Tag Archives: NBA Playoffs

Here’s How You Solve The MVP Race, Give Out More Awards

The Maurice Podoloff Trophy shouldn’t be the only trophy handed out for a player having a great season. Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

The 2016-17 race for NBA Most Valuable Player is as close as any we’ve seen in recent memory.  Four players have a legitimate claim that they deserve the award. Russell Westbrook who is doing something that hasn’t been done since 1961-62. James Harden who is having a redemption season leading the Houston Rockets to 50+ wins and the third seed of the Western Conference playoffs after they only won 41 games last season, finishing in the 8th seed and he didn’t make any of the three All-NBA teams. Kawhi Leonard who has ascended into the conversation as a top five player in the game in the absence of the retired Tim Duncan. And LeBron James, who like the most famous 23 he’s chasing, is still the best player in the game and showing no signs of slowing down.

It’s going to be a tough choice for those who have a vote. Should I vote for the guy who is exceeding expectations along with his team? Or should I vote for the guy who is having the best season statistically? What about the guy who is having a breakout season while replacing a first ballot Hall of Famer and the team isn’t missing a beat? What about the guy who is the most valuable to the entire League?

It shouldn’t be this difficult because they should have more options. The NBA should add more individual awards to specify what they’re voting for.

Here’s my idea.

Keep the Maurice Podoloff Trophy and award it as the Most Valuable Player in the way it was intended, to go to the player who was the most valuable to their team’s level of success.

For example, if you took Russell Westbrook off his Oklahoma City Thunder team this season it’s very likely that they would be on the fast track to earn the most Ping-Pong balls to gain the number one overall pick in the 2017 Draft. I guess I just told you who I hope wins.

But I also think there should be a Player of the Year award given to the player who is the best regardless of their team’s success. I’d call this the Michael Jeffrey Jordan Trophy. I even have an idea of what it should look like. Despite what many would believe it shouldn’t be the Jumpman logo. Save that for the kicks. Rather it should be the pose from “last shot” he made as a Chicago Bull to propel them to their sixth NBA title.

The reason why this award should be named after MJ is because there were several times, 92-93 and 96-97 in particular, where he was clearly still the best player in the game, but Charles Barkley and Karl Malone deserved to win the MVP award because they lifted their teams beyond expectations. Handing out a “Player of the Year” trophy is my solution to get past this so called “LeBron Fatigue” where no one wants to vote him for MVP because he has a real case to win it every season. So since he’s suffering the same fate that kept Jordan from earning more than five MVPs, name the award after the G.O.A.T. and give it to the best player in the league.

I’ll add another award. Since the NBA already has a Defensive Player of the Year award, how about create and Offensive Player of the Year award as well like the NFL. I’d bet James Harden would win this award in a landslide. And I’d vote for Kawhi Leonard to win his third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award.

While I’m at it, I also think there should be an MVP given out at the end of both Conference Finals. This is my solution for those who for some reason want to wait until the end of the Finals to vote for MVP. I think that idea is absurd by the way. MVP is for the regular season. But the Finals MVP named in honor of Bill Russell shouldn’t be the de facto playoff MVP either. My solution, hand out the Larry Bird and Magic Johnson MVP trophy at the end of each conference final similar to the MOP in each region of the NCAA Tournament. This way the Finals MVP can be determined by just the seven game series that decides the title.

Several sports leagues already hand out several individual awards. So what I’m calling for isn’t that unprecedented.

Major league baseball does it.  In addition to the League MVP, they give out a League Championship MVP to the best player in each series before the World Series, and then they give out a World Series MVP.

For the season they give out the Silver Slugger trophy for best offensive player at each position in each league. The Cy Young Award for the Pitchers, Rolaids Relief Man award for the best relief pitchers in each league as well as the Reliever of the Year award. The Hank Aaron award goes to the top hitter in each league and there are many more.

The National Hockey League also hands out several individual awards to celebrate all the players who had special seasons. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I know some will call this the equivalent of Little League giving everyone a participation trophy, but they’re wrong. This is a fair way to make sure all greatness is celebrated.

In some seasons the same guy will rightfully sweep all the awards I’ve created. But it would be very rare. Between the historic once in a lifetime season Westbrook is having, the impressive turnaround Harden and the Rockets have made, the ascension of Kawhi and the consistent greatness of LeBron, I hate to see one, two or three of these guys not acknowledged for what they’re doing.

