BLEDSOE HAS RECEIVED PLENTY OF ADVICE FOR DUNK CONTEST
2/15/13 | ERIC PATTEN Follow @ericpatten
HOUSTON – The dunk contest is often full of surprises.
Whether it’s a prop that is wheeled out on a final attempt, two baskets, two basketballs, or a guest appearance by Spud Webb, the premier event of All-Star Saturday Night often calls for something unexpected.
Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe, one of six contestants in the 2013 event, may be going that route this year.
“I’ve got something pretty interesting and pretty exciting for the fans that’s going to be classic,” Bledsoe said Friday.
He is soft spoken, understated and seemingly too nice or too shy. But everything Bledsoe does on the court speaks otherwise. He is a frightfully amazing athlete and possesses the kind of combination of strength and speed that have drawn favorable comparisons to NBA luminary LeBron James.
The dunk contest could serve as a breakout session for Bledsoe, who has already emerged as a key figure off the Clippers bench, a unit that is second in the NBA in points per game.
“I’m very excited for Bled (Bledsoe) because you know Bled is very low key,” Chris Paul said. “He doesn’t like a lot of attention. And this might be the most attention he’s ever had in life come Saturday night and I’m excited for him.”
Bledsoe said a number of teammates have given him feedback on what he should do to become the third Clippers player to win the competition.
“Everybody gave me their input and there were some great ideas,” said Bledsoe, who claims to have not practiced yet. “I have a lot of great ideas at this point. We’re going to dunk rehearsal after media and I’ll put everything in place.”
That included Clippers assistant coach Robert Pack, who was a participant in the 1995 contest. Pack, who is one of Bledsoe’s primary mentors, has talked to the 22-year-old about his days as a dunker, so much so that his young pupil sought out video proof online.
“I went on YouTube and was able to see what Pack was able to do and it was incredible,” Bledsoe said.
2011 champion Blake Griffin, who helped Bledsoe devise a game plan as the two flew to Houston early Friday morning, was also amongst those who offered assistance.
Griffin’s advice: “Make sure you have some backup dunks. Just in case someone else does them or you don’t get to do them. There were a couple of times when I did it and I was up there and I was about to go and somebody did a dunk that I was going to do right before me.
“Try to make it on the first couple of tries because once you’re out there and you miss and miss and miss it can mess with your head and takes away from the dunk a little bit.”
When Griffin participated in the contest two seasons ago, he failed to convert his first two dunks on the initial attempt, but was flawless on his final two, including his spectacular leap over a Kia Optima and an homage to Vince Carter as he stuck his arm down through the rim all the way to his elbow.
Bledsoe knows that dunk well. He said it was part of his favorite dunk contest in 2000 when Carter captivated the NBA world with what is arguably one of the best dunk programs in league history.
Bledsoe was 10 years old at the time. But more than a dozen years later, he will attempt to pull of the same kind of artistry. “Adrenaline is going to be going,” Bledsoe said. “I’m going to be pretty hyped, but I’ll be ready for the moment.”
MORE ON THE DUNK CONTEST
All of the contestants for Saturday night’s Sprite Slam Dunk were at Friday afternoon’s media availability, including two defending champions: Jeremy Evans and Gerald Green.
Asked who he was most looking forward to seeing Bledsoe said, “I’m looking forward to going against all of them. Pretty much everybody that’s in this competition can get up pretty high so it’s going to be a pretty interesting weekend.”
Griffin sounded excited for the event: “James White, Terrence Ross, Gerald Green, Eric Bledsoe, these guys can really do some cool stuff. So, I’m looking forward to tomorrow night. I think it’s going to be a good one.”
According to Green, White, an international dunking sensation, is the favorite. However, he said he is working on a dunk that could turn things in his favor.
“I’ve got a dunk that can really go down in history,” Green said. “If I can complete this dunk this afternoon [in rehearsal], it could be one of the best dunks of all-time.”
ADVICE FOR BLEDSOE FROM OTHER SATURDAY NIGHT COMPETITORS
Green: “I think [the contest] has changed since I first did it. When I did it my very first year in 2006, it wasn’t all really about getting the crowd up and hyping the crowd, it was just about whoever did the best dunks wins.”
“For him, I think he’s an extremely great athlete. I think he just needs to go out there and have fun and relax. And I think he should be alright.”
Evans: “I told my teammates you have to have your legs. You can’t be tired. And that’s the only way you can practice. The biggest thing you have to do is be able to go out Saturday night and have your legs.”
Three-point Shootout Participant Stephen Curry: “You’re out there by yourself in front of 19,000 fans and whoever’s watching on TV. You might think because you play so many games in front of that many people, you might not have to deal with the nerves, but you’re by yourself, it’s just a different competition that you’re really not used to.”