#IMHO: The dunk contest, stretch runs and should Curry sit?

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace have been covering the NBA since shorts were short and socks were long, but their opinions about the League don’t always mesh. #IMHO is their weekly chance to weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.

 

From: Lang Whitaker

Date: Tuesday, February 25, 2020 at 6:09 PM

To: Michael Wallace

Subject: IMHO

And we’re back. The All-Star break is over and the stretch run is now sprint for the finish line.

But before we reach for the tape, let’s take one last look back at All-Star Weekend. I know both of us had the time off, which was great, but I caught enough of the weekend to develop some hot takes.

Let’s start this week’s IMHO with two burning questions:

1. Did Aaron Gordon have a point in feeling like he was robbed from winning the dunk contest? Should we just not let Chicago host dunk contests any more?

2. The new All-Star Game format, using the Elam Ending where they play to a specific score, was a hit! But how do we make sure the game doesn’t end at the free throw line?

 


From: Michael Wallace

Sent: Wednesday, February 26, 2020 at 11:08 AM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

Welcome back for the stretch run, Lang. We’ll push for the tape together the rest of the way with #IMHO!

Yes, Gordon was robbed yet again, although I do believe he went head to head with two of the most incredible and creative athletes I’ve ever seen on a basketball court both times. I don’t think there should have been a “loser” in the dunk contest this time around. And I think what played out in Chicago was more of an indictment on the judges and system. Those guys on the table were fatigued and even begged for it to end in a tie so they wouldn’t have to judge another round. I think that, more than anything, is what led to Dwyane Wade issuing a ‘9’ instead of a ‘10’ on Gordon’s last dunk

And as far as the Sunday game format, I do think resetting the score at the end of each quarter ensures that the game doesn’t get out of hand. But it also simply confirms that players aren’t taking the game as seriously as they once did. I don’t need extra gimmicks. I need guys going all out as much as possible. If the superstars want to play it cool and coast, then give more minutes during the middle quarters to the guys who are really glad to be there and want to make a bigger name for themselves. And then let the big names open and close the show in the clutch moments.

Lang, the trade deadline is a few weeks behind us now. But the bargain pickups continue as players who are being bought out are latching on with key playoff contenders. We’ve already seen a couple of significant signings over the past week, including the Morris twins landing in L.A. – one with the Lakers and the other with the Clippers. We’ve also seen one of our favorite guys, Marvin Williams, reunite with Mike Budenholzer and bolster the Bucks’ bench. But my favorite new addition via the buyout market is Reggie Jackson with the Clippers. I think his addition, particularly with Pat Beverley’s injury issues this season, will prove to be one of the key moves that puts the Clippers over the top in the West.

The NBA is closing in on the buyout deadline in order for players to be eligible for playoff rosters. Who’s a guy you’d most like to see get bought out of a bad situation and end up on an ideal contender for the stretch run?

 

Aaron Gordon dunks over Tacko Fall

From: Lang Whitaker

Date: Wednesday, February 26, 2020 at 9:20 PM

To: Michael Wallace

Subject: Re: IMHO

The last thing I’d say about the dunk contest is, why was Chadwick Boseman one of the judges? Also, you can say Gordon was robbed, but I also think you can make a pretty good case that Derrick Jones Jr. did not lose that contest, either.

But I digress. As for the buyout market, I mean, Kevin Love would be an awesome addition to a contender, but he has too many years and too much money left on his deal.

His teammate, Tristan Thompson, however, does not. Thompson is a free agent this summer, and I love his low-ego style of play and willingness to grind on the interior. Considering Thompson is already in cahoots with the Kardashians, seems like Los Angeles could be a great landing spot? There are also teams (like Memphis) that could use some offense — I wonder if maybe a guy like JR Smith could pop up for the stretch run with a team?

Yesterday there was a report that the Utah Jazz were going to pull Mike Conley from the starting lineup, only to have that report replaced with another report that Conley was staying and Joe Ingles was instead heading to the pine. The Jazz have lost 6 of their last 10, with this stretch run staring them down, while on the other side of the ledger, the Miami Heat have also gone 4-6 in their last 10.

Which current playoff team, including these but you can go off the board as well, should we be most concerned about?

 

Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell

From: Michael Wallace

Sent: Thursday, February 27, 2020 at 10:00 AM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

This one’s easy for me. It’s gotta be the Sixers. First, Ben Simmons goes down with a back injury that now has him sidelined indefinitely. And then Joel Embiid exits Philly’s most recent game with a mysterious shoulder injury. The Sixers were already teetering on relative disaster, with even some of their most loyal fans getting antsy about how this season. And now their two franchise stars are banged up to boot.

This isn’t an idea time to crater, but the Sixers are in the forgiving Eastern Conference, where even a collapse down the stretch won’t leave them out of the playoff picture. But this team seems destined for changes this offseason, one way or another. But the concern level is real for the Sixers, considering they entered the season with conference Finals ambitions. They might not make it out of the first round this time.

Lang, we’ll end on this: Steph Curry is ramping up his workouts this week in anticipation of returning to action as soon as this weekend from the broken hand that’s kept him out since the opening days of the season. The Warriors have the worst record in the league right now, and there are fewer than a couple dozen games remaining. What’s the upside for Steph to return right now?

Obviously, this is as much about getting him ready heading into next season, but how much carryover can a few games here and there have? I get that he’s a competitor, and I don’t even disagree with him returning to help get some games under his belt and to give the team and fans a needed reminder of just how special that Warriors core is when healthy. But do the potential risks outweigh the rewards?

 

Steph Curry warming up

From: Lang Whitaker

Date: Thursday, February 27, 2020 at 10:43 AM

To: Michael Wallace

Subject: Re: IMHO

At first the only upside I could come up with to bringing back Steph Curry was that maybe you’d be able to get some excitement in that new arena on the water. But the games are all sold out already, so what does it matter?

Right now the Warriors have a 5-win lead over the Hawks for the top (bottom?) spot in the draft lottery. Although I guess even that doesn’t matter all that much since they’ve flattened out the lottery odds in recent years.

I guess the best reason I can come up with to bring Steph back is to not trifle with the Basketball Gods. If he can play, he should play, right? Or maybe not, given his history of injuries and advancing age and that winning right now literally accomplishes nothing.

Let the man rest and get into Twitter arguments and play golf and come back strong next season.

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