There’s almost nothing to complain about for fans of the Utah Jazz. Any complaining being done right now is either directed outside of the organization or simply nit-picking at things that could theoretically be better (even though the team has won 11 straight games).
Better still, Jazz fans will be able to bask in the glow of the hottest team in the NBA for the next week until Utah plays again. We’ll all be able to kick back and enjoy the festivities of All-Star weekend.
The event drawing the eyes of Jazz fans the most will surely be the dunk contest. Donovan Mitchell will be the first Jazz player in the contest since Jeremy Evans competed in back-to-back contests in 2012 and 2013. Mitchell will also be trying to become just the second member of the Jazz ever to win the Dunk contest (Evans won in 2012)
The NBA twitter account was so kind as to provide us with this teaser.
Donovan Mitchell at Dunk Contest rehearsal!— NBA (@NBA) February 16, 2018
What comes next?! Tune-in SATURDAY to the #VerizonDunk on @NBAonTNT #NBAAllStar#TakeNote pic.twitter.com/xus7G70cF6
Mitchell will be the third Utah rookie to compete. Deshaun Stevenson (2000-01) and Jaime Watson (1994-95) also participated in the contest as rookies with the Jazz. Including Mitchell this year, Utah has been represented in nine dunk contests by seven players (Mitchell, Evans, Stevenson, Watson, David Benoit, Blue Edwards, Darrell Griffith)
The judges for the dunk contest were revealed yesterday and it isn’t exactly an All-Star cast (pun not intended).
Presenting the #VerizonDunk judges for #NBAAllStar @chrisrock @markwahlberg @JuliusErving @LisaLeslie @djkhaled pic.twitter.com/kg9RtRt5jS— 2018 NBA All-Star (@NBAAllStar) February 16, 2018
Sure, you’ve got Dr. J, and Lisa Leslie was the first WNBA player to dunk it in a game, but past that the league might as well have made the remaining judges 100 guys in a bar for all the dunking expertise they’ll bring to the table.
The dunk contest isn’t the only event Mitchell will participate in. He declined to be in the skills challenge but will be in the Rising Stars game on Team USA. This will be a good chance for the rookie to show off in front of national media against fellow rookies and build on his Rookie of the Year campaign.
The Rising Stars game will begin tonight at 7 p.m. MT on TNT.
The Rookie of the Year race is becoming a daily debate between Philadelphia 76ers fans and Jazz fans (and anyone else who wants to put in their two cents). And it is a very close race with compelling arguments for both sides. For a good, well-composed argument to the Ben Simmons side, here’s a article by by Marc Wittington.
But for every Simmons argument, there is an argument for the former Louisville standout. And the list of national writers starting to name Mitchell as their current pick for ROY is growing. Howard Beck is the latest.
Rookie of the Year? @spidadmitchell enters the All-Star break with a compelling case, says @HowardBeck pic.twitter.com/NBcEO2znOV— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 15, 2018
The Crossover put out a guide to All-Star weekend, here’s a bit of what they had to say about the Rising Stars game and the Dunk contest.
After whetting your appetite with the celebrity game, the heat turns up with the Rising Stars game on TNT at 9 p.m. My guy Donovan Mitchell will be there for the U.S. team, as will high-flyer Dennis Smith Jr. and Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum. The World squad is led by Sixers stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, who I really want to see take the court with Jamal Murray and Lauri Markkanen. The Rising Stars is a bit of a sleeper event at All-Star Weekend. The young guys take the game a little more seriously than the jaded All-Stars, and there’s still plenty of athleticism to go around for cool dunks and highlight moments.
And finally, ending the night will be the Dunk Contest. Victor Oladipo, Smith Jr., Mitchell and Larry Nance Jr. will square off for the title of best dunker. Aaron Gordon was supposed to return to this event, but unfortunately had to withdraw due to injury. (Mitchell, who called Gordon his favorite dunker, will be a worthy replacement.) The dunks have clearly gotten stale over the years, but the amount of youth in this event should help keep the competition lively.
By no means will these events be the highlight of the year, even if Mitchell dominates in both. But they are worth keeping an eye on if you have the time to spare and really want to get your Spida fix during this break.
Tony Bradley and Naz Mitrou-Long were recalled to the main roster prior to Utah’s game against the Phoenix Suns. Mitrou-Long is currently on a 10-day contract with the Jazz which began Feb. 11, meaning it will expire before Utah’s next game on Feb. 23 against Portland.