Faizal Khamisa: Earlier this week Steph Curry said James Harden should win the MVP over Russell Westbrook. Today RW responds: “who’s he?”
With no disrespect to the Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas and the Washington Wizards’ John Wall, most agree that this is a four-player race. Yet as was revealed in a survey by USA TODAY Sports of 32 league executives, this race is as unclear as it is compelling. The executives requested anonymity because of competitive reasons, and participants did not include members of the Thunder, Rockets, Spurs and Cavs and the Los Angeles Lakers’ new general manager, Rob Pelinka, because he was Harden’s agent until a few weeks ago.
The results were gathered throughout Sunday and Monday. Of the 32 executives who took part, 20 are general managers or front-office heads, and their vote totals are in parentheses. 1) Harden: 12 (seven among front office heads) 2) Westbrook: eight (six) 3) Leonard: seven (six) 4) James: five (one)
In the conversations with league executives, there was widespread deference to his dominance, a belief among many that he remains the best player in the league. Even by James’ elevated standards, he’s having a tremendous year (including a career-high in assists) for a Cavs team that has been plagued with serious injuries to numerous starters yet remains atop the Eastern Conference.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich acknowledges voters for the NBA Most Valuable Player Award have an exceptionally difficult task this season. “Glad I don’t have to vote,” Popovich said. “Of course, you know who I’d vote for. Coaches are prejudiced.”
Jay King: Stephen Curry on the M-V-P chants for Isaiah Thomas in Oracle: "We get them in other teams' arenas too. We can't be sensitive about that."
“[Durant’s] probably not going to win MVP because other people out there that are playing extremely well. I don’t think anybody is more efficient,” Kerr said. “He’s having a fantastic season, but it’s kind of going under the radar, in some ways, because of what a lot of other players are doing out there.”
Jay King: Isaiah Thomas also appreciated Kevin Garnett putting him in the MVP conversation: "That's what means the most" http://bit.ly/2ilghBz
A. Sherrod Blakely: The "M-V-P!" chants for @Isaiah Thomas seem to get louder from one game to the next. He has 36 pts, 18 in the 4Q now. #CelticsTalk
Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg says he believes Butler has elevated himself into the MVP conversation with his recent play. "I think so," Hoiberg said. "Just what he's done for this team. This stretch that he's got going right now, he continues to add to his game. He's really playing with the ball in his hands a lot now ... he's just pretty much straight up our point guard for a lot of the games right now. And he's obviously been phenomenal."
Harden didn’t pause or blink when asked for his own MVP pick. He simply nominated himself. “The Beard,” Harden told SI.com, before making his case. “Look at our record. Obviously the numbers, historic numbers. Just my performance overall.”
Jim Eichenhofer: #Pelicans win 4th straight, continue turnaround by pulling away from Wolves 117-96. Anthony Davis 45 pts. Quincy Pondexter: MVP was ballin! Great win fellas! #Pelicans
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 29, 2022 | 7:11 pm EDT Update
There’s no indication that the Heat wants to move on from 36-year-old Kyle Lowry – who is very close with Jimmy Butler – but Pat Riley has said that Lowry needs to get in better shape. The Heat has assured Lowry that it has no intention of trading him for Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving, according to a source briefed on the situation. We’re told that Lowry wasn’t upset when Riley said publicly that his conditioning must improve.
Wizards All Star guard Bradley Beal declined his $36.4 million player option but has not requested a sign-and-trade to another team. The Heat would have interest in Beal if he asked to be traded to Miami. But as of Wednesday, he had not.
Power forward Bobby Portis opted out of his $4.6 million player option with Miwaukee, according to ESPN. According to a source, the Heat would be a team that appeals to him if he doesn’t sign with Milwaukee, but Miami is reluctant to give him or anyone the full mid-level exception, making Portis not likely for Miami. Portis can sign for four years and as much as $49 million with Milwaukee.
Todd Whitehead: Interesting nugget from Draymond’s appearance on Old Man and the Three: he credits Warriors turnaround to an emphasis on forcing Boston’s ball handlers to drive left. pic.twitter.com/6Of0QvthQi
June 29, 2022 | 6:55 pm EDT Update
The Lakers could also look to acquire players via trade, with rival executives believing Chicago’s Coby White could be a target. Moving Talen Horton-Tucker, a player whose ball-dominant skills are viewed by rival scouts as being redundant with the Lakers’ stars, could be a way to upgrade to suit the Lakers’ needs.
Jon Krawczynski: The Timberwolves have exercised the options for both Naz Reid and Jaylen Nowell, sources told @TheAthletic. Expected moves for two good players who will each be under contract for about $1.9 million next season.