1 tour next summer … We’re out like Birdman keeping it humble …


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