Apr 17, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
In the NBA, reputations are made and broken in the playoffs — but that is like a different season completely. The NBA gives out its awards based on the regular season. And this season a couple awards are obvious, but a couple could go a lot of different directions.
Here are PBT’s awards for the season (for the record I do not have an official vote).
Most Valuable Player: LeBron James (Miami Heat)
Out of the 123 media votes for MVP somebody is going to pick Kevin Durant, and I can’t wait to hear their explanation. Because as much as someone might be tired of voting for LeBron James, he took his game to another level this season — 26.8 points game on a career best 56.5 percent shooting, he hit 40 percent of his threes, chipped in 8 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. He is the Heat’s best defender, best playmaker (he improved in that area), best post player (allowing them to play small), and go-to scorer — he is clearly the best all around player in the game, leading the team with the best regular season record. He has matured in Miami after leaving home in Cleveland and his game has flourished in a way that we are left trying to compare him and his legacy to stars of era’s past. Because we are in his era.
Sixth Man of the Year: J.R. Smith (New York Knicks)
Even up to the start of the final weeks of the season, I was thinking I would pick the Clippers super-sub Jamal Crawford here. And if I had to pick one of these guys to create and take the last shot of the game for me, I’d go Crawford. But Smith swung me over to his side with his play down the stretch, particularly when Carmelo Anthony was out — in his last 15 games (before the Wednesday season finale) Smith averaged 23.7 points a game on 50.6 percent shooting, with 6.5 rebounds a game. He can create his own shot, takes and makes difficult shots (not always a good thing but he makes it work), he gets to the rim when he wants, and he provides that scoring spark off the bench the Knicks need. Plus, he provides a little — just a little — more defense than Crawford. It also helps that Smith did his best work down the stretch this season, Crawford was doing his back in December when the Clippers looked like a contender, but they have fallen off sense then.
The rest of my ballot: 2) Jamal Crawford; 3) Jarrett Jack.
Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
This was the other easy call — Lillard should run away with the voting and deservedly so. If you made me pick what rookie I would want on my roster three years from now other guys would leapfrog Lillard (Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond in particular) but Lillard, after four years in college, came into the NBA better ready to make an immediate impact. Plus he landed in the perfect place to do it, a team that had LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and other talented players looking for a point guard to run the show. Lillard did that showing he could run the pick-and-roll and create shots for himself or others. Lillard averaged 19.1 points and 6.5 assists a game. Lillard also was durable — he is second in the NBA in minutes played, behind only Kevin Durant, and that durability helped separate him from his fellow rookies.
The rest of my ballot: 2) Anthony Davis; 3) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Coach of the Year: George Karl (Denver Nuggets)
This is the most difficult call of the postseason awards because you can make a legit case for a lot of guys. Coaches such as Mark Jackson and Mike Woodson are not on my list but if you picked them for Coach of the Year it would be a legitimate call. But I’m going with George Karl because he built a young team not driven by a ball-dominating star — Carmelo Anthony went East and the Nuggets have become a very different kind of team. They run, they share the ball, they don’t settle for jumpers (they led the NBA in points in the paint, 57.7 per game), and the Nuggets made a jump in defense this season to be a top-10 team (adding Andre Iguodala on the wing had something to do with that). Karl has done it by developing the players he had and fitting them in a system that highlights all of them. For all of that he deserves the hardware.
The rest of my ballot: 2) Gregg Popovich; 3) Erik Spoelstra.
Defensive Player of the Year: Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies)
Often this award can go to the flashy, shot blocking defender — your Serge Ibaka, your Roy Hibbert — but I want to give it to the best all-around center in the game. Marc Gasol isn’t demonstrative like Kevin Garnett — he doesn’t get in the face of smaller guards — but he does choreograph the Grizzlies defense just like KG did for the Celtics. He does protect the back line (he averages 1.7 blocks a game, 12th best in the NBA) but he just seems to always be in the right place at the right time contesting shots. He reads the game and anticipates it as a big man as we have seen in a while. Memphis had the second best defense in the NBA this season and Gasol was the anchor of it, the big man who always made the right play. He deserves this award.
The rest of my ballot: 2) LeBron James; 3) Joakim Noah.
