NBA awards ... with a spin
The NBA soon will tabulate, announce and present its annual awards, which are shiny and nice enough, but pale in comparison to the
Here goes nothing, in a fairly literal way:
There is a sweet symmetry to this. These two guys did so little to elevate their teams' play. Brand has the greater claim about injuries, but even that would have been disappointing in what was billed as Philadelphia's Boston-like, one-offseason turnaround. In reality, the Sixers were better when Brand wasn't playing (though they struggled down the stretch), something
It is Alexander's misfortune to find himself among a weak field of candidates, which, of course, in these topsy-turvy awards, is actually a good thing for the NBA. This season's rookie class has been a solid one from the start. Most of the lottery picks have contributed significantly, have shown glimpses of possible future stardom or both. Several later picks -- including
"It seems like everything you do is wrong and in your own head, you think it's right but it turns out to be wrong again,'' said Alexander, who has averaged 4.8 points and 1.9 rebounds in 12.1 minutes, his stats perking up with more time lately. For what it's worth, Alexander has been no worse than the No. 8 pick who preceded him: Golden State's
Yeah, right. It was Milwaukee's fault and its lack of Chinese culture and limited opportunities afforded by former Bucks coach
Among the NBA's primary awards, none has been as embarrassing as Most Improved, which started as Comeback Player of the Year but had to be reimagined when too many guys started winning upon their return from drug rehab. Now, it often goes to a player who simply underachieved before that season, or someone who arrived to absolutely no expectations and, you know, wasn't
Curiously, though, it's one of the big names who ought to give his trophy back, or clear room on the mantel for this one. O'Neal's current numbers (13.3 points, 6.4 rebounds) aren't that much worse than his career averages when the season began (14.3, 7.7), but they are a steep drop from the standards he set from 2001-02 through '06-07 (20.4, 9.5). It's the second straight season, too, and O'Neal has been healthier this year.
That's offensive, as in "unpleasant." Repugnant even. And defensive as in "
We can tell when a guy cheats into the passing lanes and otherwise gambles at the expense of playing fundamentally sound defense. We can total up steals and blocked shots with the best of them. We can even talk to players about the defenders who harass them the most. But judging one player's contribution to overall team defense, the weakside stuff and otherwise helping? That's heavy X's-and-O's stuff.
So I'm going with a guy who ought to be more effective -- Jefferson is plenty young and athletic enough -- especially when matched against fellow power forwards rather than centers. He wants to be an All-Star when he returns next season from knee surgery? Then light a fire on the defensive end. There's probably 400 other guys in the league who should hear the same thing.
The NBA created its Sixth Man Award to shine a spotlight on teamwork and to prove to its players that coming off the bench can bring rewards -- both to the group (victories) and to the individual (status, hardware). It was a brilliant move, nearly three decades after the Celtics established the role with
Iverson's shock and amazement over the idea of becoming Detroit's supersub was classic. That he'd be good for the role, particularly in his sunset years, didn't register at all. (
There is a certain status that goes along with being a team's 12th man. After all,
Some guys show up, night after night, only to sit behind the bench in a suit because they and the team have an understanding: They're around for their contract. But Curry has done it through a variety of ailments that could have been cut down considerably if only he had conditioned himself the way a $9.7 million professional athlete might be expected to.
Like the traditional MVP honor, this one -- a counter to the league's Sportsmanship Award, which actually goes to one guy from each division (pretty feeble to not pick one, don't you think?) -- is all a matter of definition. If you go by bad behavior on the court, then Philadephia's
This is our best option for the coaches. An Outcoached of the Year award seemed like a good idea, until you realize that the NBA terminates at a dizzying rate coaches who disappoint. So we'll go with this trophy, meant to recognize someone who put more energy and intrigue into behind-the-scenes maneuvering than he did into actually winning. Charlotte's
Last season, this was hotly contested. Both Memphis'
We're assuming, we'll admit it, that Sarver and his cost-conscious ways are behind whatever marching orders
There is no counterpart among the actual awards, but it's notable -- and maybe a good thing for the NBA in a perverse way -- that the guy making the worst headlines this season wasn't actually on any of the 30 teams' rosters. Unfortunately for Barkley, his DUI and late-night dating habits didn't take place in Las Vegas, because they surely didn't stay there.