James Harden, You Remind Me of….

James Harden is leading the Rockets to heights not seen since the mid-1990’s. Photo Credit: Troy Taormina/USA Today

The race for the 2016-2017 NBA MVP race is a dead heat between four men. LeBron James who is clearly the best player in the League, Russell Westbrook who is having the most historic season seen in over five decades, Kawhi Leonard who has ascended to a superstar, and James Harden who is having a redemption season.

Harden is the leader in the NBA in assists per game (11.3) and second in scoring per game (29.5) with a real chance to become only the second player in Association history to finish the season number one in both categories (Nate Archibald, 1972-73). He can also be the first player in Association history to score 2,000 or more points, while assisting on 2,000 plus points in a season. He also averages 8.0 rebounds per game, so he’s doing it on both ends which has been the knock on him in his career.

Most importantly, the Rockets currently hold the 3rd seed in the Western Conference with 51 wins, after winning only 41 games last season and finishing with the 8th seed.

The Rockets All-Star is the leader to grab the Maurice Podoloff trophy this season after a dismal 2015-2016 season where he didn’t make one of the three All-NBA teams shouldn’t be much of a stunner. “The Beard” actually was the inaugural players selection for Most Valuable Player in 2014-15 the season when the writers selected Steph Curry to his first of back-to-back MVP wins.

Also, playing in offensive innovator Mike D’Antoni’s system has turned Harden and the Rockets into legitimate title contenders. The smooth lefty’s talent is on full display now that he’s been converted from shooting guard to point guard in the hypercharged offensive system. The same system that turned future Hall of Famer Steve Nash into a two-time NBA MVP.

Harden’s reemergance as one of the top tier players in the game has me watching him more closely. The more I do, the pieces of his game reminds me of a couple of players we’ve seen before.

A Hall of Famer, a future Hall of Famer and a former NBA Finals MVP.

This is latest edition of my “You Remind Me of”… which includes LeBron James, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Russell Westbrook.

Chris Mullin is another smooth crafty lefty without explosive athleticism, but great playmaking ability for himself and others. Each play at their own pace and never let the defender get them out of their style. Mullin is mostly known for his precision shooting from mid-range to the 3-point line, but “Mully” could definitely fill up the stat sheet like the Beard does today.

In his five All-Star seasons from 1988-89 through 1992-93, Mullin averaged 25.8 points per game on 52% shooting from the field, while grabbing 5.6 rebounds and dishing 4.1 assists per game. For the young fans who don’t know, Mullin is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Manu Ginobli. This comparison isn’t new to hear for hoop fans. Actually, this is one of the legends Harden has be known to say he modeled his game after as youth growing up in southern California. They both have that devastating, for defenders, euro-step. Although, Ginobli probably does his with more force and speed.

Another player that Harden reminds me of is 2004 NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups. He and Harden are both bigger than the average point guard (6’3″ 210 & 6’5″ 215 respectively) with the ability to post up and get easy buckets on the block, but also carry the responsibility to spread the ball around and decipher which teammate’s hot hand to ride.

Billups was the maestro for those Detroit Pistons teams that won an NBA title, was 48 minutes from a repeat, and played in six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. “Mr. Big Shot” was Detroits best offensive player while making sure fellow All-Stars Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace’s offensive talents were maximized.

The success of Harden’s team may give him the votes needed to win the MVP over his good friend Westbrook. But, I wouldn’t be mad if this one time the voters coped-out and split the award between them.

NBA Needs to Drastically Crack Down on “Resting”

I guess the Warriors schedule is too hard for a professional athlete. Photo Credit: NBA.COM

When the 2016-2017 NBA schedule was released and the schedule makers blessed us with a March 11th game where the San Antonio Spurs would host the Golden State Warriors in a late season push for the number one seed, it was expected to be the most interesting and viewed regular season meeting this side of each of the Kevin Durant versus Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder meetings. Especially after the 29-point manhandling the Spurs put on the defending Western Conference Champions on opening night with their new Big Four.

