NBA All-Star weekend: LeBron James’ high praise for Australian Josh Giddey as dunk comp fizzles


Australian NBA rookie sensation Josh Giddey has turned heads with his prominent rise in his debut NBA season, with even the ‘King’ LeBron James taking notice of the Melbourne-born product.

Giddey was part of NBA legend James Worthy’s side for the newly formatted Rising Stars game at the All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.

And ahead of the premiere All-Star game, James was asked about the Australian’s first few months in the league.

“He’s really, really, really good,” LeBron told reporters.

“He has a great pace about the game, great vision. I always love pass-first guards who can see plays happen before they happen.

“Josh is one of those kids who can definitely see the game a lot quicker than a lot of guys out on the floor.

“He’s been playing beautiful basketball.”

Giddey is the second youngest player in the league and recorded three straight triple doubles before the All-Star Break – the only other player since Oscar Robertson (1960-61) to do so in their first season in the NBA.

The 19-year-old is also the third, second and youngest player to record a triple double in the NBA with his four hauls this season.

On top of those accolades, Giddey’s been named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for every month of the season so far, averaging 12.4 points per game, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists.

It came as Karl-Anthony Towns gave big men everywhere something to shoot for.

Minnesota’s 7-footer became the first center to win the 3-Point Shooting Contest, defeating seven guards during the NBA’s All-Star Saturday and providing a memorable moment on a night the dunk contest barely got off the ground.

Towns, who has spent his entire career proving doubters wrong about his range, posted a 29 — the highest total in the competition — during the final round to defeat Atlanta’s Trae Young and Luke Kennard of the Los Angeles Clippers, who tied for a second with 26 each.

New York’s Obi Toppin won the four-person dunk contest, scoring a 47 out of 50 in the final round by putting the ball between his legs in the air, touching it off the backboard and re-directing it through the rim.

Golden State’s Juan Toscano-Anderson was second as the dunk contest, once a marquee event that at times trumped the All-Star Game, fell flat.

Golden State Warriors' Juan Toscano-Anderson.
Camera IconGolden State Warriors’ Juan Toscano-Anderson. Credit: charles krupa/AP

A trio of Cleveland Cavaliers, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, won the Skills Challenge.

After his surprising 3-point win, Towns accepted his trophy at mid-court and immediately turned toward Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal sitting courtside in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

“I told you Shaq,” Towns said. “Vegas got the odds wrong.”

Towns was considered, well, a long shot among a field of shot makers that included Young, Kennard, New Orleans’ CJ McCollum, Brooklyn’s Patty Mills, Toronto’s Fred VanVleet, Chicago’s Zach LaVine and Memphis’ Desmond Bane.

“I wanted to prove I was the best shooting big man in the world, and now I got the trophy to prove it,” Towns said.

Patty Mills in the three-point challenge.
Camera IconPatty Mills in the three-point challenge. Credit: charles krupa/AP

There have been other big men crowned 3-point champions, but Kevin Love (2012) and Dirk Nowitzki (2006) are considered power forwards.

“I think this is a nice little thing to put on that resume,” Towns said. “Big man hasn’t won in 10 years, and, of course, 10 years ago, a decade ago, who won it? The Wolves. It’s coming back home where it belongs.”

The dunk contest started with some promise and fizzled fast.

Orlando’s Cole Anthony caused a stir when he swapped his sneakers for a pair of Timberland boots and then dunked in them with an assist from his father, former NBA guard Greg Anthony.

Toppin said all the participants are great dunkers who wanted to put on a show, and they all were encouraging each other.

“When Cole missed those two first ones with the Timbs on, I was like no those Timbs are heavy,” Toppin said. “I was like, we got to boost his energy from him up. I was trying to get everybody on their feet.”

It worked, momentarily.

But Anthony couldn’t complete his second dunk in three tries and he was eliminated along with Houston’s Jalen Green, who also struggled while trying to impress a panel of Hall of Fame judges — Julius Erving, Isiah Thomas, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler and Dominic Wilkins.

The hometown Cavs added another moment to their impressive season by winning the re-formatted Skills Challenge, which pitted teams and not individual players.

Garland, Mobley and Allen teamed up to outperform Team Antetokounmpo — MVP Giannis and his brothers Thanasis and Alex — and a rookie trio of Detroit’s Cade Cunningham, Toronto’s Scottie Barnes and Oklahoma City’s Giddey.

Mobley, a leading candidate for rookie of the year honors, sealed the win by making a half-court shot on his first attempt, allowing the Cavs to close the segment of the contest in 5.5 seconds and defeat Team Rooks.

The Cavs started the shooting competition off target as Allen, hardly known for his outside touch, made just two shots in 30 seconds. However, Garland brought Cleveland back — and brought their crowd to life — scoring 21 points.

However, the Cavs came out of the relay portion tied with Team Antetokounmpo for second place and needed Garland to win a shoot-off with Thanasis to place Cleveland in the final.

After Cunningham drained his 47-footer in 9.9 seconds, Mobley calmly stepped into his winning shot.

“He’s one of a kind,” Allen said of his 20-year-old teammate. “Defense, offense and now half court. The whole league knows Evan by now. If they’ve ever driven to paint, they definitely know him, so the NBA should know him by now.”


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