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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

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NBA Slam Dunk Contest: Blake Griffin and DeMar DeRozan Are the Easy Favorites

Blake Griffin gave NBA fans a collective boner when he answered our prayers by saying he would join the Slam Dunk Contest. As if that wasn’t good enough, the NBA seemed to listen to our other request — to replace point guard Brandon Jennings in the event. Jennings actually was injured, but the league did well to name DeMar DeRozan the replacement because that kid can get up.

Clippers rookie forward Blake Griffin is the easy favorite in the contest, checking in at 1:3 odds to win it. He had a spectacular alley-oop in the Rookie Challenge on Friday, and he’s been an individual nightly highlight show. There was his alley-oop over Kyle Korver, and then his reverse alley-oop during a game. But my favorite dunk of his this year was the one where he tea-bagged Timofey Mozgov:

DeMar DeRozan is a second-year forward for the Toronto Raptors. He was their first-round pick in 2009, selected 9th overall. Last year he won the first ever dunk-in for the contest, beating out Eric Gordon. He finished second to Nate Robinson last year, but he was the only player to record a perfect score in the contest. His odds to win it are 3:1. It’s easy to see why he’s in competition to win it — he took the 2008 McDonald’s All-American Slam Dunk Contest with jams like this:

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Erin Andrews’ Reebok ZigTech Ad to Appear in Fitness Magazine

A minor stir was caused around Bristol when it was announced that Erin Andrews had signed an endorsement deal with Reebok. The noise was quelled when it was pointed out some of their personalities have an association with Nike, and it appears as if EA and Reebok have moved forward full force. In fact, a print ad with Andrews is set to appear in Fitness Magazine. Here’s how the Erin Andrews Reebok ZigTech Ad will look:

The picture comes to us via The Boston Globe which points out that Andrews is the first female to advertise ZigTech products. The others are Chad Ochocinco, Peyton Manning, and Sidney Crosby. It’s quite an accomplishment for the ESPN reporter and former Dancing With the Stars contestant.

Kevin Garnett Denies He Is a Dirty Player

After toiling in Minnesota for 12 largely unsuccessful season, Kevin Garnett became somewhat of a sympathetic figure. He made 10 All-Star games, won an MVP award, but lost in the first round of the playoffs seven years in a row. Finally Minnesota freed him with a trade to Boston where he teamed up with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. They went out and immediately put together the best record in the league and won a championship.

Once they started winning, people no longer felt badly for KG and they started to see him for what he was — one of the league’s biggest trash-talkers, dirty players, and the quintessential love him or hate him player.

Garnett is a polarizing figure. He plays hard, gives his all, and helps his team win, and fans of his team love him. But he also plays head games, uses questionable veteran tactics, and is not very sportsmanlike. For those reasons, opposing fans disgust him.

Regardless of how you feel about Garnett, you have to respect how hard he plays and how badly he wants to win. Because of all that, he says his team loves him and he’s not a dirty player.

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Jimmy Rollins Guarantees 100 Wins for Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins has been known to be a confident guy. He’s cocky, he has swagger, and he generally backs it up on the field. Of course it’s easy to front as a tough guy when you have a bunch of 6’5″ 250 pound giants backing you up, and that’s the case for Rollins.

After winning 97 games last season and reaching the NLCS before losing to the Giants, the Phillies brought in Cliff Lee — who helped spark their World Series run in 2009 — to bolster their already strong rotation. Because of the improvement, Rollins guaranteed the team would win 100 games this season, according to a tweet from reporter Matt Gelb.

It may be a bold prediction, but it seems to be within reach for the Phillies. They’ve upgraded their staff to a historically good level, and they have plenty of sluggers in the lineup. Still, Chase Utley is coming back from injury, Raul Ibanez had a down year, and they lost Jayson Werth. On top of all that, they need their bullpen to repeat last year’s success enjoyed by Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge, and Jose Contreras, and they have to compete with the rest of the league.

The NL Central and NL West have several strong teams, and the Braves should present a challenge in the East. Oh yeah, and Rollins is in a contract year and stunk the past two seasons (largely because he got hurt). If the Phils are to win 100 games — which won’t be easy — they’ll need contributions from everyone, especially Rollins who has been a disappointment lately. As LBS writer Alan Hull put it to me best, it’s put up or shut up for Jimmy.

Brandon Vera Thought Thiago Silva Was Strong in Ring, Supports PED Suspicion

Brandon Vera lost to Thiago Silva at UFC 125 on New Year’s Day. Silva’s drug test was the only one that reportedly has not yet been cleared, and many people suspect he was using PEDs. Increasing the suspicion was Silva’s removal from his scheduled fight against Rampage Jackson at UFC 130. Also supporting the thought that Silva was on something was Vera’s comments on The Ryan Loco Show this week.

