1/25/11

"NBAz in 7 Dayz"

Some people just don't get it. A migraine is different from your average headache. I've heard people equate it to going into labour- when the pain starts, everything else stops. This is why it amazes me Dwayne Wade worked out with the Heat Monday and sat out wearing tinted glasses for the rest of practice. Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said Wade "looked fine" in the workout. 'Looked Fine'? I have had some migraines so bad, someone called 911 because they thought I was having a stroke. During the winter, I even have to wear sunglasses to answer the front door due to the glare off the snow. Well, lucky for Dwayne he works in sun-filled Miami. He still has to deal with the glare of the spotlight on him, his team and from the general public. Speaking of spotlights, there will be one on Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka, JaVale McGee and now DeMar DeRozan since these are the guys competing in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on February 19th. Let's talk about this, some All-Star coaches and the Hornets hanging on for dear life.

A New Take on the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Some people get the February blahs. Me? I love February - NBA All-Star Weekend. Last year it was on Valentine's Day - the most overrated so-called holiday in North America. But nothing is going to be overrated about the 2011 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Originally, it was going to play out like this: Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin, Oklahoma City Thunder's Serge Ibaka, Washington Wizards' JaVale McGee and the Milwaukee Bucks' Brandon Jennings. However, since Jennings has missed 14 games with a broken foot, DeMar DeRozan gets the invite. Both seem cool with the switch since they were all over twitter patting each other on the back. Quite honestly, I thought DeRozan should have been invited to the contest in the first place. He refers to himself as a "finesse dunker" and thinks he has what it takes to take on Griffin, the odds-on favourite. Last year, DeRozan lost the Slam Dunk contest to Nate Robinson. And although DeRozan thinks he should have one that one, it was all Nate. I was a little disappointed though when DeRozan was interviewed about getting the nod. DeRozan mentioned how he was going to possibly use teammate Amir Johnson in his dunk presentation to represent "home" - not Toronto and the Raptors but L.A. where he and Amir are from. Still, he is representing the Toronto Raptors and that says a lot.

This year is going to be interesting. Each of the participants in the Slam Dunk Contest will be paired up with a dunk coach who will work with each respective player and practice leading up to the big day. Blake Griffin is working with TNT analyst and two-time Slam Dunk participant ('90, 91') Kenny Smith, JaVale McGee will work with 5-time NBA All-Star and TNT/NBA TV analyst Chris Webber, Serge Ibaka will prepare with Thunder teammate and '09-'10 NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant and DeMar DeRozan will be with the self-proclaimed "Chocolate Thunder" Darryl Dawkins. DeRozan has the best coach in my opinion. Darryl Dawkins, the former Philadelphia 76ers centre, set the standard in powerful NBA dunks. In 1979, he became the first man to shatter two glass backboards in a month. Best name he gave a dunk? "The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-am Jam". Wonder what he and DeRozan will come up with - a finesse dunker paired with a power dunker? Can't Wait. We will also get to see a series of videos documenting the dunk preparations each participant leading up to the event. Should be good.


Who is the best Coach from Coast to Coast?

With Slam Dunk 2011 preps underway, who is coaching the East and West teams are almost decided. San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich will coach the Western Conference All-Stars for the 2011 NBA All-Star Game which, by the way, is on February 20th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Look at Popovich's record so far this season: he leads the Spurs to the league's best record, gets Western Conference Coach of the Month honours twice and is seriously looking at another NBA Championship to add to the 4 Championship titles he already has with the Spurs. He has coached the West before - in Denver in 2005 - but lost to the East 125-115. The coach of East All-Stars will be decided by the team with the best record in the conference through games played up until February 6th.

This has got me thinking about who was and will be passed over Coach All-Star honours and who remains in the running for coach of the year. I realize any coach of the year discussions for this season has to begin with Gregg Popovich. Last year, San Antonio ended the season with 50 wins and the 2011 Spurs are 15 games away from that only half way through the season. Some might say L.A. Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson should be thrown in for posterity and experience but he has more competition this year. What about Stan Van Gundy? Call me crazy, but as Head Coach of the Orlando Magic, he hasn't won an NBA Championship but the Magic play well together as a team and continuously perform at a substantially high level. How about Vinny Del Negro? The Clippers may have once been the but of everyone's jokes in the NBA but as a Head Coach this year, Del Negro has lead his squad to a respectable level of wins after a horrendous start to the season - and it does help having Griffin in the line -up putting on a show. However, given all of the above, if I had to vote for Coach of the Year right now it would be...(drum roll)...George Karl, Head Coach of the Denver Nuggets. He is the consummate example of what it means to battle back from adversity. Think of the daily "Where's Carmelo going?" updates he's had to deal with. Coach Karl has kept his team focused and ready to contend for a division title. On top of everything he's had to deal with concerning his health this year, he deserves it. I'm not saying he deserves it for that reason alone but look at what happened to Pat Burns and being passed over for the Hockey Hall of Fame - cancer took his life and now they are talking about a Hall of Fame induction the next time around? Coach Karl is doing well now, but he deserves it for what he has built within his squad and for the amount of respect he commands from the organization. Hands down.

Hornets are Hangin' On

Those who care about the NBA in New Orleans are celebrating today since attendance benchmarks were met which will prevent the Hornets from leaving New Orleans after this season. The Hornet's lease runs through 2014, but if less than an average of 14, 735 fans show up to games for a two-season period, the team has the choice of opting out of the lease. The period for calculating the average ends at the end of January, hence the early celebrations. But they have the Saints of the NFL to thank for the thread of support they are clinging to. The spike in attendance just happened to fall during the period the Saints would have been in the playoffs and since the Saints were not playing football, New Orleans turned to basketball. Plain and simple. It's a shame, really. New Orleans is third n the West and won 9 straight games from January 9 - January 24th. I wonder why some people don't know what they have until it's about to skip town.

Thank-you for joining me today. As always, keep your comments coming on Facebook (Danielle de Graauw) and on Twitter (@ddegraauw). Join me again on Thursday for more Raptors' opponent analysis in "Behind Enemy Lines" right here on the DNB.

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