A potential preview of the 2017 Western Conference Finals was ruined when Warriors coach Steve Kerr decided to “rest” the healthy Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, with Kevin Durant already out with a Grade 2 MCL injury in his left knee, because Golden State was on the second night of back-to-back games and having played ten games in the last seventeen days (February 23rd to March 11th). Seven of those were on the road, and the last four of that streak in five days.

Add to that that Kawhi Leonard (concussion protocol) and LaMarcus Aldridge (minor heart arrhythmia) also missed the game killed any excitement the league was building by having these two juggernauts face off in primetime in the first season of their highly promoted venture with ABC/ESPN to broadcast the most compelling games of the week on Saturday nights.

Instead we got an unwatchable game that was a 20-point blowout at halftime, with a final score of 107-85 San Antonio, while the Warriors trotted out a bunch of dudes you wouldn’t watch play pick-up at the playground if you just happened to be walking by.

This was clearly Kerr’s attempt to throw up a middle finger at the Association and its schedule makers. He could have easily looked ahead and staggered resting his top guys earlier in the streak when they played inferior teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, with an eye on a big finish to end the 10-game span at full strength against the Spurs. Instead he basically said “F*** You” to anyone who cared about the game.

It’s time for Commissioner Silver to do something drastic end this trend. This isn’t good for the sport, the fans and business.

Why should fans pay hundreds and thousands of their hard earned dollars on tickets, travel, concessions and merchandise at any NBA game with the thought in the back of their mind they may or may not get to see their favorite player play or favorite team at full strength?

And why should fans across the country, that can’t attend the game in person, continue to pay a premium for League Pass and carve out time in their schedule to watch D-League quality?

So here’s what Commissioner Silver should do, NEEDS to do.

First, reduce the schedule to 65 games, similar to the format from 2011-2012 when the league was in a lockout that delayed the season. I’m cool if the owners want to take some money back from the players because of this, serves them right. Just back loading key divisional and conference games that will affect playoff seeding near the end of the season like the NFL did a couple of seasons ago isn’t working.

Limit preseason games if you have to as well, and spread the 65-games out over late October to mid April, and eliminate back to backs as well as three games in four night deals, giving no coach or player an excuse to “rest.”

Finally, heavily fine players that aren’t active for any reason other then a disclosed and diagnosed injury if they continue to “rest”. Instead of levying a hefty fine on teams like the one given to the Spurs when Coach Gregg Popovich did something similar as Kerr against the Miami Heat in 2013, dock from their salary cap which will hurt their ability to build a competitive roster. That will fix it.

Resting healthy players is also an insult to the history of the game and past players that so many of today’s players say inspired them. As ESPN/ABC analyst Michael Wilbon, said on ABC during Halftime of the Spurs-Warriors game, “twenty years ago forty-four NBA players played all 82 games. Last season only 18 players played all 82.”

For more perspective, arguably the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan played every game scheduled in a season nine of his fifteen seasons, including his final season at age 39-40. He also played 81 and 80 games two other seasons. By comparison, LeBron James, the best player in today’s era, has NEVER played all 82 games and has only reached 80 games two times in his fourteen-year career.

Today’s players are supposed to have better nutrition and better training, so what’s the problem?

How healthy and great would Kobe Bryant have played at the end of his 20-year career if he took so many nights off?

This is another reason why Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett and other legends of the game say today’s players are soft. And I’m starting to think they’re right.

Jalen Rose, Wilbon’s co-analyst on ABC’s Halftime show hosted by Sage Steele, also a 13-year NBA vet, pointed out that the Association is followed on Twitter more than any other sports league, the NBA also has thirteen current players followed on the social media site that are in the Top 100, while the NFL has none despite being the most popular sport in America. The NBA also has two current players in the Top 5 on the Forbes Endorsement list while the NFL has none.

NBA players are more popular and make more money based off their notoriety than any other sport. So figuratively and financially speaking, they’re spitting in the face of those who they’ve made their fame and fortune off of, the Consumer.

Mister Silver, you’re the only one that can fix it. You’re the most proactive leader in sports, so I trust that you will. Until then, hopefully when these two meet again on March 29th we’ll get something closer to what we expect to see come playoff time. But I doubt it. Got rest up for that playoff run.

Magic Need to Get Older to Make the Playoffs 

The Magic are in need of a shake up, having lost their last 7 games and 1-9 in the last 10.