Dec 20, 2013, 8:44 AM EST
In the NBA, guys often have good friends on the opposing team — guys they played with in AAU or college, guys who share an agent, guys they work out with in the summer. There is a camaraderie. Kendrick Perkins is old school, weaned on the Kevin Garnett “I hate the guys on the other…
Dec 20, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
In the early days of mixed martial arts, there were quite a few athletes who would refuse to submit in the ring. Their arm could be on the verge of snapping, but it didn’t matter – they wouldn’t give up. They would rather break their arm. I remember holding these athletes in such high regard,…
Dec 20, 2013, 4:47 AM EST
Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while watching my Long Beach State 49ers beat USC (at least that’s what I did with part of my night)… Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. He led his team to an easy win and how about this for a line: 32 points on 13-of-20 shooting,…
Dec 20, 2013, 2:55 AM EST
When the Spurs rest Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili they still are pretty darn good. Ask the Heat — last year Gregg Popovich and the Spurs were fined $250,000 by the league for late notice resting the big three for a Thursday night showcase game in Miami. What people forget is the Spurs…
Dec 20, 2013, 2:22 AM EST
Golden State was the more talented team on the floor Thursday night, but they ended up on losing to a depleted Spurs team. Why? The penultimate possession summed up the game fairly well — tied 102-102 the Spurs got the ball to the guy with the hot hand (Marco Belinelli) and when he missed Boris…
Dec 19, 2013, 11:22 PM EST
Before the season began, an inter-conference matchup between the Thunder and the Bulls seemed like a tasty affair, and one that would be worthy of its mid-December nationally televised time slot. But after Derrick Rose once again went down for the season with an injury, and with Luol Deng missing this one with a sore…
Dec 19, 2013, 10:29 PM EST
Even with Kobe Bryant, the playoffs were a long shot for the Lakers this season — their defense was slipping, and their offense was not going to carry them far enough in a deep Western Conference. Kobe Bryant’s injury — out six weeks now with a fracture of tibial plateau in in his left knee…
Dec 19, 2013, 9:16 PM EST
Reeling from the latest injury to Kobe Bryant and with no healthy point guards able to return to action anytime soon, the Lakers signed a capable initiator of the offense from the D-League to bolster the team’s ever-eroding roster. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that L.A. has agreed to a deal with Kendall Marshall,…
Dec 19, 2013, 8:33 PM EST
The Pacers had targeted Friday’s nationally televised home contest against the Rockets for Danny Granger to make his season debut, and a week of practice has him on schedule to do just that. Indiana confirmed on Thursday that Granger will be back in the lineup versus Houston, but the team will be easing him in…
Dec 19, 2013, 7:19 PM EST
The news that Kobe Bryant would miss the next six weeks with a fractured bone in his left knee was not only devastating to a team decimated by injuries for the second straight season, but it could have taken an emotional toll on Bryant, as well. The league’s most fiery competitor was sidelined for eight…
Dec 19, 2013, 6:32 PM EST
Ersan Ilyasova has not been himself this season – the guy who averaged 13.2 points a game on 46.2 percent shooting and 44.4 percent from three last season is averaging 8.2 points a game on 38.3 percent shooing this season and 21.6 percent from three. His stats are like that across the board. To use…
Dec 19, 2013, 5:46 PM EST
Not that the Lakers were expecting Steve Nash to return like the cavalry charging over the mountain to save the day, but now we know for sure that is not happening. Steve Nash is going to be out at least another month, he announced to the media on Thursday afternoon. That announcement came at basically…
Dec 19, 2013, 4:32 PM EST
Gregg Popovich is making a habit of tempting fate. First, he confronted Stephen Jackson. Even if that was done in a joking manner – and it was – you can never be certain how Jackson will react. Now, the Spurs coach is challenging another one of the NBA’s most strong-willed figures: David Stern. Both Tim…
Dec 19, 2013, 4:14 PM EST
This is a punch to the gut. For the Lakers. And For Kobe Bryant. Kobe will be out six weeks with a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee, the Lakers announced. That is the basically the flat part of the top of the shin where it connects to the bottom of…
Dec 19, 2013, 3:12 PM EST
Derrick Rose is loyal. Don’t believe me? Remember when he said he wanted to roll with with Keith Bogans as his two guard rather than recruit other guys to shake up the roster? It’s just who he is. Then came the report out of the New York Daily News (not a local source) that Rose…
Dec 19, 2013, 2:05 PM EST
“I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.” —Derrick Zoolander This basketball thing is working out pretty well for Chandler Parsons (he is averaging 17.1 points a game for the Rockets, and shooting 41 percent from three), but…
Dec 19, 2013, 1:50 PM EST
I genuinely believe there can be “basketball diplomacy.” I think the average person in North Korea is not really different than us — they care about their families, they try to be good to their neighbors, they worry about the future — and sometimes something simple like bonding over a sport together can help bring…
Dec 19, 2013, 1:26 PM EST
Omer Asik may not like it, but he’s staying a Rocket for now. Probably. After weeks of talks — not to mention media and fan speculation — Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey has looked at the trade market for Asik and decided it’s not good enough. The Rockets have pulled out of all Asik trade talks…
Dec 19, 2013, 12:51 PM EST
He’s the reigning NBA MVP, won the last two NBA titles, earned the last two the Finals MVPs… And not surprisingly, LeBron James sells a lot of jerseys. The NBA released the top selling jerseys from the start of this season (October through December this year), which includes the holiday buying rush, and not surprisingly…
Dec 19, 2013, 11:36 AM EST
After this play, you just thought it was the Celtics’ night. Turns out not so much (the Pistons came back to win). Still, this was a fantastic execution by the Celtics. With o.2 seconds left on the clock the only way to score was a tip in, and Jared Sullinger rolls to the basket (without…
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