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Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić has been named the 2021-22 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player, the NBA announced today. This is the second Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Award for Jokić, who also earned the honor last season. He becomes the 13th player to win the award in consecutive seasons, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Stephen Curry, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Moses Malone, Steve Nash and Bill Russell.
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid finished in second place with 706 points (26 first-place votes). Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo finished in third place with 595 points (nine first-place votes), followed by Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker in fourth place with 216 points and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić in fifth place with 146 points.
This is the first time that both the top three and four of the top five finishers in voting for the Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Award are international players, with Jokić (Serbia), Embiid (Cameroon) and Antetokounmpo (Greece) comprising the top three and Dončić (Slovenia) joining them in the top five.
Gina Mizell: Joel Embiid on not winning MVP: "This is something that I knew weeks ago (referencing @Tim Bontemps' straw poll)...I just knew it wasn’t gonna happen. Obviously, congrats to Nikola. He deserved it. He had an amazing season. There’s no right or wrong. There was a lot of candidates"
Justin Grasso: Doc Rivers said he was "obviously disappointed" hearing that Joel Embiid is not expected to win MVP. "I don’t know if a guy could’ve done more than he did this year," he added #Sixers
In late March, in the back of a black sprinter van zipping through the streets of Los Angeles, I asked Joel Embiid about the importance of winning MVP. Embiid was in the final stages of his best NBA season, where he played more games (68), averaged more points (an NBA-best 30.6) and handed out more assists (4.2) than in any of his previous seasons. His answer: Winning matters more. “You can't win this type of stuff if you don't win,” Embiid told me. “So it doesn't matter. Let's say if I average 35 on a bad team, I can't be the MVP of the league, because I'm not winning. So my whole thing, when you look at those awards, it all goes back to winning. So that's always been my focus, winning, working hard to make my team better, offensively and defensively. Obviously winning a championship is the biggest thing. And I'll be honest, I never thought I would be at this level.”
Mark Haynes: James Wiseman on centers Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid being 1 & 2 in MVP votes: “Yeah, it feels very good. It gives me a lot of inspiration as well. I look at them dudes as inspiration. I look at their film a lot, so I can add stuff to my game. I'm always a student of the game.”
Mike Singer: Was told yesterday that those around the Sixers knew the news was coming. Obviously, Joel wasn't thrilled.
Ryan Blackburn: Nikola Jokić on the MVP award: "If I don't get it, I'm not going to die."
Julia Poe: Ahead of Game 2 in Milwaukee, Patrick Williams says the key to guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo is to not feel scared of the assignment. “He is good. But he’s not God.” pic.twitter.com/py2ha3VWMJ
Lauren Rosen: Tobias Harris (@Tobias Harris) on @Joel Embiid's historic season: "The things that he does on the floor, as a big man, the dominance - I believe he's the MVP... Honestly, I hope he gets both of them. By both I mean MVP of the regular season, and MVP of the championship."
NBA Central: NBA.Com’s final MVP Ladder: 1. Nikola Jokic 2. Joel Embiid 3. Giannis Antetokounmpo 4. Devin Booker 5. Luka Doncic 6. Jayson Tatum 7. Kevin Durant 8. DeMar DeRozan 9. Ja Morant 10. Chris Paul
We have to put you on the spot here. Who's your pick for MVP between Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid? Roy Rana: Probably the best thing that we can do is, you know, it’s been done before. So I think let’s get co-MVPs.
Nick Friedell: KD said his pick for MVP would be Joel Embiid. As for the narrative aspect of the MVP race — as it pertains to votes, Durant knows it’s out of Embiid’s control. “In Joel’s case, more people like Giannis and Jokic. It’s as simple as that.”
In that way, and in dozens of others, Jokic is a basketball anomaly. He’s a center with a point guard’s proclivities and a superstar with a benchwarmer’s ego. He’s also the odds-on favorite to become only the fifth center in NBA history to win back-to-back MVPs. Asked that same weekend about his designs on another MVP, Jokic said he’d be happy as long as a big man won the award. “There’s not even a little bit bad blood between us,” Jokic said of Embid. “I think (he’s) a great player.”
Kendra Andrews: Draymond Green says that Ja Morant should not be MIP. He's in the MVP conversation. Jordan Poole, Green says, is the definition of the guy who has improved the most this season.
Michael Singer: Nikola Jokic on MVP/his status: "To be honest, I think there is a lot of guys that are playing at an extremely high level. ... I'm just trying to be humble, to stay on the ground. ... I don't think about that to be honest, am I one of the best? I'm just trying to win the game."
Brandon 'Scoop B' Robinson: Joel Embiid is the NBA’s MVP because he carried Philly through all of the Ben Simmons Drama according to @KendrickPerkins while on @BovadaOfficial ’s IG Live.