Midway through their podcast, Vera said (as transcribed by MMA News), “I roll with Phil Davis. I roll with Travis Browne. I roll with Junior dos Santos. I roll with the Nogueira brothers. When I’m in the half guard, underneath somebody and I have their leg, and my other leg’s half-cocked up on their arm pit, I can rock people back and forth. I can rock you and either stand back up or get the sweep. I remember when I was underneath him and I was pushing him back and forth, I was thinking, ‘What the hell? Why is this guy so damn strong?’ And I remember thinking during the fight, ‘Yo, I need to start lifting weights again.’ He was one of, if not the strongest dudes I ever rolled with in my life.”

Another interesting comment by Vera was that he doesn’t care if Thiago Silva used PEDs, just as long as the playing field is even. He even added that he was bench pressing 305 pounds at the time of the fight, making it even more suspicious that Silva could physically dominate him to that extent. So Brandon Vera isn’t against PED use, he just wants everyone to be equal, and his commentary about the fight supports the notion that Thiago could have been juicing. Hmm, where have we heard something similar?

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  • MMA

John Wall Alley-Oop to Blake Griffin Video

John Wall broke Chris Paul’s Rookie Challenge record with 22 assists on Friday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The stats really are meaningless given that there was worse defense played than the French protecting the Bastille, but at least it provided plenty of highlights. The best one had to be John Wall’s bounce pass alley-oop to Blake Griffin. I’ve never seen anything like it. Here’s the John Wall alley-oop to Blake Griffin video:

If there’s even a slight amount of that sort of creativity in the dunk contest, we’ll be in for quite the show. Not bad for a live game, huh?

Picture: James Wisniewski’s Face Cut up After Getting Hit by Puck

Two weeks ago we shared with you the picture of Darryl Boyce’s nose after he got cut crashing into the glass. Now, we bring you a picture of Canadiens defenseman James Wisniewski who was hit in the face by a Taylor Hall shot on Thursday night. Here’s a video of Wisniewski getting hit, with a picture of the nasty cut below.

The Canadiens have already been hurt by injuries so losing Wisniewski would be a blow. There’s no word on the severity of the injury, the by the look of the picture below, his orbital bone could be broken:

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Adidas Yellow All-Star Game Shoes Steal the Show

If you happened to check into the Rookie Challenge on Friday night of All-Star weekend, it was impossible not to notice the retina-piercing yellow sneakers on the court. Several players were rocking the Adidas adiPURE shoes for the game and these babies were bright yellow. As I wrote on twitter (follow LBS), it was just like watching Oregon’s football team during the National Championship Game. Jrue Holiday, Wesley Johnson, Serge Ibaka, Taj Gibson, James Harden, and Steph Curry were some of the players blinding us on the floor with their yellow shoes. Here’s an up-close look at these babies:

We know Adidas has been rolling out special items for the weekend including tight-fitting jerseys, and new shoes for Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, and Snoop Dogg, but I’d say they swung and missed with these ones. When I watch the NBA, I want to keep my eyes on the ball and not the feet. Thanks guys.

For a complete rundown of the shoes that will be worn during All-Star weekend, check out Complex.

Carlos Zambrano Stars in Slow Pitch Softball Game

Pitchers and catchers have already reported for spring training throughout Major League Baseball, and for the Chicago Cubs that means showing up in Mesa, Arizona. The workload is generally pretty light the first week of practice because players are easing back into shape. For Carlos Zambrano, he’s apparently even taking the opportunity to get some slow pitch softball in on the side.

A reader of SI Hot Clicks emailed in with that picture and an accompanying story that Big Z played in his softball game Thursday night. According to the Hot Clicks reader, “He played left field every other inning and made sure to use his opposite throwing arm so he wouldn’t screw anything up. He popped up twice and hit one out of the stadium another time. Super friendly guy. He even offered to sign autographs for everyone after the game. Dude looks in shape, at least 20-30 lbs lighter.”

Though the person totally burned Big Z by emailing in the story and publicizing the appearance, I think it’s positive P.R. for Zambrano. He’s been known as a hothead with an attitude problem, so it’s nice to have stories saying he’s friendly and in good shape. Plus, who can’t get down with an athlete helping out some bros in a beer league game? He was no Eric Byrnes, but this event certainly was a win for Carlos.

Why Albert Pujols Is in a Difficult Spot with His Contract Negotiations

Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball, and it’s been that way for the past 10 years. The Cardinals first baseman signed a 7-year $100 million contract prior to the 2004 season, exchanging three years of arbitration and four free agency years for the security of a significant financial commitment from the club. All the while Albert has continued to destroy opposing pitching like a mad man, run the bases well, and play good defense. He’s also vastly outproduced his $16 million annual salary the past three seasons and hasn’t complained when other inferior players signed contracts for more money.

Pujols has easily been one of the biggest bargains in baseball, playing for around half of what he’s been worth. Even his new teammate, Matt Holliday, signed for more money from the Cardinals. Michael Young and Adrian Beltre have matched his $16 million annual salary. Andruw Jones has surpassed it.

It’s time for Albert to get paid fairly, but can the Cardinals afford him?

In order for St. Louis to pay him what he’s worth, Pujols would have to make more than Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year $275 million contract. There’s little doubt that Albert deserves that sort of money — particularly after giving St. Louis a discount for five years — but such a deal would severely hamper the Cardinals’ ability to build a competitive team around him.

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