The Orlando Magic are 20-24 and in the midst of a 7 game losing streak, having only won 1 game in their last 10. Their once realistic playoff dreams are quickly turning into a nightmare. General manager Rob Hennigan and head coach Scott Skiles need to do something drastic before the February trade deadline in order to stop this downfall and save the season. My solution… trade for a veteran.

It’s difficult to say a NBA team that’s average age is 24.9—5th in the league—should give up some of it’s young talent to get older, but they NEED to. This team’s inexperience has shown by blowing big 4th quarter leads and losing several games by one possession. They’re also 1-6 in overtime games. The losses are of the variety that don’t happen with experienced teams.

While youth and athleticism is a premium in the Association, and growing pains are part of the deal, that doesn’t mean it needs to serve your purpose on the court, but rather in acquiring other better fits. Now is the time to use the pieces they have to turn this once playoff bound team from a couple of weeks ago, that is now lottery bound, back into a playoff contender.

You don’t need to make a splash that’s going to win national headlines, and cause breaking news alerts or break the internet. Making a move for a franchise player is not the move I’m calling for, more like a vet that is playing out the end of a contract on a team that he’s likely not to resign with, or a strong role player with five or more years of experience. Three names come to mind,  and two are former Magic players.

First, power forward Ryan Anderson of the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s averaging 17.4 points per game and grabbing 6.1 rebounds with a PER of 17.6. Anderson was a fan favorite during his time in central Florida and blossomed playing the stretch 4 next to Dwight Howard.

Anderson blossomed in his three season in Orlando. He could be the missing piece for this squad.

Since he left the Magic his game has gone to another level playing next to another talented big man in Anthony Davis. Lately, he’s been showing the ability to also score tough baskets on the block as evident by his career high 36 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists performance Thursday night against the Sacramento Kings with Davis out of the lineup.

He could do the same playing with Nik Vucevic in place of Channing Frye who’s only giving Orlando 5.5 points a game to go along with 3.2 rebounds. Anderson could also anchor the second unit when Coach Skiles mixes in the rotation players.

The second name that comes to mind is Courtney Lee of the Memphis Grizzlies. Lee was a rookie starter on the Magic team that made the 2009 NBA Finals in his only season in Orlando. Lee has gained valuable big game experience in his time in Memphis, Boston and Houston.

 While he averages only 10.2 points a game on 45.3% shooting from the floor and 35.2% from 3-point range, he has made several clutch shots playing off All-Stars Marc Gasol and Zachary Randolph. Lee’s value is greater on the defensive end where the Magic struggle late in games.

The last name is power forward Danilo Gallinari of the Denver Nuggets. The 27-year-old is averaging 19.4 points, 5.7 rebounds per game with a PER of 19.8. While he still has 3 years left on his deal, he like Anderson are versatile stretch 4’s that while compliment Vucevic, the main piece in Orlando.

 

Mixing an older guy with this young talent isn’t a fresh idea to Magic management. In the offseason they tried to remedy this problem when they extended a max offer to the Atlanta Hawks All-Star Paul Milsap—another versatile 4-man, sensing a theme?—during the summer. So I’m not telling them anything new, only now it’s a red alert, or this team will tie the longest playoff drought in franchise history (1989-1992).

Gallinari has the versatility to compliment the Magic’s key player, Nik Vucevic.

Currently the Magic are 12th in the conference and sit 3 games out of the 8th seed in the East playoffs. While 20 wins at this point in the season is an overachievement when you look at the past three seasons. But they’re so close to the playoffs that something has to be done. In my opinion, everyone on the current roster should be on the trading block except Nik Vucevic.

 

Happy Mother’s Day Mrs. Rivers

Doc Rivers congratulates his son Austin, as he exits the game. Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

First, Happy Mother’s day to all of the Mother’s out there. We all know that without your sacrifices we wouldn’t be here today. But I want to send a special Mother’s Day wish to Mrs. Rivers.

