For Portland to challenge the Golden State Warriors and L.A. Clippers among others in the West, Lillard must take his game to an MVP level. “I think I’m playing pretty well,” Lillard said. “Obviously, being probably my own biggest critic, I feel like there are a lot of things I could do much better. I feel like I can defend much better, just to help the team with our perimeter defense. A lot of times we’re giving up penetration or trailing in pick-and-roll situations and causing problems for our bigs to contest shots and the rim and then their man is getting offensive rebounds. Being a better playmaker, coming back and helping rebound more, things like that. But I think I’m having a pretty good season so far, it’s still early. “As far as the MVP, I mentioned it because that’s really a goal of mine. I don’t go in to every game saying, ‘I want to me MVP.’ I’ve got to do what’s best for the team and we’ve got to win games if that’s going to be anywhere close to being a possibility. I try to focus on anything I can do to give us our best chance to win.”
Alas, he indulged this reporter award after a win over the Kings by discussing the question of whether he was gunning for the MVP award this season. His answer, cliché and genuine all at once, should surprise no one. “Nah, I want to win; I want to win,” he told USA TODAY Sports. “I’m a team guy. I’ll turn in all my MVPs if I get an NBA championship.”
Lillard, for his part, isn’t being shy about his pursuit of the MVP award. “I want to win MVP," Lillard told reporters in Portland on Sunday. “If we come out and do the things we're capable of doing and we win games, then that means my performance will be at a level of MVP.”
“I think (Kevin Durant) is kinda like Gary Johnson, a third-party guy who might come in and take a few votes from Steph (Curry), takes some votes from LeBron (James),” Kerr said. “Then, Damian Lillard wins the election. That's my forecast.”
One thing is clear: Houston will only go as far as Harden takes them. When asked what he expects from Harden in the upcoming season, Beverley told Basketball Insiders: “MVP and leading us to the Finals. Simple.”
But the odds of James reaching that number aren't as high as they could be, at least according to online sportsbook Bovada. In the odds released Monday, a little more than one month before Cleveland's first practice, James is listed as third most likely to take home the prestigious award, at 5/1. The reigning NBA Finals MVP trails Oklahoma City point guard -- and favorite -- Russell Westbrook (2/1) as well as Golden State's back-to-back recipient Stephen Curry, who is listed at 4/1 despite the arrival of free agent Kevin Durant this off-season, which will likely lead to a decrease in production.
Marc Stein: Warriors guard Stephen Curry will this week be named NBA Most Valuable Player for a second successive season, ESPN has learned.
With 17.4 seconds left of a closer-than-expected game against the Brooklyn Nets, Damian Lillard stepped to the free throw line at the Moda Center to put the finishing touches on a Trail Blazers victory. But as he went through a free throw shooting ritual he's done countless times, an unfamiliar chant began to echo around the arena. "M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!"
But Leonard's evolution as a player is so obvious — he started for the West in the All-Star game — that it is becoming impossible for him to go unnoticed as he emerges as perhaps the best two-way player in the NBA. "The guy is in the running for MVP and he's probably the best defensive player out of all of them," his San Antonio teammate Boris Diaw said. "So, yeah, he's the best two-way player in the league if you ask me."
Candace Buckner: Last question in conf. call, Paul George asked if that given his season stats should he be in the MVP conversation? Essentially, PG said no
Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said Warriors point guard Stephen Curry is “well on his way to earning his second MVP.” Malone was the Warriors’ lead assistant from 2011-13, and he noted Curry’s dedication and work ethic even back then. “It’s not surprising at all, because of the kind of young man that Steph is and his dedication to the game,” Malone said before Sunday’s game between the Nuggets and Warriors. “You go back a long time ago to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, and they always came back as improved players. They always added something to their games.
TV analyst and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy said earlier this week that Blake Griffin should be considered for Most Valuable Player honors this season. Rivers didn’t disagree. “Well, I think Jeff is brilliant. I hope he’s right. I think he’s right. … I think just winning and getting better will put you into that category and when you’re that talented and you’re winning, then you have to be thrown into that category.”
Blake Griffin has already done so much in the league, and he’s only 26. Where do you think his game goes from here? Redick: "He’s a very unique player, in terms of his ability to get to the rim, make midrange shots, handle the ball, pass out of double-teams, pass in transition and make reads on the fly. It seems like he’s taken a step forward in his game every year, so where he’s going to go? I have no idea. He’s a top-5 player, MVP level? Yeah, probably at some point in his career he’ll win an MVP and he’ll go down as one of the greatest power forwards ever. And if he wins, that certainly will happen."
Curry didn’t so much as revisit the topic as search for reasons why Harden did. “I don’t know,” Curry said. “Different guys find different ways of motivating themselves. I’ve never been one to just . . . I’m obviously confident in what I do, and I know he’s confident in what he does. It might come out in a different way. “I try not to do a lot of talking, especially (regarding) things that have passed. Obviously, you’ve got to motivate yourself and I’m sure he’s motivated this year to do some special things. I’m the same way.”
The beard mostly covers up the defiant grin that practically dares you to tell him he's already scraping at the ceiling. "I am the best player in the league. I believe that," he said. "I thought I was last year, too."
John Wall: “I want to be in the MVP conversation and give myself a shot at being the MVP. That means I need to play well, help my teammates play well, get those guys shots and lead my team to wins. I definitely want to be an All-Star starter again. I want to be All-NBA First Team. I want to be on the All-Defensive First Team; I was All-Defensive Second Team last year. I think I was snubbed from the All-NBA Third Team last year, but I just use that as motivation for this year to try to get better. Another individual goal is definitely leading the league in assists this year. There are a lot of things I want to do, but those are some of the main ones.”
June 27, 2022 | 4:00 pm EDT Update
League sources reiterated Monday that the Clippers would be making a strong pitch to Wall once he makes it to the open market, with their chances of signing him said to be enhanced by the presence of coach Tyronn Lue.
There is growing pessimism, league sources say, among teams interested in pursuing Kevon Looney about the ability to pry Looney away from the newly minted champions in Golden State. Looney is increasingly expected to re-sign with the Warriors on a multiyear deal after playing a vital role in their fourth title run in a span of eight seasons.
After playing parts of two seasons in the NBA, 6-foot-10 center Donta Hall has emerged as one of Europe’s foremost rim protectors and vertical spacers with AS Monaco in the French League and EuroLeague. Hall, I’m told, is generating NBA interest after a strong season abroad.
ESPN: “[The Nets] are prepared to lose both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.” @WindhorstESPN on the state of the Nets.
Josh Lewenberg: Dillon Brooks is still recovering from a mid-season ankle sprain. The Grizzlies wanted him to stay in Memphis then travel with the team to Vegas for Summer League to continue receiving treatment/working with the trainers, I’m told. Nick Nurse hopes to touch base with him later this week
Chris Mannix: In the aftermath of Ohio tightening its abortion laws, the Cavaliers say they will “cover costs to travel outside Ohio for reproductive health care to the fullest extent permitted by state law” for company employees.
June 27, 2022 | 2:38 pm EDT Update
Brittney Griner was formally ordered to remain in custody for the duration of her criminal trial in Russia. Her detention was extended for another six months. Griner, 31, appeared in court near Moscow Monday. She was in handcuffs and looking straight ahead in photos obtained by The Associated Press.