On one hand, I can understand Gerald Green's decision to declare himself finished with the NBA's annual All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest. After all, he's competed in the contest three times, winning once, coming in second once and earning early elimination back in February. He's turned in one of the most memorable dunks in the competition's recent history. And as he works through his seventh NBA season (and ninth as a professional) with his eighth NBA team, the Phoenix Suns swingman wants to become a more well-rounded player who contributes to a winner and who's known for more than just dunking.
That's a completely reasonable wish, and it's to the 28-year-old's credit that he's eager to be something more than a mere curiosity. Still, though ... I mean, you are very good at dunking, Gerald Green. And that is not a bad thing. At all.
Here's Green whipping out a monstrous fast-break windmill during the first quarter of the Suns' Sunday matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans:
(As to the question asked in the clip below, I actually asked Green at All-Star Weekend what he's thinking of when he's on the break or in the air and about to throw one down. His answer: "You know what, sometimes — most of the time — I'm just hoping I can make the basket.")
And here he is again, energizing the U.S. Airways Center crowd with a fourth-quarter tomahawk:
That spin move and slam gave the Suns a nine-point lead with 30 seconds remaining, and Phoenix held on for a 101-94 win that has the Suns — whom most of us picked to rank among the league's worst teams this season — all alone atop the Pacific Division at 5-2 through seven games, ahead of expected powerhouses the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. Part of that's due to offseason trade target Eric Bledsoe, who continued his sensational early-season play with 24 points on 7 for 11 shooting, six assists and four rebounds. Part of it's due to the surprising all-court productivity of forward Markieff Morris (23 points on 9 for 12 shooting, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, a block, no turnovers in 34 minutes), who is just the third NBA player since 1989 to make at least 75 percent of his attempts in three straight games while taking at least 12 shots (joining Dwight Howard and Charles Barkley) and the first Phoenix reserve to top 23 points in three straight since Dan Majerle in 1995.
A better-than-expected defensive unit that ranks seventh in the NBA in points allowed per possession, double-double work from unheralded ex-Indiana Pacers reserve Miles Plumlee, a strong start to Jeff Hornacek's head coaching career ... there's plenty of credit to go around when it comes to praising Phoenix's 5-2 start. Green should get some, too — in addition to providing frequent highlight-reel throwdowns, he's also hitting 43.6 percent of his 3-pointers, helping provide some spacing on the wing in the Phoenix half-court offense. He shot just 1 for 5 on Sunday, but the one make was huge — it came on a busted play late in the shot-clock past the midway point of the fourth quarter, with Phoenix holding onto a three-point lead and looking to hold the Pelicans at bay:
Green finished with 15 points, three rebounds and two assists in the victory. He contributed in ways that didn't relate solely to dunks, which probably makes him feel good, and he contributed with two massive dunks that make the rest of us feel good. Win-win, right?
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