Utah Jazz: Jeremy Evans gets chance to defend NBA Slam Dunk title
SALT LAKE CITY — Last year, it took a grass-roots campaign — and an injury to one of the participants — for the NBA to accommodate the #LetJeremyDunk movement.
A year later, Jeremy Evans has been invited back to All-Star Weekend to defend his 2012 Slam Dunk championship.
"It is very exciting to have the opportunity to participate, not just for the first time, but to be able to go back for a second time," Evans said. "I want to top what I did last year and come out and try to win it again."
That might mean he has to soar over two teammates and slam in four balls at once instead of just going over Gordon Hayward and dunking with both hands.
Evans is one of six participants in the revised dunk contest, which pits the conference guys in the first round and the finalists in a second round. Other invitees include the Clippers' Eric Bledsoe, Pacers' Gerald Green, Nuggets' Kenneth Faried, Raptors' Terrence Ross and Knicks' James White.
Barring a late change, Evans will be the only Jazz participant in the All-Star festivities, which will take place in Houston from Feb. 15-17.
Jazz shooting guard Randy Foye was not invited to be in the 3-point contest. He is currently seventh in the NBA with a shooting percentage of .433 from beyond the arc.
The 3-point shooters include: Ryan Anderson, Matt Bonner, Stephen Curry, Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Steve Novak.
Evans was hoping to be invited back, but he said on Wednesday that he was starting to think about a vacation in case he wasn't asked to defend his title.
Teammate Paul Millsap said it would have been "unfair" had the league not brought Evans back.
"He's the champion," Millsap said. "He's the Slam Dunk champ. I mean, why not?"
Jazz forward DeMarre Carroll tweeted out some support to Evans after Thursday evening's announcement: "S/o (shout out) to my teammate Jeremy Evans for gettin back in the Slam Dunk Contest.. TRRUUE."
Weber State product Damian Lillard, who's tearing it up as a rookie point guard for Portland, will participate in both the Rising Stars Challenge (rookie-sophomores game) and the Skills Challenge.
The 6-foot-9 Evans is the sixth Jazz player to participate in the dunk contest, but he joins Darrell Griffth (1984, 85) and Blue Edwards (1990, 91) as the only ones to do it in consecutive years.
The seldom-used bench player is, however, the only one to get his own day. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert proclaimed Feb. 29, 2012, to be "Jeremy Evans Day" in the Beehive State.
Evans said "everybody on the team" will help him try to repeat the feat this year. At least this time, though, he won't be a last-second fill-in. He has nine days to prepare.
"It always helps to have notice and to know that you have more time," he said in a video on utahjazz.com. "I have a few (dunks) I'm working on, a couple ideas."
RALLY TIME: The Jazz increased their league lead in double-digit comebacks to 12 after rallying out of a 12-point hole in Wednesday's 100-86 win over Milwaukee. Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin joked that Utah's tendency to fall behind has given him "a couple of gray hairs."
Corbin added that it's important for the Jazz to focus on defense and getting a preferred pace early on.
Starting power forward Paul Millsap was more focused on the results than the rough starts the Jazz have been having lately.
"You can't really complain about anything when the outcome is a win," he said.
INJURY UPDATE: Guard Mo Williams will have the pin removed from his surgically repaired thumb next Friday. He spent time at Thursday's practice doing intense running and jumping drills and left-handed work with Corbin and strength coach Mark McKown. Swingman Gordon Hayward (sprained right shoulder) is making progress but the Jazz still aren't sure when he'll play again. Guard Earl Watson dressed Wednesday but didn't play Wednesday with his leg issues (bone bruise, stress fracture). He was working out with the team again Thursday, but it's uncertain whether he'll be available for action tonight.
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