The blog post about comparing the NBA and the Oscars

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You may have heard there’s an award show tonight. The Oscars are always a fun glance into the politics and business of the film industry. And they’re also a fascinating parallel to the MVP race in the NBA.

Much like the golden statues, there are no guidelines drawn for the MVP voters. There’s no set definition for what determines the winner, and as a result, there are always questions as to what in God’s name the voters are thinking.  They suffer from the same pitfalls, most notably, hype over performance, subject over context, and of course, the body of work argument.

Often times, most notably in the Best Actor/Best Actress categories, the award will be granted based on the fact that someone has been an influential performer for years, yet never rewarded with the perfect combination of subject matter and performance. The result is a reward for a career’s worth of work, instead of the individual performance granted, or film produced.  Take your pick of which MVP you disagree with in regards to this. Kobe in 2008, LeBron in 20o9, Karl Malone, etc.

Steve Nash is the most vigorously debated MVP of the modern era. Nash was so overrated that the reaction of calling him such made him underrated. Okay, not really, because that sentence is stupid. But Nash wasn’t granted a lifetime achievement award. Instead, he’s more the recipient of the product of hype. Essentially, Nash was “Forrest Gump” to Kobe Bryant’s “Pulp Fiction.” “Forrest Gump” is a brilliant film, well-executed, with masterful performances and direction. But “Pulp Fiction” is an influential film which lasted longer, had a greater cultural impact and was, well, cooler. I think if you consider the elements in play, that it’s hard to argue it was a better film than “Forrest Gump” though. And I say that as someone who owns the complete Tarantino collection.

At least the Oscars provide multiple opportunities to reward a film or performance. You don’t look at Defensive Player of the Year in the same frame as MVP, and there is no offensive player of the year. Why, we’re not sure. Offense is just as important as defense, in that at least you can hold your opponent to 20 points and still lose if you score 19. Wouldn’t creating such a trifecta of awards lessen the vitriol spit towards good players? Furthermore, for the Oscars, it means something just to be nominated. Even with the Best Picture nominees expanded to ten, the films on this year’s list gain a different level of success by having been nominated. “Winter’s Bone” for example, has no shot, but it gets the film in front of more people to appreciate its work.

Instead, with the MVP award, we find ourselves tearing down candidates based on our preferences. If “The Social Network’ falls to “The King’s Speech” tonight, it won’t diminish its cultural impact or the stature of its accomplishment. Conversely, Dwight Howard will be considered a lesser player than Derrick Rose should Rose win the MVP. And in the meantime, we come up with reasons it shouldn’t win. The criticisms of “The Social Network” are either one of personal preference or independent of the film’s consideration for Best Picture. Instead, Dwight Howard is somehow a “lesser player” because he’s not the MVP in the mind of critics. In reality? Rose, Howard, James, along with the other candidates are all incredible players. It should be a huge honor and something to appreciate when a player becomes worthy of MVP-consideration, not an opportunity to dissect their game and blow gigantic nitpicks out of proportion.

But therein lies the huge difference between the two awards.

The Oscars are an opportunity to celebrate what has been great in film during the season. The MVP is an opportunity to accentuate the differences in our personal feelings about players. Film is art, while basketball is sport, yet the sporting award is more based on feeling than the artistic award.

With that, here are some parallels from tonight’s Best Picture nominees to this season in the NBA:

“The King’s Speech”: Is there a more fitting parallel to the Duke of York engaging with a speech therapist than Dwight Howard working with Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing on developing a jump shot? It represents the expansion of his game and overcoming something he’s particularly sensitive about. Nevermind that Helena Bonham Carter is Stan Van Gundy in this scenario.

“The Social Network”: Egomaniac driven by a complicated relationship with friends, stabbing the people who got him to where he is in the back in pursuit of global dominance while befriending a slick set of friends in a nicer locale, threaded by a sad and desperate need to be close to people to avoid being lonely? I mean, I don’t have to spell this out, right?

“The Black Swan”: A psychosexual thriller. Tread carefully. Let’s go with Carmelo Anthony, struggling to achieve what he believes he’s destined for and the immense pressure that surrounds it. The personal circumstances surrounding this season are his own skin removal.

“The Fighter’: The tale of dealing with a brother’s downfall due to chemical addiction and the ever-popular theme of overcoming all odds is probably best fit for the Pacers. Tremendous initial success, followed by struggle including losing their coach, but now seemingly on track for the playoffs. This one could turn into a tragedy pretty quick, though.

“True Grit:” The Boston Celtics. We’re at the point now where it looks like the fugitive has escaped and all hope is lost. In this scenario, Danny Ainge is a drunken Rooster Cogburn.

“Toy Story 3”: The Suns. Think about it.