http://twitter.com/ScoopB/status/1511788238524063744
The MVP race is heating up as the 2021-22 NBA regular season begins to wind down, and Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green has made it abundantly clear who his pick for MVP is. Green recently spoke about the MVP race and explained why he believes Phoenix Suns superstar guard Devin Booker deserves the award. “My MVP is Devin Booker,” he said. “I think Book has been consistent all year.”
Embiid has 11 games with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds this season; only Russell Westbrook (12) and Moses Malone (12) have had more in a single season since the 1976-77 merger. Both players won MVPs in those seasons. "If it happens, great," Embiid said of winning his first MVP. "If it doesn't, I don't know what I have to do. I'll feel like they hate me. I feel like the standard for guys in Philly or for me is different than everyone else."
NBA reporter Chris Mannix, during the NBC Sports Boston broadcast Sunday with the Celtics hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves, shared a story about a recent phone call between Tatum and Embiid. “Let me in part a quick story about how much it means for Jayson Tatum to be MVP,” Mannix said during the broadcast. “I was speaking to Drew Hanlen, Tatum’s longtime trainer, the other day. He said he was with Joel Embiid when Tatum called him and before they got off the call Tatum said to Embiid, ‘You better win the MVP this year because I’m gonna get it next year.’
At this point, Khris Middleton has seen it all. For nine seasons, aside from the moments they’ve been sidelined because of injuries, he has seen every practice and every game of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s NBA career. And yet, Tuesday night, he still couldn’t believe what Antetokounmpo did on the Bucks’ final defensive possession against the 76ers. “It shocked the s--- out of me,” Middleton said.
“The shot went up,” Middleton explained. “Me and Jrue (Holiday), we kind of let Embiid slide past us, and we thought we gave up the potential game-tying layup. Next thing we know, we see this hand hit the ball to the backboard. It was this quick, much-needed block. It was one of the best ones I’ve seen, but not the best, obviously.”
Jokic finished ahead of the pack with those 62 first-place votes and a total of 860 points, followed by Embiid, who had 29 first-place votes and 719 total points, and Antetokounmpo, who had nine first-place votes and 593 total points. They were the only players to be named to all 100 ballots and the only ones to receive a first-place vote.
Suns coach Monty Williams does everything he can to avoid the MVP discussion. He knows himself too well. On the few times he’s delved into the Internet muck, he’s come back upset. After he checked the NBA app on his phone and found Phoenix superstar Devin Booker in ninth place in the MVP race, he effectively threw his hands into the air. “What’s the criteria?” Williams said before the scorching Suns took on the Nuggets on Thursday night at Ball Arena. “The criteria seems to be a moving target every year.”
James Harden would like to think he knows an MVP when he sees one, having won the award himself in 2018 and played alongside two others in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. And in Harden's book, his new teammate, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, "deserves" to win the award this season. "He deserves it, man," Harden told ESPN. "I've only been here for a few weeks, but I already see his mindset. He wants to win. Some guys just want numbers, but he has both. He has the mentality of winning, and he scores the ball at a high level. I think he's prepared himself, especially coming off last year, for this year to be one of his best years."
Harden said that, in his mind, an MVP should be "dominant" on the court and "impactful in terms of winning," which gives Embiid and the Sixers (45-27), who are 1½ games back of first place in the Eastern Conference, an edge over his chief rival for the award, Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets (43-31), who are sixth in the West. "Most of the games he's played this year, we've been fighting for the No. 1 seed," Harden said of Embiid. "And he's not only top 2, top 3 in scoring, but he's impactful to our team winning." Jokic and Embiid finished 1-2 in last season's voting and are expected to be two of the top three candidates -- along with the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo -- for the award this season.
Isiah Thomas: Let it be known @DevinBook @Suns @nba league #MVP conversation best record leading scorer has always been part of the #criteria. Devin Booker: Appreciate that IT but the “#criteria” changes depending on players name.
So why isn’t that applying to the MVP race? Giannis Antetokounmpo: Nah, I want another championship. You know, like, the joy that I felt when I won the MVP was unbelievable. I was with my family. I wish my (late) Dad was there. That was an unbelievable feeling. Grateful. But the joy that I felt when I won a championship, there’s no comparing. There’s no comparing (an MVP) to the joy of being on the bus and seeing 200,000 people celebrating — White, Black, Hispanic, or whatever the case may be. Everybody was celebrating, and you’re giving everybody that joy. There were people that had never seen a championship for 50 years. (They’d say), ‘The last time I saw the championship, I was two years old.’ You know? That’s a different type of joy. It’s not just me being able to win the award. The whole city won an award. That’s what I want, you know? And hopefully, God can bless me and give me that. I’ll do whatever I can do to do it.
