Gregg Popovich

Gregg Popovich voted NBA Coach of the Year

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This doesn’t happen enough — the best coach in the game being named the NBA Coach of the year. Usually it goes to the guy who most exceeds expectations, but the best coaches almost always have insane expectations for their squads and even if they meet them they can’t blow them out of the water.

This year it goes to the best in the game — San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich has been named the NBA Coach of the Year.

Popovich received 59 first place votes (out of 125 from media members) and had 380 total points, which kept him just ahead of Jeff Hornacek of Phoenix, who came in second. After that it was a big step back to Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau who was third.

This is Popovich’s third COY award. Popovich will likely shrug at this news, followed by saying something short but nice for the cameras. Then he will get back to coaching, which is what he really wants to do. In 20 years this award trophy likely will be found in a box in Popovich’s garage. Recognition like this does not drive him.

What he has done in San Antonio took years — he has built a culture and system that can plug in the right players and get them playing to their strengths. He’s built a selfless system and gotten players willing to share the rock — “great not good” is the mantra and the players buy in, moving off the ball and making the extra pass. It’s a system where when a future Hall of Famer like Tony Parker goes down and Patty Mills can step in and put up numbers. Marco Belinelli is unimpressive in some stops then comes into this system and is asked to play to his strengths shooting threes and becomes a real weapon.

Popovich is simply the best coach in the NBA right now. Hands down. No question. He led the Spurs to the best record in the NBA. He deserves this.

After the top three of Popovich, Hornacek and Thibodeau, the rest of the voting went Steve Clifford (Charlotte, 8 first place votes), Dwane Casey (Toronto, 5 first place votes), Terry Stotts (Portland, 2 first place votes), Doc Rivers (Los Angeles Clippers, 1 first place vote), and finally the trio of Scott Brooks, Mark Jackson and Jason Kidd each got one third place vote. (Jackson’s vote comes from Warriors reporter Ric Bucher of Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area, Brook’s comes from Dominique Wilkins the Hawks legend and broadcaster, Kidd’s came from Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.)

Glenn Robinson III does his best to salvage Dunk Contest, gets victory in process

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NEW ORLEANS — This year’s NBA All-Star Dunk Contest was doomed to disappoint, it was never going to match last year’s epic battle. It started in a hole.

It never climbed out. Don’t take my word for it, check out what JaVale McGee thought.

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.

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. (To be fair, Gordon has been battling injuries recently, that may have thrown him off).

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 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 Gordon who was making 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.”

Glenn Robinson III wins underwhelming dunk contest on over-people, below-rim dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — Glenn Robinson III won the dunk contest with the second-best dunk of the night, going over a few people and under the rim — a narrow path to slamming victory.

It would’ve rated as the event’s best dunk if he were truly under the rim rather than somewhat in front of it. And he did have the best body of work to win the contest.

But the best single dunk was still by runner-up Derrick Jones Jr., who went between the legs on a pass off the side of the backboard.

NBA stars shoot threes to raise $500,000 for Sager Strong Foundation in touching moment

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NEW ORLEANS — The spirit of Craig Sager is strong during All-Star weekend in The Big Easy and he’s going to get a spot in the Hall of Fame, deservedly so.

After Eric Gordon won the Three-Point Contest, he and the other finalists Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker stayed on the court to shoot threes to raise money for the Sager Strong Foundation — they would shoot threes for a minute and for each make the foundation would get $10,000. Then they brought out help — Reggie Miller, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, DJ Khaled, and others to knock down shots. That raised $130,000.

Stephen Curry tried to push that to $500,000, but it was Sager’s son that actually did it (with an assist from Shaquille O’Neal).

It was a touching moment for a great cause.

Derrick Jones Jr. catches pass off side of backboard, jams between-legs dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — With defending runner-up Aaron Gordon eliminated in the first round, Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. might be our best hope to save the dunk contest.