Rockets coach Kevin McHale makes a good point to start this video — Dwight Howard is a very good player. He is a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, a guy who averaged 18.3 points a game on 57.7 percent shooting plus pulls down 12.3 rebounds a game as his career averages.
Because he had a down year last season — mostly due to injuries, but his attitude didn’t help matters — on a big stage, so he got painted with a “he’s not all that” brush. But he can be all that and more — he has to physically get right, then he has to go out and earn it. He expected things handed to him in Los Angeles, we’ll see if he’s grown from that experience (and he ugly leaving of Orlando).
Then McHale gets into his plans — he wants to use Howard’s speed (which is exceptional for a big man) and improve his balance. McHale wants to play fast, something Howard pushed back against when Mike D’Antoni came to Los Angeles.
It’s not a question of can McHale teach Howard things that Patrick Ewing or Kobe Bryant or anyone else could not, it’s a question of if Howard will listen. To use the old Buddhist phrase: “When the student is ready the teacher will arrive.” We’ll see if Howard is ready.
Both elements probably worked in concert. Ibaka disrupted the play of several teammates just by being there, which likely led to them giving him less benefit of the doubt about his attitude.
Don’t absolve Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, though. He built a roster overloaded with bigs. He asked for leadership from a newcomer who was third banana at best on his previous team and is entering a contract year. It’s not a huge shock this dynamic soured on and off the court.
Jarrius Robertson hits layup at Celebrity Game, hangs with Draymond Green (VIDEO)
It’s likely you’ve seen Jarrius “J.J” Robertson before. The 14-year-old came into public view as a New Orleans Saints superfan that deals with a liver disease called biliary atresia. Robertson has shown up at NBA All-Star Weekend this year, and he’s been a big hit.
On Friday, J.J. showed up and played a spot in the 2017 NBA Celebrity Game. He even dropped a layup during gameplay.
Saturday was an underwhelming night of dunks punctuated by a couple of moments of brilliance.
The Pacers’ Glenn Robinson III had the most of those moments — which is why he won the event. His strong night started with his first dunk, which may well have been the best of the contest.
“And just talking to a couple people helping me, Vince Carter did one of his best dunks first, and it kind of intimidated people,” Robinson said sitting next to his trophy later. “That’s what I wanted to go out and do. I wanted to do one of my best dunks first. Who knows if it worked? But they missed some of their dunks, and it gave me a little more room.”
The final one from Robinson, the one that sealed the victory, may be the other best dunk of the competition — dunking over Paul George, the Pacers mascot, and a Pacers dancer.
“I originally planned for it just to be PG (Paul George),” Robinson said afterward. “I knew I had to bring out something special. We added the mascot and the cheerleader. I really just wanted to get up high and dunk that thing hard, man. My adrenaline was going. It felt like I was looking at the rim. All I knew was the crowd go crazy. I pointed like this because, man, everybody seemed to sleep on me, didn’t really think I was going to win this thing.”
Event favorite Aaron Gordon, who should have won a year ago, opened the contest with an innovative idea — a drone dunk — but he couldn’t execute it and there were a few attempts before he nailed it.
Gordon didn’t advance out of the first round, and his first dunk summed up the 2017 Dunk Contest — interesting ideas that didn’t quite pan out like planned. Gordon said some recent injuries didn’t impact his performance, and that if he had reached the Finals he had another drone dunk planned.
If it wasn’t going to be Gordon, a lot of people expected it to be the bouncy Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. who won, and he reached the Finals in part thanks to this spectacular dunk that woke up the Smoothie King Center up.
DeAndre Jordan was okay, but without Chris Paul throwing him lobs it didn’t quite feel the same. Jordan can dunk with such power in game, but we didn’t see that Saturday.
In the end, it was Robinson who made the plays.
“I’m not really a known dunker,” Robinson said. “I practiced. I prepared. I know I’m a jumper. And like I said, I’m a guy that stays out of the way. But when it’s time to shine, that’s my thing. That’s what I wanted to do. I knew all along I had some things planned, and I just wanted to show the world.”