The Miami Heat has a proud tradition of success in the NBA’s three-point contest – and Wayne Ellington is well aware of it heading into his first career appearance in it Saturday night at Staples Center.
“D-Wade told me [Sunday], ‘All of my teammates that have participated in this won. But no added pressure,’ ” Ellington said through a grin earlier this week. “I started laughing.”
“But no, I don’t feel any pressure,” he continued. “I want to have fun with it, most importantly, and I feel like I’m a good enough shooter that I’m confident enough to go in there and feel like I’m going to win it.”
Ellington, 30, has plenty of confidence in himself, but oddsmakers consider him a heavy underdog among the eight participants.
Although he ranks fifth in the NBA in three-pointers made this season with 168, Ellington has the seventh-best odds to win the event at 15-to-1, according to Sports Betting Dime. Only Clippers forward Tobias Harris, who like Ellington has never participated in the event before, is a bigger longshot at 50-1.
The rest of the field, though, is loaded. Golden State’s Klay Thompson, the 2016 champion, is the favorite at 7-to-3, with Houston’s Eric Gordon, last year’s champion, next at 4-to-1. Phoenix’s Devin Booker (6-to-1), Washington’s Bradley Beal (7-to-1), Oklahoma City’s Paul George (10-to-1) and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry (14-to-1) also have better odds than Ellington.
The good news for Ellington? He might have the largest cheering section of teammates among the eight contestants.
“UD, D-Wade, both Johnson brothers and me,” All-Star point guard Goran Dragic said Monday of who will be on hand to have Ellington’s back during the three-point contest. “We’re looking forward to that. We’re going to cheer Wayne. We think he’s going to do good.”
Historically, Heat players usually have.
In all, six former Heat players — Jon Sundvold, Glen Rice, Jason Kapono, Daequan Cook, James Jones and Mario Chalmers — have combined to make 10 appearances in the event. Rice (1995), Kapono (2007), Cook (2009) and Jones (2011) all went home with the trophy.
Only two other franchises have taken home four trophies from the three-point contest: Boston (Larry Bird won three) and Chicago (Craig Hodges won three).
Ellington, who is having a career season and is set to become a free agent this summer, would obviously love to put the Heat over the top and make it the franchise with the most three-point champions in league history. But he’s going to have to find a consistent stroke again.
After posting his franchise single-season record ninth game with at least six three-pointers made in a loss to Sacramento on Jan. 25, Ellington has shot only 28.9 percent (22 of 76) from beyond the arc over his last nine games. For a large chunk of that, he’s battled right shoulder soreness after tweaking his shoulder fighting through a screen in a loss to Orlando (he was 0-for-8 from three in the game).
“It was just a bruise, a bone bruise on my bone back here,” Ellington explained of where he was hurt. “So it’s not something that was everlasting or lingers. It’s something that you get over. I don’t even want to talk about it or think about it. It’s done. I feel good.”
Ellington is shooting 38.7 percent from three-point range for the season. That ranks fifth among the participants behind: Thompson (45.4 percent), George (43.2 percent), Harris (40.2 percent) and Lowry (38.9 percent).
But the contest is going to be different than what Ellington – and others – are used to doing on the court. When he shoots threes in games, it’s usually running off of a screen or a pindown. So, he’s spent some free time the last couple weeks pulling the ball of the rack in practices and firing away to prepare for Saturday night.
“You just got to adjust to taking the ball off the rack and shooting it,” Ellington said. “It’s obviously not something that you naturally do on the basketball court. So that’s something that you got to practice at and get a feel for and get a rhythm for.”
But he’s got confidence he will.