Dave Early: Is KD frustrated he won't win MVP cause of his knee injury? "No it's not frustrating. I've experienced what it's like to win MVP and that doesn't validate me as a hum- player.... It's always great to get some...some hometown love... but I understand the type of player that I am." pic.twitter.com/kRwOFWTzDw

http://twitter.com/DavidEarly/status/1505023798776672256
Dave Early: "Joel Embiid, DeMar DeRozan, Ja Morant for me, those are my top three [for MVP] and I'll probably go Joel. Jokic, you can throw throw Jokic in there. But I'll probably go Joel." -Sounds like Kevin Durant gives his vote for MVP to Joel Embiid. pic.twitter.com/755IgFVoMG

http://twitter.com/DavidEarly/status/1505016530458890242
Gina Mizell: Matisse Thybulle on defending Luka Doncic: "You really don't slow him down, because he moves at a snail's pace. It's just being physical with him, because he's such a big guard. The small movements he does is all he really needs to create advantages."
If the 100-some media members who vote share the same view as the executives, coaches and scouts I contacted, though, this year promises to be no different. More than a half-dozen players have been mentioned as being worthy of the award — Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, DeMar DeRozan and Jayson Tatum — but there was a clear-cut first choice among the majority of my panel: Philadelphia 76ers’ center Embiid.
Kyle Neubeck: Embiid with nothing but praise for Nikola Jokic after the game, repeating his comments from last week calling him a “monster.” When asked if outscoring him tonight showed if he’s the best big in the league or not, Embiid pointed out that they lost and that it’s not for him to say
Being with the Charlotte Hornets over the last week and a half has provided Isaiah Thomas with the opportunity to watch LaMelo Ball up close. Let’s just say he’s impressed with the trajectory.
StatMuse: KD carried the Nets today: 53 PTS 6 REB 9 AST 19-37 FG Hey @Kevin Durant do you regret not coming to the Kniiiiiiiicks? pic.twitter.com/HLNYuqH4IO
StatMuse: Players with multiple 50-point games this season: Jayson Tatum LeBron James Kevin Durant pic.twitter.com/PK232lzzK9
To answer that question, ESPN reached out to 15 league scouts and executives and asked them to rank six star point guards who are still on their rookie deals -- the Charlotte Hornets' LaMelo Ball, Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic, Cleveland Cavaliers' Darius Garland, Oklahoma City Thunder's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young and Morant -- in terms of who they'd want moving forward. It was a question that engendered plenty of debate, and a lot of hemming and hawing over how people would ultimately decide to rank them. And while Morant received four of the 15 first-place votes, it was Doncic who got the other 11 and took home the top spot in the survey.
Luka Doncic finished first, Ja Morant finised second, Trae Young third, LaMelo Ball fourth, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander fifth and Darius Garland sixth.
Doncic was the only player who didn't receive a lower vote than second among the six players. Morant, meanwhile, had eight second-place votes, two thirds and a fourth to settle in at a comfortable second-place finish. After the top two is where things got interesting. While Young was the only other player to receive a second-place vote -- he got three of them -- he also received eight third-place votes, placing him a clear third. Young also picked up fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place votes.
The fact he wasn't a unanimous choice, however, is a credit to the way Morant has captivated not just fans but those inside the league as well. "Ja has shown the ability to take a team to the next level," a Western Conference scout said. "He's shown great leadership, plus his jump, as far as development, has been pretty remarkable." It also, in the eyes of some, was a knock on Doncic's slow start this season before working his way back into first-team All-NBA consideration. "I would probably put Luka ahead of Ja big picture, but I'll put Ja ahead because of Luka's conditioning [worries] every offseason," an Eastern Conference scout said. "Luka's more talented, but I like Ja's approach more."
Malone’s mic-drop moment ended the entertaining news conference and concluded the latest stump speech for Jokic’s second MVP campaign. The funniest part, though, is that Jokic remained indifferent to what another award would mean to him. “I don’t know,” he said. “It doesn’t mean anything special. I’m just trying to compete, to win games.”
As of right now, you'll be hard-pressed to find a consensus in the MVP conversation that doesn't favor Jokic winning for the second season in a row. Warriors coach Steve Kerr appears to have made up his mind. "We played against the reigning MVP, who probably should win it again," Kerr told reporters after the game. "I don't have a vote, but Jokic is just an unbelievable player and was spectacular tonight. He makes all of his teammates better. He makes defense so difficult because no matter what you do, he's got a counter for it. He's playing the game at such an easy pace and things look so smooth for him out there. With our defense already coming into this game struggling, he's a tough guy to face when you're not well-connected at that end of the floor."
