Turns out, after being selected as an injury replacement for Kevin Durant, Domantas Sabonis won’t be the only player representing the Pacers at the All-Star Game. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, rookie Cassius Stanley is expected to participate in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, which is set to take place on March 7 during halftime of the game.
The Pacers made Stanley the 54th overall pick in the draft last November, and he has appeared in eight games for the Mad Ants on two-way contract while inside the G League bubble, averaging 11.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists on just 36 percent shooting. Prior to signing his first NBA contract, however, Stanley recorded the highest vertical leap ever at Duke and put down some highlight-reel dunks as a freshman.
That leaping ability has been put to good use in the G League, where he’s already converted three dunks, in spite of the right-foot injury that held him out of the fifth game of the schedule and likely contributed to why he came off the bench in a somewhat reduced role for a few games thereafter.
Logistically speaking, the G League season ends Friday with the single-elimination playoffs — if the Mad Ants qualify — beginning on Monday, making for a tight turnaround with the Slam Dunk Contest sandwiched in-between on Sunday, notwithstanding whatever sort of quarantine period may or may not be required.
Following Sunday’s loss to the Lakeland Magic, in which Stanley led the Mad Ants with 20 points and seven rebounds, including finally heating up from deep on 4-of-6 shooting, Fort Wayne sits at 5-7 — 1.5 games back of eighth-place and the playoffs with only three games left to play. In addition to potential scheduling conflicts, the 21-year-old guard also has the obstacle of competing in a dunk contest during a global pandemic, bereft of fan reaction.
To that point, unless participants are going to jump over cardboard cutouts or be permitted to catch lobs from players participating in other events, this excerpt from an essay Stanley wrote for The Players’ Tribune introducing himself to fans of the Pacers might prove all too fitting, and perhaps informative, of the current era:
It’s funny, people are always asking me for advice on how to dunk better. Or jump higher. How to add those inches to their vertical. And it’s just like….. have you ever been in a math class, and the teacher is writing some complex equation on the board, and your brain’s going, Excuse me? WHAT?? Like you know you did the homework and everything, and you’re not bad at math, but, nah. No way. That thing on the board can’t be real. It makes zero sense. And then you turn to your right and the kid at the next desk….. he hasn’t just already finished it. He’s obliterated it. And you’re like, “Bro — how’d you do that?? How’d you solve that equation??” And he tells you, like, “I can’t really explain it. Honestly I just kind of did it, you know? It was easy.”
Alright well that’s like me and dunking. For most people, with dunking, it’s like they see a bunch of confusing numbers on the board and it will never make sense.
For me? It’s easy.
I just kind of obliterate it.
I just dunk.
With fewer available gimmicks and in the absence of organic oohs and ahhs, what was intended as advice for others may also arguably serve as a salient competitive strategy: