Storyline: MVP Race

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1 week ago via ESPN

Jovan Buha: Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry wishes New Orleans had a better record so Anthony Davis would have a stronger case for MVP: “The only thing I’m disappointed in — I think if we could have had a better record, if we could have been in the runnings where we’re going to play at home and [win] 50-plus games, I think his name would definitely be in the MVP running. When you have guys like Harden and what they’ve done, I think it’s hard for anyone to not to vote for Harden for MVP right now. But obviously LeBron James and what he has done is very impressive too. … I mean, we lost a guy that was averaging 26 and 12 [DeMarcus Cousins]. And then for Anthony to kind of take this team and put it on his back and do what he’s done.”

A year after Westbrook rallied to take the NBA’s Most Valuable Player from Harden — the frontrunner for most of the season — the Rockets guard seems poised to bring home the hardware this season. It makes some sense to Westbrook. “There’s a lot of guys doing a lot of great things in the league,” Westbrook said at Saturday’s Thunder shootaround. “Honestly, I don’t know kind of what you go off of, because MVP’s kind of been picked differently every year. So it depends what criteria, what it is that you guys vote for. But obviously (Harden’s) leading the charge at the moment.”

When Wade’s Heat hosted James’ Cavs on Tuesday night, LeBron actually led the head-to-head rivalry 15-14, but Wade evened it up with the help of a 98-79 drubbing. It was a big win for the Heat as they try to hang onto a playoff spot, and before the game Wade was asked about his relationship with LeBron and what it’s like playing against him. Wade didn’t mince words: it’s a chance to play against one of the greatest ever. “He’s one of the game’s greatest players. Arguably the greatest,” Wade said. “I favor Michael Jordan. … So it’s one and two of the greatest players of all time and I get an opportunity to play against one of them.”

This is a season where prohibitive MVP favorite James Harden has done phenomenal things with NBA-leading Houston, where reigning MVP Russell Westbrook has been fantastic again for Oklahoma City, and where Anthony Davis has found a new stratosphere to take his game, especially after New Orleans lost DeMarcus Cousins. James raves about them all. But … “I would vote for me,” James told The Associated Press. “The body of work, how I’m doing it, what’s been happening with our team all year long, how we’ve got so many injuries and things of that nature, guys in and out, to be able to still keep this thing afloat, I definitely would vote me.”
4 months ago via ESPN

Nick Friedell: LeBron James was asked Saturday about the possibility of winning another MVP award at this point in his career and acknowledged that he is playing for something more than just his own legacy at this point. “Team success is always the number one, but along the way if you’re able accomplish some individual awards, individual achievements, it would mean a lot,” James said after Saturday’s practice. “I feel good. This is my 15th year, but this is one of the best years I’ve had as far as how I feel and I want to continue that. I want to kind of try to break the mold for the next generation. So just take the narrative out of ‘OK, you’re past your prime when you get [to] 31, or you’re past your prime in your 12th year in the league, or whatever the case may be.’ Hopefully I can break the mold so when the next guy comes, he can still get 200 or 300 million and be 33 years old. I’m serious.

And you, Dwyane Wade, a former Finals MVP, who’s playing his fifth season alongside James. What say you of Antetokounmpo? “Obviously you could tell he’s put in a lot of work to his game,” Wade said. “He’s got the confidence early on from his coach when everyone was saying he couldn’t shoot, he couldn’t do this or that, his coach gave him a lot of confidence and his teammates believed in him. It took his confidence to another level. He’s at that point now where he’s just figuring it out. He’s being nasty. He’s dunking everything down by the rim.”

In a phone interview Saturday, Rockets GM Daryl Morey raised questions about the MVP voting process, which involves a panel of 100 media members casting their votes at the end of the regular season. “I don’t know if this is a good process,” Morey told The Crossover. “The ones that are decided by players or executives or media, they all have their strengths and weaknesses. I honestly don’t think there’s a good process. You could argue for eliminating the awards altogether. I don’t really see a good way to do it that doesn’t have major issues. I like clean answers. If there’s not going to be a set criteria and there’s going to be issues with how it’s structured, for me it might be better to not have it.”

Westbrook made the 2016-17 season a memorable one, putting his name in NBA record books as only the second player ever, and first since Oscar Robertson in 1962, to average a triple-double. Westbrook also broke Robertson’s record for most triple-doubles in a season with 42. “I remember growing up just being home, playing the video games and stuff with my pops, and my mom sitting there and my brother and just talking about maybe one day I could be the MVP. Obviously I was joking at the time,” Westbrook said. “But now to be standing here with this trophy next to me is a true blessing, man, and it’s an unbelievable feeling, something that I can never imagine.”

VICE Sports: You’ve mentioned Thomas as a fringe MVP candidate before, where do you think he ranks among point guards in today’s league, and where would he actually land on your MVP ballot? Isiah Thomas: He’s definitely on the MVP ballot, with what he’s done for that Boston franchise, and the type of season that he’s had. His season has been just as good as the Hardens and the Westbrooks of the world. And the LeBrons of the world. You know all those guys have had spectacular seasons and they’ve lifted their teams up to spectacular heights over the course of this NBA season.

Our crowd-sourcing and canvassing has found 62 of the NBA’s 100 first place votes for 2017 MVP. There was no announced list, so we identified the votes and that a voter had a ballot using Twitter, interviews, podcasts, articles and TV broadcasts. And Westbrook will edge Harden. And right now we estimate the MVP race, after 62 first place votes, to be at: Russell Westbrook: 522 James Harden: 456 View our comprehensive spreadsheet of votes and our methodology here A first-place vote speaks the loudest by carrying a three point margin with it. First is worth 10, second 7, third 5, fourth 3 and fifth 1.

Brandon Jennings recently wrote an article for The Players’ Tribune stating you deserve to be this year’s MVP. It seems like the main guys in the debate are Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James. Despite your monster season, you haven’t been mentioned much. Does that frustrate or motivate you? John Wall: It just gives me more motivation to get to where I want to be. I want to be on top of that [MVP] list. That’s always going to be a goal for me individually. I ain’t worried about it, though. Those guys are each having a heck of a season too. All I can do is keep improving, keep winning, and eventually I’ll get there.

Stephen Curry: It’s just a matter of how you define MVP. That seems to kind of change from year to year just depending on your preference and what you enjoy watching on the court, what matters most to you in that kind of sense. I said [Harden] probably a month ago on what Houston was projected to do going into the season. But, obviously, I’m not voting on it. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds. What sucks about it is you have to wait so long now [NBA awards show is June 26] for the guys who are in that conversation.

You recently tweeted that Russell Westbrook deserves the MVP award. Is Russ’ campaign the best individual season you’ve ever seen? Blake Griffin: Yes. It almost blows my mind to think that anybody else could win MVP this year. That’s not taking anything away from James [Harden] and Kawhi [Leonard] and LeBron [James] because they’ve had excellent seasons too, but Russ’ production is crazy. And the things that set it apart are their record when he’s had triple-doubles, his PER and his PER in the clutch. As a player, those are all the things you look for – a player who’s going to make his team better, a player that wins games for you and a player who performs when you need him to. I honestly never thought I’d see someone average a triple-double. That’s why Russ’ run has been so mind-blowing. It takes an insane amount of energy to do that. You have to be involved in everything and have such a high motor.

Matt Bonner: Now, as someone who played for Coach Pop for the last 10 years … let me put that into a little perspective. The Spurs’ system is predicated on one of Pop’s favorite sayings: “Good to great.” Translation: Always pass up a merely good shot, or a merely good play, for a great one. Basically — move the ball, make the extra pass, and be unselfish. And since there’s so little ball domination in that system … it makes it pretty impossible for any one player to put up a huge scoring average. Even Tim Duncan — arguably the greatest power forward to ever play the game — never had a season in which he averaged 25.7. And that’s really all you need to know. To me, 25.7 points per game in the Spurs system … that’s like 30 plus on almost any other team.

Matt Bonner: As any sandwich lover knows, a great sandwich lives or dies by its bread. And as any NBA fan knows, defense wins championships. And Kawhi is the best defender in the NBA. This year, to be honest, it’s not even really that close. Kawhi has it all. He’s got the physical attributes — long arms, big hands, strength and quickness. He’s got the mental attributes — an off-the-charts basketball IQ, a next-level understanding of angles, the best sense of anticipation I’ve ever seen. He’s got the work ethic — the drive to absolutely work his butt off, night in and night out, to lock down his man. And he’s got the clutch gene — he quite literally wins games in the fourth quarter on the defensive end.

One player, however, disagrees. James Harden, Westbrook’s chief competition for the league’s top individual award, said people are focusing too much on stats and not enough on wins. He gave his thoughts on the MVP following his own triple-double performance in Sunday’s victory over the Sacramento Kings: “I think [team record is] the most important thing. I thought winning is what this is about — period,” Harden said. “I’m not going to get in-depth with all that, but I thought winning was the most important thing. If you set your team up in a position to have a chance, at the ultimate goal, that’s the most important thing.”

Tobias Harris, Detroit Pistons: “To me, It would probably be Westbrook. You see all his triple doubles and where he has his team. (After pausing for several seconds, he added). Actually, I would do a co-MVP. Those are my choices. He and James Harden. I would vote for both of those. Both of them are playing extremely good basketball.’’ Jason Terry, Milwaukee Bucks: “I got James Harden. That’s my pick. I like the way he’s playing this year. If I had my choice, I’d give it to both of them (Harden and Westbrook), but nobody seems to like the co-MVP idea. But if you want to talk about making history, you give it to both of them. What they’ve done will never be done again. That’s what this league is based on: guys making history. How many times are you going to have two guys playing at the level they’re playing at, the seasons they’re having? There’s no way you can’t give it to the other guy. How do I just say James? Or how do I just say Russell? That would be an injustice. I’m splitting my vote and giving it to both of them.’’

Stan Van Gundy, Detroit Pistons coach: “Leonard, Harden, Westbrook, James … They’ve all been very good. But I’m going with Isaiah Thomas. I’m a little biased; I’m in the East (Conference). I’m not sure there’s a guy who has been more important to his team than Isaiah Thomas. He’s carried that team offensively and his team is in first place. He’d be my pick.’’ Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks: “It’s tough. We’re seeing guys have historical seasons. But it’s hard to go against someone who is averaging a triple-double. What he (Westbrook) is doing is unbelievable. We’ve only see it one other time (Robertson in the 1961-62 season). That speaks for itself.’’
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April 19, 2018 | 10:44 am EDT Update
With the Heat leading by eight points in the final seconds of their Game 2 win in Philadelphia, point guard Goran Dragic dribbled all the way down the court for an uncontested layup with 1.2 seconds remaining instead of dribbling the clock out. Sixers players on the bench immediately had words for Dragic after the play, but he never looked back to acknowledge them. And after Wednesday’s practice, Dragic didn’t really acknowledge them either. “I don’t care,” Dragic said when asked about the Sixers’ reaction to the play. “The first game we were down 30 and they were still running [inbounds plays after timeouts] with seven seconds left in the game. It’s the playoffs. I’m doing everything it takes.”
But at least one Sixers player still seemed upset about it after their practice Wednesday in Miami. “It definitely matters because you can just dribble it out, everything,” Philadelphia forward Robert Covington said. “But you know, we don’t understand why he did it. But overall, we just said, OK, that gives us anticipation because obviously he didn’t care about the simple fact of the score of the game. They were already winning.”
According to basketball-reference.com’s database, there have now been 16 players since 1964 to make two or fewer field goals with at least 15 attempts in an NBA playoff game. Harden is the only one to do so in a victory. “I’m more happy than anybody right now, believe it or not, just because I’m not really worried about my shot,” said Harden, who carried the Rockets with a 44-point performance in their Game 1 win. “I had those same shots in Game 1, and they went in. In Game 3, I’ll shoot those same shots.
24 mins ago via ESPN
“But I’m fortunate to have guys like Gerald [Green] and just the entire team to have my back on both ends of the floor. I just tried to make an impact on the game in other ways, not just offensively. Happy we got the win.” Harden’s ability to defend power forwards and centers in the post has been critical to the Rockets’ switch-heavy scheme all season. According to NBA.com’s advanced statistics, Harden allowed only 0.73 points per possession on post-ups this season, ranking in the 82nd percentile of the league.
24 mins ago via ESPN
It was the same hand that Love fractured Jan. 30 at Detroit and missed nearly seven weeks. “I saw a replay, too, and it didn’t look good,” Love said. “Hurt pretty bad. Initially I told Ty afterward that I could have gone back in, but I think he liked the flow out there and guys made big plays down the stretch. “It’s not going to feel great tomorrow, but throw some ice on it, tape it up and be ready to go.”
Storyline: Kevin Love Injury
Warriors coach Steve Kerr disputed a report from TNT play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan during Game 2 that said Kerr informed him Stephen Curry would be sidelined for an additional three weeks to rehab his Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee. “It was probably a miscommunication when we met before the game,” Kerr said. “We don’t have any timetable for this. I’m not exactly sure what that was about.”
Dolan, of course, was referring to Kristaps Porzingis, the 22-year-old wonder child who sustained a torn left ACL on Feb. 6 that ended his season, and whose recovery from surgery will sideline him for an indefinite period of time. “I’ve been told everything from December to him being out for the season, so I don’t know what to expect on that,” Dolan said. “But we can’t just sit on our ass while he’s away. We need to develop a team and then integrate him into it when he comes back.”