Eyes on the prize
Players try to add a little funk to the DunkPosted: Friday February 08, 2002 8:44 PM
Updated: Saturday February 09, 2002 6:31 PM
By Marty Burns, CNNSI.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Spurs veteran guard Steve Smith has an idea how the NBA can add some funk to the Dunk.
"Maybe they need to recognize the winner more," Smith says, when asked how the league could get more big-name players to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest. "Like give him a car or a 10-foot trophy or something."
Sorry, Steve, but this year's Slam Dunk champion will have to settle for a mere $25,000 check. Not that anyone in this year's field is complaining.
Rockets guard Steve Francis, Sonics forward Desmond Mason, Warriors guard Jason Richardson and Kings forward Gerald Wallace each said Friday at All-Star media day that he was eager to put on a show worthy of the all-time greats.
Richardson, for example, said he began working Wednesday morning before practice with teammate Gilbert Arenas on a series of dunks he said he hoped would surprise the audience. Richardson, a 6-foot-6 skywalker, said he also got inspiration from watching old-timers like Darrell Dawkins and Dominique Wilkins.
"Those guys used to try to rip the rim off," he said. "That's what I try to do."
And how would Dawkins fare in a Dunk Contest today?
"Right now?" Richardson asked. "He's like, what, 45 years old?"
Rockets guard Steve Francis, meanwhile, said he didn't buy the idea that the Slam Dunk Contest has lost any luster. Just in case, though, he said the NBA might want to take Smith's advice.
"Give the winner a car! Yes! A sports car!" Francis said. "That's a great idea. If they did that, everybody would do it."
Celtics' Pierce makes his point
Celtics star Paul Pierce was happy to hear the news that Hornets guard Baron Davis had been named to the Eastern Conference team as a last-minute injury replacement.
Pierce and Davis grew up together in Los Angeles and played on the same elementary school teams. Pierce even laughed when reminded that Davis has been telling reporters how chubby Pierce used to be back in those days.
"Baron's like my little son," Pierce said. "I pretty much raised him and brought him up. He wouldn't even be in the NBA if it weren't for me, let alone an All-Star Game... He should give me half his check... We used to pick him up because he couldn't drive to the game."
Cavaliers guard Andre Miller, who was passed over to replace the injured Vince Carter, also grew up in L.A. and played with Pierce. When Boston had a chance to draft Miller in 1999, Pierce strongly urged the team to do so. "If we had Andre Miller right now, there's no telling where we'd be," Pierce said.
"But I like my team the way it is, too, so everything has worked out."
And which of his pals would he choose if he were building a team?
"That's a tough one," Pierce said. "Just give me a coin and I'll flip. Both are tough competitors; both are among the best young point guards in the game. If you're building a franchise, you can't go wrong with either one."
Shooting stars discuss strategy
Who says there's no strategy in the long-distance shootout?
Bucks guard Ray Allen, who won the event last year, says the key is deciding whether to go for speed or rhythm. "Do you want to get through all the racks, or do you take the time to make sure you get the best shot?" Allen asked. "I think I'll take my time and try to make sure I get a good shot."
Another strategy is to try to bribe your opponent. Pierce, who also will be competing in the shootout, said he offered Allen a thousand dollars to skip the event. "The prize money is $25,000," Allen said. "I'm planning on winning that."
Utah's Kirilenko explains origins of 'AK 47'
Russian rookie Andrei Kirilenko, known as "AK 47" for his initials and jersey number, says he got the idea from teammate Quincy Lewis during the summer.
"He said, 'Andrei, take 47, like AK 47, like the Russian Rifle,'" Kirilenko said. "I told him I liked No. 13. That was my number."
Kirilenko says he relented only after John Amaechi signed with the Jazz as a free agent later in the summer. Amaechi wanted No. 13, so Kirilenko decided to go with Lewis' advice. "I'm comfortable with it," Kirilenko said. "I'm against wars. I'm against weapons. But it's funny, and I like it."
Kirilenko now hopes to shoot down the competition in the Rookie Challenge. Along the way, he'd like to help his chances in the Rookie of the Year race, where he currently is considered a dark horse behind Pacers guard Jamaal Tinsley and Grizzlies stars Pau Gasol and Shane Battier.
"I'm trying to help my team win games," he said. "I'm not trying to score 30 points. I could get zero points, but if I get the win, then I'm happy. The end of the season will show who the best players are."