NEW ORLEANS — Isaiah Thomas met basketball’s greatest and he hasn’t slept since.
Thomas has played in the NBA for six years and now is a two-time All-Star but had never met Michael Jordan until Friday night and Thomas is still floating from the experience.
Jordan, one of the game’s all-time greats and owner of the Charlotte Hornets, offered Thomas some encouraging words.
“Michael Jordan, I met Michael Jordan,” said Thomas, who was eliminated in the semifinals of the Skills Challenge. “He said he’s been watching. He said keep killing [but] take the night off when you play us but keep doing your thing.
“That’s crazy. I couldn’t sleep [Friday] night when he said that.”
So if Celtic fans thought Thomas was motivated already, meeting the player he believes is the greatest of all time just added more passion to his goal to turn Boston into an elite team.
“That was probably the biggest [deal] is to have Michael Jordan say that about me and that he’s taking notice,” Thomas said. “For sure [it motivates me], he’s the greatest player ever. For him to say he’s taking notice in what I’m doing first off lets me know I’m doing something somewhat right and second of all for him to say ‘keep going,’ that’s what I am going to keep doing.”
After failing to win in his third Skills Challenge, Thomas announced his retirement from the event. The challenge, which tests players’ passing, shooting, and dribbling abilities in a timed setting, seemed tailormade for Thomas and he beat Phoenix’s Devin Booker in the first round.
He was beating Utah’s Gordon Hayward in the semifinal before reaching the 3-point line. Both players began firing 3-balls at the same basket at the same time, making for a frantic ending. Hayward won by sinking the first 3-pointer. He then lost to New York’s Kristaps Porzingis in the final.
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Thomas said. “I guess it wasn’t the fourth quarter. He was shooting kind of fast, so a couple of those shots, I was just trying to hit his ball to make sure he didn’t make it. That’s my last time ever doing [the event]. I can’t get a win. It’s fun but it [stinks] losing. I hate losing no matter what it is.”
Houston’s Eric Gordon, a former New Orleans Pelican, edged Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving in the Three-Point Shootout.
Glenn Robinson III of the Pacers beat Derrick Jones Jr. of the Suns in the final round of the Slam Dunk Competition. Robinson clinched the win with a perfect 50 on the final dunk of the night — going over three people for a reverse dunk and nearly touching his head on the rim in the process.
State of Carolina
When the NBA removed the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte because of the passing of HB2 law that limits some protections for gay and transgender people, there was a promise that it could return to the city in 2019 if the law was rescinded. So far there has been little progress and the NBA is considering other venues for the 2019 game. It will be in Los Angeles in 2018.
“We’re not involved directly with legislatures. I have talked to [Roy] Cooper, the new governor of North Carolina since he was elected, really to express our desire to return to North Carolina next year  for our All-Star Game,” commissioner Adam Silver said. “We have a team in North Carolina. We have a development team, soon to be a G-League team, in North Carolina. And 20 other teams will visit North Carolina this season. So we’d very much like to get back there.
“We had a discussion so I understood, certainly, his position, when he was running for office, was anti-HB2, the bill that ultimately led to our leaving. So I really was talking to him more to understand, from his standpoint, how he was hoping to move forward in terms of changing that law. My main purpose of talking to him was to express our desire to return next year. In terms of laws in other jurisdictions, it’s something we continue to monitor very closely. You know, I’m not ready to draw bright lines. Clearly, though, the laws of the state, ordinances, and cities are a factor we look at in deciding where to play our All-Star Games.”
Hall finalists named
The 14 finalists were announced for this year’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction class. Finalists on the ballot for the first time are Chris Webber, Rollie Massimino, Tracy McGrady, Sidney Moncrief, Kim Mulkey, Bill Self, Rudy Tomjanovich, Rebecca Lobo, and longtime NBA referee Hugh Evans. Previous finalists returning to the ballot are Tim Hardaway, Muffet McGraw, Bo Ryan, winningest all-time boys’ high school coach Robert Hughes, and 10-time AAU women’s national champion team Wayland Baptist University . . . The league and the Players Association announced plans to hold a second exhibition game in Africa Aug. 5 in Johannesburg.