Aaron Gordon Preparing for Slam Dunk Contest
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By John Denton
Feb. 10, 2016
ORLANDO – In preparation for Saturday night’s Slam Dunk Contest at the NBA All-Star Game weekend, Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon solicited family and friends for theatrical dunk ideas in a group text message.
What he got back as suggestions have mostly made the 20-year-old Gordon chuckle. Even those he possesses a vertical leap that’s been measured as high as 46 inches, Gordon knows that most of the outlandish suggestions would be impossible to pull off.
``It’s kind of a spontaneous and gimmicky thing and you’re kind of brain-storming for ideas. My sister and my friends have been in a group text telling me all these different things to do and it’s really funny,’’ Gordon admitted. ``I’ve got everybody coming to me with crazy ideas. They’re telling me, `put me in it,’ and I’m like, `Nahhhh.’’’
Gordon, a second-year pro, will compete on Saturday night in one of the marquee events from the events surrounding the NBA All-Star Game. He will be facing defending champion Zach LeVine, Detroit center Andre Drummond and Denver guard Will Barton.
Gordon’s teammates, Elfrid Payton and Mario Hezonja, will also be competing in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Game on Friday night. Gordon wouldn’t say whether or not he plans to use Payton or Hezonja in the dunk contest to throw him alley-oop passes.
Long as fan of the dunk contest and the winner of several high school and AAU dunk contests, Gordon said it is ``an absolute dream come true’’ to compete in an NBA event he watched for years.
``There has to be theatrics because it’s a show and it’s in prime time. I’m ready to do it,’’ Gordon said. ``I know it’s going to be very fun and everybody is going to be able to see my enthusiasm and how much fun I’m having.’’
Magic guard Victor Oladipo finished second in last year’s event despite pulling of the never-before-seen 540-degree dunk. Oladipo has talked to Gordon about what to expect in the event and he even thinks that his high-flying teammate could stun the basketball world and win the event.
``If anybody can beat (LaVine), I think it’s Aaron,’’ said Oladipo, who will be making the trip to Toronto for the All-Star festivities. ``Aaron is a freak, bro. I don’t know how else to explain it, but Aaron is a freak. SoI’m looking forward to (the contest) because it’s going to be fun.’’
WATSON RETURNS: Out the past 43 games because of a recurring pain in his left calf and knee, guard C.J. Watson was finally available again for Magic on Wednesday night. Watson did not play in the game, but he is closer to being ready and is expected to be set to potentially play again after the all-star break.
Watson was seen as a significant free-agent signing in July because of his ability to play two positions, knock down 3-point shots and brings some veteran savvy to the Magic locker room. However, he lasted just eight games into the season because the pain in his left leg proved to be too much to play on.
Watson tried restarting his comeback a couple of times this season, only to have the pain return. Ultimately, it was determined that Watson had a Baker’s cyst behind his knee that was causing the pain to radiate down his leg.
Head coach Scott Skiles and several of the Magic players are excited about the return of the veteran guard because of what he can contribute to the team.
``It’s going to help a lot because C.J. is a great player,’’ Oladipo said. ``He was helping us a lot before he got hurt. It feels like forever since he’s played, so it will be fun just seeing him out there again. I know he’s anxious and I know with what he’s been going through it’s stressful for him. I’ve been in a situation where I didn’t get to play for a long time and you just want to get back out there and help your teammates. So I know what he was going through. I’m just happy that he’s almost (fully) there and that he might play again.’’
Said Skiles: ``We felt like even though he didn’t knock down a ton of shots in camp or early on (in the preseason and regular season) he was in some good lineups for us. He was settling us down and we definitely missed him.’’
INJURY UPDATES: The Magic made the decision to once again hold forward Tobias Harris out of Wednesday’s game, a move that will give him at least eight more days to rest an ankle that he sprained last Friday.
Magic power forward Jason Smith also missed Wednesday night’s game because of a back injury suffered in Monday’s win in Atlanta. Smith, who scored 14 points and keyed the comeback victory, played through the pain on Monday, but it got progressively worse over the past two days.
Harris was injured when he accidentally tripped over the foot of teammate Nikola Vucevic and the injury caused his left ankle to twist grotesquely to the inside. He didn’t play on Monday or Tuesday – games that the Magic won while shooting guard Evan Fournier started at small forward.
Even though they also have an extended break coming up for the NBA All-Star Game, the Spurs made the decision to get veteran power forward Tim Duncan back in the starting lineup for Wednesday night’s game against the Magic. The 19-year veteran missed the past eight games with a right knee injury, but he was deemed ready for Wednesday’s game after working out with the squad prior to Tuesday’s victory in Miami.
``He’s been out awhile, so coach (Gregg Popovich) will be careful with his minutes,’’ said Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina, who spoke in place of the head coach before the game. ``He’s doing well and it’s an opportunity for him to find some game rhythm instead of waiting for the first game after the break. It’s been a daily process and (Duncan) and Pop have talked every day and he went through the last two shoot-arounds. So it was just a matter of him getting ready (for a game).’’