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Ross Asked NBA If He Could Participate in All-Star Weekend's 3-Point Contest

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

ORLANDO – Winner of the 2013 Slam Dunk championship and a champion in the team event in 2014, Orlando Magic guard Terrence Ross thought a return to NBA All-Star weekend this February would be fun, so he went to the organizers of the event and broached the possibility of him competing in the 3-point Shootout.

After all, Ross is in the midst of a career year, averaging 14.3 points a game while shooting a stellar 38.2 percent from 3-point range. He has made at least three 3-pointers in a game 24 times this season, including on Thursday when Ross made five of eight 3-pointers and 11 of 18 shots for 30 points. The 30 points were the most he’d scored in five years, dating back to career-best 51 against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 25, 2014 while playing for the Toronto Raptors.

Ross said he was told by the NBA staffer he spoke to about competing in the 3-point shoot at the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte on Feb. 17 that the event was already full of participants. Reportedly, brothers Steph Curry and Seth Curry have already committed to compete in the 3-point shootout in their childhood home of Charlotte, as has veteran Dallas Mavericks’ forward Dirk Nowitzki.

``I wanted to do the 3-point and I tried to get in this year, but they told me that they already had the guys for it,’’ Ross said. ``That was a little disappointing.’’

Center Nikola Vucevic was selected by coaches as a reserve for the All-Star Game, making him the eighth player in Magic history to play in the game and the first since 2012. Aaron Gordon, the runner-up in the 2016 Slam Dunk contest, said on Saturday that he has no plans of being in the dunk contest this year.
Ross, now 27, said he has no intentions of ever doing a dunk contest again because of the unrealistic pressures on the event and the wear and tear it takes on the player’s body.

``Now, everybody wants to see the explosive players, and everybody can do the same dunks and there’s nothing we haven’t seen; it’s almost dying out,’’ Ross said. ``It’s more of a popularity contest now and you want to see superstars dunk against one another, but it’s so physical. If it was in the beginning of the season, I bet you more guys would want to do it. But, right now, (52 games into the season), it’s just a lot. In (2013) it was fun because it was my first year, but I don’t know if I’d ever want to try it (again) this far into my career.’’

SIMMONS OUT AGAIN: Guard Jonathon Simmons missed his second consecutive game on Saturday because of an oblique strain suffered on Tuesday when the Magic faced the Oklahoma City Thunder.

That injury allowed Orlando to get forward Wes Iwundu back into the regular rotation and utilize his superior defensive abilities. Among the many statistics that the NBA tracks, one is the shooting percentage among offensive players against every defender in the league.

Among the players to have appeared in at least 30 games, Iwundu ranks first overall in lowest field goal percentage allowed. In the 37 games he had played in prior to Saturday, foes were shooting just 37.5 percent against him collectively.

In his second NBA season, Iwundu has become a handy weapon off the Magic bench because of his ability to guard multiple positions. At 6-foot-7 and 195 pounds, Iwundu has the quickness to check guards and the length to cover forwards.

Magic coach Steve Clifford said that Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon have been the team’s best perimeter defenders all season. Iwundu has shown plenty of signs of defensive promise and Clifford wants him to do it more on a consistent basis.

``I think Wes can become a very good defender, but it’s the same thing (as any other player), it’s got to be every night,’’ Clifford said.

Simmons is certainly no slouch defensively either, ranking 24thamong all players who have played at least 30 games. Foes are shooting just 41.4 percent against him collectively in 39 games.

SUPER BOWL PREDICTION: Ross has a rooting interest in Sunday’s Super Bowl LII what with his cousin, Marcus Peters, being the starting corner back for the Los Angeles Rams. That, however, has had little impact on his prediction for the game.

``My cousin plays for the Rams, but it’s Tom Brady,’’ Ross said, referring to the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback for New England. ``That’s why I’m picking the Patriots.’’

As for Magic coach Steve Clifford, he was born in Maine, spent most of his formative years in Vermont and went to college at Maine-Farmington, but he said he has no allegiance whatsoever to the Patriots despite his Northeast ties. Instead, Clifford said he is a fan of the Carolina Panthers because of his time coaching in Charlotte and his friendship with Panthers’ coach Ron Rivera.

During his five years in Charlotte as the coach of the Hornets, Clifford formed a tight bond with Rivera where the two of them would often attend each other’s practices and they would dine together to talk coaching. Once, Clifford even turned to Rivera and former Panthers’ defensive coordinator Steve Wilks for their defensive advice.

``I took 10 pick-and-roll dribble-hand-off clips – and neither (Rivera or Wilks) played basketball – but I said, `Tell me how you’d guard this?’’ Clifford recalled. ``Football, they have so many coverages. We sat there for two hours and they broke it down of how you would teach it, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done (in coaching).

``We took two things from that that we use now that has really helped us,’’ Clifford added. ``But football is so different because the play stops. So, the teaching and the details (in football are) much, much more than what we do (in basketball).’’

UP NEXT: The Magic will be off on Sunday to enjoy the Super Bowl before returning to the practice court on Monday. Orlando will practice on Monday before departing for Oklahoma City where it will face the Thunder on Tuesday.

OKC has won seven games in a row, including a 126-117 defeat of the Magic on Tuesday at the Amway Center. In that game, Paul George scored 37 points and Russell Westbrook notched his 17th triple-double of the season.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.