CHOOSING to focus on helping the Minnesota Timberwolves get to the playoffs. Zach LaVine will not defend his NBA slam dunk title on All-Star weekend.
The high-flying Minnesota Timberwolves guard, who was set to compete for a third straight dunk title in one of the NBA side events, said he will not participate in this year's slam dunk contest in New Orleans.
"I feel like I've accomplished everything I could in the dunk contest," said LaVine on Thursday (Friday, Manila time). "It would be hard for me to go back and outdo myself.
Two years ago, LaVine single-handedly resurrected what has become an uneventful competition in the NBA’s annual showcase with his highlight reel dunks.
A year later in Toronto he went head-to-head against Orlando's Aaron Gordon in what has already become a classic duel that he won by jumping after the free throw line and putting the ball between his legs as he soared for the jam, a feat he had never tried before.
LaVine afterwards said winning against Gordon took every dunk in his arsenal.
"I'm never saying I won't ever do it again, but I'm focused on this year," he said. "We're getting close to being able to make the playoffs and we have that in our mind. Getting the rest and just focusing more on just the game is the main thing."
The Wolves (17-28) are currently in 12th place in the Western Conference and have won three in a row and six of their last eight. They are just 2+ games behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot.
LaVine is currently averaging 19.2 points per game in 37 minutes of action. To complement his athleticism, he has improved his outside shooting with a 40.2 percent clip from three-point range.
"He's done a lot more than just be a dunker. His shooting; his playmaking; all that stuff," said Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau. "But the big thing is weighing whether the rest is more important to be ready for the second half of the season.
"So I don't want him putting a lot of time and thought into that.... Prioritizing winning and our team is the most important thing and I think he'll do that."