You’re probably wondering why I’m writing to a lady I’ve never met, and don’t know much about other than she is the wife and mother of Doc and Austin Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers. I’m writing this because I have a mom, who I love dearly, and I’ve seen the angst she has dealt with when things didn’t always go mine or my brother’s way. I’ve seen her anger and hurt when people talked bad about us or tried to stand in the way of our goals. As Austin Rivers was carving up the Houston Rockets on Friday night, ESPN’s Mike Tirico said during a montage of his highlights “Forget Doc’s son, on this Mother’s day weekend, that’s Kris Rivers’ son.” My thought process immediately went from how cool this is for Doc to be on the sideline watching what his son is doing, to, how great this must be for his mother to watch. Kris Rivers’ husband and son have under gone tremendous scrutiny, and unwarranted venomous remarks since Austin was acquired from the Boston Celtics via trade back in January. I don’t know why. Let me stop lying, actually I do know why. 

It’s because Doc, the Clippers President of Basketball Operations, gave an opportunity to his son to continue living a dream that he’s had since he was a child. Austin was born in 1992 towards the end of his father’s 13 year NBA playing career and then closely followed along as he became one of the most regarded coaches in the game today. Naturally, his son wanted to follow in his footsteps, and his dad has the resources to best help him do that. With that comes all the people who think that Austin is only benefiting because of nepotism. Umm, how is that any different from the many CEOs, managers, supervisors at Fortune 500 companies and businesses in industries across the world who have given their children, nieces, nephews, cousins and even their friends children’s opportunities they didn’t deserve?

The only difference is Austin actually deserves this opportunity. You may have forgotten he was a lottery pick—of the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012—after only one year at Duke. Think about this for a second. He could have been a senior in college this past season. Let remake this point clear. He could have been a senior playing for a National Championship with Duke just back in March. You may have also forgotten, that he was the top ranked high school player in America when he graduated from Winter Park High (FL) just outside Orlando in 2011.  He won the Naismith Prep Player of the Year award, was a McDonald’s All-American and First Team Parade All-American. Then he won Freshman of the Year in the toughest conference in college basketball–according to the pundits–while also earning First Team All-Conference. His resume speaks for itself and solidifies why he was selected 10th overall in his class to play in the NBA.

Now, I know he’s had some bumps in the road since. But, not every one and done prospect comes into the Association completely polished and ready to ascend into the upper echelon right away. So what you’re seeing now from Austin, is him finally figuring out what he can be amongst the world’s best. Hopefully for him, the rest of his career will be more like what we’ve seen in games one and three against the Rockets (17 points and a postseason career high 25 points) and game four against the Spurs (16 points in 17 minutes) in round one.

Photo Courtesy: NBA on TNT

 

But back to Mrs. Rivers. Coach and player have said she has been a “wreck” since Austin became a member of the Clippers. According to Coach Rivers, it was her “blessing” that he needed before acquiring her son. You know why? Because Mama knows, and she had to know this wasn’t going to be received by everyone as the historic, warm and fuzzy story it should be. I can assume she knew the vultures in the media and social media would be lurking to attack her guys. The life of a coaches wife can be difficult. Dealing with fickle fans from day-to-day, constant media scrutiny, their husband’s mood swings with wins and losses, and the countless hours combing through game film, all while they don’t get to have any normal relationship for almost nine months a year. Now you add to that equation your child, your baby boy, is also heavily involved. 

All good mothers are the same; you can say what you want about them, but don’t mess with their family, especially their children or S#*! will get real! This historic situation and the flagrant, insensitive comments have to be draining no matter how strong a person can be. That’s why Austin’s playoffs breakout has to be equally sweet. 

While Doc and Austin won’t admit this coming out party is a big deal to them, it has to be for Mrs. Rivers. On this Mother’s day weekend, you know she can still hear the echoes of the Staples Center crowd chanting her son’s name and giving him a standing ovation when he exited the game Friday night. The vindication she must be feeling right now from seeing her son blossom on the biggest stage has to be the best present she has gotten this year, maybe ever. Doc used his power to revive Austin’s career, that’s a priceless present for a mother to see her child living out their dream. 

No matter what happens to the Clippers moving forward, Austin is shutting up the critics and proving that he belongs in the NBA on his own merits, and that Doc made the right decision trading for him. The rest of you all can keep on hating, while he does what he says his coach and father keeps shouting in his ear “just keep playing.” And, if Austin and the rest of his teammates can keep playing through the calendar flip into June, it could turn out to be a very special Father’s Day too, for Doc. But for now, enjoy your day Mrs. Rivers!