NEW ORLEANS – The Northern Arizona Suns knew they were going to get great representation at both the NBA’s and D-League’s All-Star Weekend, but what happened on Saturday was even better than anyone could have expected.
First was NAZ Suns’ forward Derek Cooke Jr., who competed in the D-League Dunk Contest, presented by Verizon. Although Cooke did not make it to the final round of the contest, his second dunk in the preliminaries got the crowd at the Mercedes Benz-Superdome to its feet.
Then it was Johnny O’Bryant, who had just rejoined the NAZ Suns on Friday. He most recently played at the highest level for the Denver Nuggets when he was named a D-League All-Star, and was able to make it to New Orleans for the game wearing a NAZ Suns’ jersey on his back.
It marked his first D-League action since Jan. 20, and he made the most of it. He achieved nine points on 4-of-8 shooting and a rebound, including a back-door contested jam.
The Western Conference made a 10-0 run to get within a point of the East, but the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Quinn Cook from Canton made a big three-point field goal to seal the game late. The East won the game 105-100, but like always at the All-Star Game, the players, fans and everyone involved had fun.
Finally came the more renowned event, the Verizon Slam Dunk (the NBA Slam Dunk Contest). Four of the best dunkers in the world were invited to participate, and of those four was current Phoenix Suns forward and former NAZ player Derrick Jones Jr.
Jones hadn’t secured an NBA dunk yet when he was named a participant, so Prescott Valley got plenty of notice as his eye-popping dunks in the D-League made their rounds on people’s televisions worldwide. The 6-foot 7-inch University of Nevada, Las Vegas, product ended up getting his first NBA dunk on his 20th birthday on Wednesday, setting up what was going to be an epic show at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans on Saturday.
He was set to compete against Indiana’s Glenn Robinson III, Orlando’s Aaron Gordon and the LA Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan. Jones was third in line and he took flight right away, dunking over Cooke and Phoenix Suns’ Marquese Chriss, Devin Booker and Alan Williams. He earned 45 points for his effort, putting him in second place after each participants’ first dunk.
Jones’ next dunk was the one that got everybody talking, as he had Booker lob one off the side of the background while Jones followed with an alley-oop between-the-legs slam. It was as obvious a perfect score as there could be.
With a composite score of 95 points, Jones advance to the finals. His challenger was Robinson, who had achieved a perfect 100 points through the first round. The former NAZ Suns forward started the final round, but was unable to land his first dunk, direly hurting his chances at winning. He earned a perfect 50 with his next and final dunk, but it was too late to take the crown, and the trophy went to Robinson.
— Northern AZ Suns (@nazsuns) February 19, 2017
At the end of the day, no Suns won any of their events, but it didn’t matter to many people around the Valley, or the nation, for that matter.
You'll know his name! @TheRea1DJones
— Tyson Chandler (@tysonchandler) February 19, 2017
— Patrick Peterson /P2 (@P2) February 19, 2017
— Archie Bradley (@ArchieBradley7) February 19, 2017
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 19, 2017
All three players were deserving of being in New Orleans this weekend, and all three got their name more name across the nation for what they were able to accomplish. Cooke, O’Bryant and Jones represented Prescott Valley very well.