Luka Doncic had many nice words for his fellow European stars during the All-Star Weekend and he also gave the praise to Giannis Antetokounmpo for both his on and off the court qualities. “You know what I’m gonna say. He’s an amazing player but what amazes me the most is his personality, a great guy just to talk to. He was the MVP twice, I think he’ll be maybe five times more. A great player,” Luka said and stayed humble when asked if it’s his time to grab the MVP honors. “I don’t know, I just want to win a championship. That’s it.”
He has been the talk of the NBA for two straight days. But the Grizzlies guard had no idea that during the team’s practice, the NBA had announced his catch-and-release shot to beat the buzzer at the end of the first half against the Spurs had become the most-viewed Instagram video the league had ever posted. Once he heard the news, all he could do was shrug. “Sheesh,” Morant said. “I’m must-see TV. Me and my teammates. That’s why I got 30 million.”
Q: Did you see Ja Morant’s 50-point game last night and what do you think about what he’s been doing with Memphis? Luka Doncic: “I saw the dunk and the last-second buzzer beater. Amazing. He’s been playing amazing this season, MVP level. Everybody saw this season what he is, and he’s an unbelievable player, unbelievable skills and so fun to watch.”
DeRozan finished the game with 37 points shooting 71 percent from the field, making it his ninth straight 30-point game, a career-high for the veteran. In addition, this is DeRozan’s eighth consecutive game with at least 35 points on 50 percent shooting extending his record farther past Wilt Chamberlain’s run. “You love it, and you hate it,” DeRozan said. “Of course, you don’t want to be down and have the pressure on yourself to try to pull out a game. But when you’re in those moments, you’ve got to take it on. I love the moments. I love the challenge. I love the opportunity. It’s fun to me.”
Keith Pompey: Joel Embiid: "I’ve got to play every single game, so we can all play together and really figure out how to play with each other. But it’s going to be fun.” Can Embiid stay healthy? His MVP case and the #Sixers’ season depend on it. inquirer.com/sixers/sixers-… via @phillyinquirer
Julia Poe: Tristan Thompson wastes no time joining the DeMar DeRozan MVP campaign: "He’s the league MVP in my eyes. Flat out. What he’s able to be doing with Zach out and with Zo and AC out ... for him to be able to just hold the fort down and keep that ship right, that’s what an MVP does."
Malika Andrews: “I did a lot of chasing around trying to get him back and try to make him feel comfortable again. It was tough. I didn’t care anymore.” Joel Embiid on Ben Simmons, James Harden, and the MVP race. Catch our convo on NBA Today:

http://twitter.com/malika_andrews/status/1496184212042493961
After Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid battled for the right to be named the NBA's Most Valuable Player all last season, it appears this year's chase for the award could once again come down to the two All-Star big men. Embiid, after coming in second to Jokic in last year's voting, holds a 35-point lead over the Denver Nuggets' reigning MVP in the second edition of ESPN's NBA MVP Straw Poll for the 2021-22 season. Embiid's razor-thin edge is the closest the top two spots have been over the nine iterations of this poll over the past six seasons.
Domantas Sabonis had 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting with 12 rebounds and eight assists for Sacramento. Justin Holiday made six 3-pointers to finish with 18 points. Harrison Barnes added 17. DeRozan came into the game on a hot streak after averaging 37.6 points over the previous seven games, including a 40-point game against the San Antonio Spurs and a 45-point game against the Philadelphia 76ers. “He’s playing like the MVP right now, I think we can all agree,” Fox said.
Etan Thomas: And Giannis, he’s MVP status again this year and, like you said, has actually improved since last year. Kenyon Martin: "Listen, Giannis is the new Lebron. He can be in the MVP convo every season. And the only reason you don’t give it to him is because someone else is playing out of their mind that season. So yeah a lot has to happen before they’re the favorites over Milwaukee."
Do you think Ja Morant is the best player in the league? Jaren Jackson Jr: He’s MVP right now. I know you guys like all those discussions and everything, but if he’s your MVP then we up right now! If he’s MVP, I’m pullin’ up to the crib and we goin’ crazy. I’m not even gonna ask him first, either. His gate code crazy, too. I don’t even know it, but I’ll figure it out when I get there. And then I’m on his ass! MVP, even younger than D-Rose [Derrick Rose, who was 22 years and 191 days old when he won MVP]
Edwards' long-term goals are, in a word, lofty. Without any hesitation, he tells me he wants to be the face of the league in five years. He wants to be a multiple-time MVP and have an NBA championship ring. Outside of Kevin Garnett and his MVP season, those are feats that no one in the Minnesota Timberwolves organization has ever accomplished. "I want to be an All-Star. I want to go deep in the playoffs, definitely past the first round. In five years, I want to be the face of the league and have a couple of MVPs by then and have a ring. In five years, I would expect to go to the Finals for sure," Edwards says.
Storyline: MVP Race
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