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ALL-STAR NOTES

Slam dunk contest is super

Defending champion Dwight Howard gives an encore of his Superhero performance from last year, but Nate Robinson walks away with the top prize.

February 15, 2009|K.C. Johnson

PHOENIX — When you break out Superman's cape, finding the proper encore can prove difficult.

Nevertheless, Dwight Howard promised theatrics in his defense of his Superhero-flavored 2008 slam-dunk championship Saturday night during All-Star weekend. And, being the sultan of slam that he is, Howard knows what won't fly.

"Angel wings?" Howard said in mock anger at one suggestion. "I'm not a Victoria's Secret model."

Howard also is no longer the reigning slam-dunk champion, losing his crown in an entertaining final to 5-foot-9 New York Knicks guard Nate Robinson. Robinson, who also won the 2006 contest, received 52% of fans' support in worldwide voting via text messaging.

"I'm not mad," the 6-11 Howard said. "Dunking looks real hard for him and real easy for me, but the better man won. I gave it my all."

Howard also gave Robinson support, standing just inside the dotted line and allowing Robinson to jump over his shoulders on Robinson's second and final dunk in the final round.

"It's all about having fun," Howard said of his decision to help a competitor. "The fans loved it. And that's what All-Star weekend is all about."

Howard had drawn a worried grimace from Robinson with his first dunk in the final round, snaring his own pass from off the side of the backboard with one hand and thundering home a vicious slam.

But Howard's second dunk came across as somewhat flat, as he took off from inside the free-throw line instead of behind it.

"Everybody expected so much," Howard said. "I've been practicing for this for three years, always trying to come up with new dunks. I'll have some more new ones."

Presumably for next year's competition in Dallas, in which LeBron James announced during Saturday's event that he will compete. Robinson also will defend his title.

Howard reprised his Superman act from last year in the first round, this time entering a phone booth to put the cape on and then dunk home an alley-oop from injured teammate Jameer Nelson on a raised rim that workers wheeled out.

Howard received two perfect scores of 50 in the first round from the all-former-Phoenix-Suns panel of judges that featured Larry Nance, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Tom Chambers and Cedric Ceballos.

The Denver Nuggets' J.R. Smith and the Portland Trail Blazers' Rudy Fernandez, who had won a fan vote to participate, were eliminated.

For the final, Robinson changed from his blue Knicks uniform to a specially made green model, topped off by green shoes and green armbands.

"Kryptonite," Robinson explained, "is Superman's weakness."

TNT announcer Reggie Miller dubbed the outfit "Krypto-Nate." Whatever it's called, it came up a winner.

"I asked Dwight to help me out [Friday] in the elevator," Robinson said. "He said, 'Yeah, I'll do it.' I thought he was joking.

"But Dwight, he's a great athlete. He brings the best out of you. I'd love to cut the trophy in half and share it with him for helping me out."

Shootout central

Miami's Daequan Cook didn't just knock off two-time defending champion Jason Kapono to win the three-point shootout. He passed a math test.

"Actually, my last two racks, I was doing the math as I was shooting," Cook said. "When I got to my last rack, I knew I had to have almost all of them to at least stay in it."

After posting a first-round high of 19 points, Cook needed to make his final four three-pointers merely to tie Orlando's Rashard Lewis with 15 points in the final round. Toronto's Kapono had bowed out with 14 points.

Sparked by his late rally, Cook then posted an event-high 19 points in his extra session shootout with Lewis.

In the extra session, Lewis missed his first 11 shots and settled for seven points.

Layups

Houston, dangling the expiring salary of Ron Artest, has entered the Amare Stoudemire sweepstakes. The Chicago Bulls remain apprised of the talks, which are expected to last until the Thursday trade deadline. . . . Commissioner David Stern announced the NBA Finals most-valuable-player trophy will be renamed for Hall of Fame member and former Boston Celtics center Bill Russell. . . . Detroit's trio of Bill Laimbeer, Arron Afflalo and Katie Smith won the Shooting Stars competition, with Smith sinking the clinching half-court shot.

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kcjohnson@tribune.com

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