Drummond, other dunk contestants out to dethrone LaVine

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Toronto — With the performance he put on in last year’s Slam Dunk Contest, Zach LaVine is the odds-on favorite to repeat as champion.

But the other competitors won’t make it an easy back-to-back feat for the Timberwolves guard, who won it at age 19.

Pistons center Andre Drummond, Magic forward Aaron Gordon and Nuggets guard Will Barton each said he has his hidden gems for tonight’s contest at the Air Canada Center.

With LaVine’s aerial ability and creativity, the question turns to whether any of the dunks is enough to dethrone him.

“He makes it look really effortless,” Gordon said. “He glides through the air, like a long-jumper. I know what I can do and I’m going to do some crazy stuff, regardless of what Zach does.”

The pressure to try to keep up with LaVine, who defeated Magic guard Victor Oladipo last season, means the traditional dunks won’t be enough.

“He looks like he can do almost any dunk that’s possible,” Barton said. “He definitely brought it back to life and that’s big for the league, so salute to him.”

Gordon, a veteran of creative dunks from his high school and college days at Arizona, got some sage advice from Oladipo.

“I asked Victor and he said don’t do your best dunk first,” Gordon said. “For the most part, I’m just ready to dunk. I wouldn’t be trying to do this if I didn’t think I could win. I have to make my dunks, obviously, but the crowd’s going to love it.”

Drummond was looking forward to the opportunity to prove a big man could win the contest, much like Dwight Howard did in 2008.

After a long wait, he’ll finally get his chance.

“(The NBA) knew I had my eyes on that since my rookie year,” Drummond said. “Four years later, it’s that time to show out.”

Gordon did reveal that he was planning some type of homage to former champion and hometown favorite Vince Carter.

Iverson lauds predecessors

Among the 14 finalists for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is former Pistons guard Allen Iverson.

Iverson, who played for the Pistons in 2008-09, was an 11-time All-Star and was the 1997 rookie of the year and 2001 NBA MVP.

“I’m a product of Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal,” Iverson said. “All those guys that paved the way for us. They had no idea what they did for us as kids, wanting to be like them.”

Bosh bows out

Chris Bosh’s All-Star participation for this year is over, before he ever took the floor in the city where his career began.

The Heat forward has withdrawn from tonight’s 3-point contest and Sunday’s All-Star Game, citing a strained right calf. Bosh — who will remain in Toronto for the weekend — was replaced on the Eastern Conference roster by Atlanta’s Al Horford.

Portland’s C.J. McCollum will fill Bosh’s spot in the 3-point event.

“I am honored to be selected to participate in All-Star Weekend festivities and will still be here to support my fellow East All-Stars,” Bosh said in a statement released through the Heat.

Associated Press contributed