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Dan Devine

Video: JaVale McGee is hungry for the Dunk Contest crown

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

While most of us probably think Blake Griffin's(notes) going to win this year's Sprite Slam Dunk Contest in a walk, there are three other dudes in the competition, and we still hold out hope that going up against the beastly Blakey GriffGriffs will awaken similar beasts within them. A flying snake inside Brandon Jennings'(notes) heart, perhaps, or a rampaging cassowary nestled deep in Serge Ibaka's(notes) soul. Or, as the case may be, JaVale McGee's(notes) inner hungry, hungry hippo.

CSN Washington recently captured one of McGee's practice sessions, during which he uncorked some remarkable moves for a 7-footer, including one pretty rad throwdown at about the 30-second mark. As Dan Steinberg at the D.C. Sports Bog described it, the Washington Wizards center "stuck a piece of paper in the net, grabbed it with his mouth in mid-air and then dunked the ball." It's an impressive display of athleticism, dexterity and focus, and, most importantly, it's goofy as all hell. Classic JaVale, except for that "focus" part, which he doesn't always have in spades.

[Video: Blake Griffin's ridiculous head at the rim dunk]

Steinz thinks JaVale should replace the paper with a few stacks of Benjamins if he breaks this one out in competition, but I respectfully disagree — taking a bite out of thousands of dollars would do nothing to dispel the notion that McGee is kind of immature and not all that cerebral (because money should not be eaten, you see, but should instead be exchanged for goods and services). My suggestion? Stuff a Ben's Chili Bowl half-smoke through the net and take a bite out of that sucker.

That way, you rep your city, support a local business, promote a Washington landmark, stimulate the D.C. economy, don't eat legal tender, emphasize the lovable side of your persona and get some tasty grindage at the same time. That would get a 10 out of 10 from this judge, and that is the lamest way I could end this paragraph. (NOTE: False, because hide ya kids/hide ya wife, Furbies, Farmville, Chris Quinn(notes), very shagadelic!)

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As he gets ready to wow the All-Star Weekend crowd, flame out in a failure of epic proportions or maybe do a little of both, one thing's for sure: McGee's contest appearance has the full, unwavering support of his coach. Except, y'know, not exactly.

From Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner:

When Wizards coach Flip Saunders was asked this morning what he thought the contest could do for McGee’s confidence, he had a one-word answer: "Nothing."

"Gerald Green won the dunk contest," said Saunders. "Where is he at now? [Apparently, Russia, since he asked.] That weekend is an entertainment weekend. What that does for players and their ability has nothing to do with that they transfer onto the court. [...]

"There's been a lot of players that have been in those contests that are not in the league anymore because what they did is they were great leapers, and they relied just on doing that, and they became so focused on their ability to do that, they didn't expand their rest of their game."

On some level, Saunders is right, of course. Winning a dunk contest doesn't necessarily make you more likely to become a better all-around performer. Out-of-the-gym verticals and backboard-shattering jams do not a complete player make. A JaVale McGee with a fully developed low-post game and the ability to reliably knock down a 15-footer would be far more valuable to the Wizards than a JaVale McGee whose only contributions come in areas directly related to his superior springs. No one's debating those points.

But your team sucks right now, Flip. You're 8-25, tied for the second-worst winning percentage in the NBA, and while John Wall's(notes) been revelatory at times and Nick Young's(notes) post-sayonara-Gilbert surge has been welcome, the Wizards franchise and fans could probably use all the excitement they can get at the moment. You're not wrong here, but you come across like sort of a sourpuss, peeing on a potential source of smiles in the stands. While I totally get the logic behind preferring that JaVale work on his hook shot rather than practicing new ways to take flight, I have a harder time seeing the sense in playing Debbie Downer and throwing a wet blanket on something that could be a rare bright spot for your fans in another dark season.

(Also, coach, there was no reason to take a swipe at Gerald Green(notes). Dude gave us the Birthday Cake, and on top of that, he's not around to defend himself. Speaking ill of the NBA departed is pretty tacky.)

Hat-tip to SB Nation's Mike Prada.

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