In the ’80s and early ’90s, the Eastern Conference featured dominant teams that managed to stay on top for several seasons before being dethroned by the next in line.
The Celtics had the East on lockdown, before finally being unseated by the Detroit Pistons. The Bad Boys era led by Isiah Thomas yielded back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990, before Michael Jordan’s Bulls took control in the 1991 season.
Detroit didn’t exactly embrace the end of its era. After beating the Bulls in hard-fought playoff series in each of the previous two seasons, the Pistons were swept in the Conference Finals on their home floor, and didn’t bother sticking around for the ceremonial handshakes that traditionally come following the final buzzer.
Thomas regrets that decision all these years later, and says in an upcoming episode of NBA TV’s Open Court (seen in the video clip above) that if he had it to do over again, he and his teammates would have stayed on the court to pay their proper respect to Jordan and the Bulls.
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.”