“127 Hours”: (chanting) Don’t make a Blazers joke. Don’t make a Blazers joke. Don’t make a Blazers joke. Don’t make a Blazers joke.

“Inception”: Orlando’s season, because they’re constantly trying to figure out whether they’re dreaming or not.

“Winter’s Bone”: The CBA negotiations.  Because it’s hard to watch, in a place few people think about in public, and a struggle to figure out what the right thing is.

LeBron James finishes left-handed alley-oop with head behind backboard

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We have reached the point with LeBron James and his legendary career that the incredible almost seems ordinary — he has made our jaws drop so many times it’s hard for him to clear the bar of amazing anymore.

He did Saturday night against Utah.

In transition, LeBron gave up the ball to Jeff Green, who returned the favor with an alley-oop pass. Just not a particularly good one, it was behind James.

So he reaches back with his left hand and throws it down as he ducks his head under the backboard. Then LeBron stops and stares at his left hand, like he can’t believe what he just did.

We can’t either.

Carmelo Anthony standing ovation in return to Madison Square Garden

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Knicks fans may have had their frustrations with Carmelo Anthony, but they know how much he has meant to the franchise over the years. He pushed to be a Knick and chose to stay, he carried the franchise for years.

Saturday night he returned to Madison Square Garden in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform after a trade this summer, and he was welcomed with a retrospective video followed by a standing ovation from the crowd (you can see all of it above).

Well done Knicks fans. Well done.

Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will not travel with team for 25 days due to legal issue

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The Lakers’Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed his new team’s first two games this season due to a suspension for a DUI case in Michigan.

But that was not all. Caldwell-Pope’s came with probation, and to get out of it early the Lakers’ forward has to go through an intensive rehab program — one that does not allow him to leave California with the team for 25 days. He did not play against the Cavaliers and that is just the first of multiple games he will miss, a story broken by Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Caldwell-Pope was originally cited for operating a vehicle while intoxicated but pleaded guilty in May to the lesser charge of allowing someone to operate his vehicle while under the influence, which carried a 12-month probation.

On Thursday, Caldwell-Pope had to return to California to begin an intensive program over the next 25 days that will result in some travel restrictions and could cause him to miss additional games but will end his probation early.

The Lakers are in a home heavy part of their schedule, and by my calculations KCP would only miss one or two games (for sure against Houston Dec. 20, then maybe against Golden State Dec. 22, but that is in California). The Lakers next road game after that is Dec. 31 in Houston again.

Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Lakers last offseason, and he has gone on to become one of the few reliable three-point shooters on the team, hitting 36.1 percent from beyond the arc, taking 6.1 shots from there a game. He’s been solid on defense and a player the Lakers’ need, although his overall efficiency is closer to average.

If the Lakers are successful with their big game hunting during free agency next summer, Caldwell-Pope will not return to the team. In a tight free agent market, he may once again not see offers near what he sees himself worth next summer. That said, his play in Los Angeles has been good. And now he will not have this legal issue hanging over his head during free agency.

LeBron James is good with televising All-Star team selections

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From the moment the NBA announced changes to the All-Star Game team selection format for this season, most NBA fans — as well as most media members I know — have wanted a live team selection show.

As a reminder, this year (as in past years) fans will vote for their favorite All-Stars, and those votes will be combined with media and player votes to name the five starters from each conference. Then the coaches will vote to select the teams.

What’s different is the top vote-getters from each conference — let’s be honest, it will be LeBron James in the East and Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant in the West — will be named captains and they will then pick their teams from the pool of other selected players. No East vs. West. If LeBron gets to choose first and he picks James Harden, then Harden is on that team. Curry can go second and select Giannis Antetokounmpo or whoever he wants from the starters pool, then the captains move into the reserves pool. Old-school playground style team picking.

Who wouldn’t tune it to watch that selection show?

The NBA officially has not decided yet if the selection process will be broadcast, but it probably won’t be. The reason is some player is not going to like being picked last (or next to last) and his agent will like it less. It gets political (would Curry have to choose Durant or Draymond Green first to keep his teammates happy?).

LeBron basically said Saturday why not televise it? From Nick Friedell of ESPN, when LeBron was asked if it would bother him to go against teammates in the All-Star Game:

“I hope not,” James said after Saturday’s shootaround. “We’re all grown men. It doesn’t stop their paycheck from coming. It won’t stop you from playing time once the season starts.”

And is he good with the pick order being made public or done live.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” James said. “It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, if I’m rewarded to be a part of the All-Star Game again, that’s cool for me. It doesn’t matter. All that other stuff is extracurricular.”

That’s the right attitude, and whoever got picked last would say that publicly. But privately… who knows? Depends on the guy.

That selection show would be must-watch television. The NBA needs to broadcast this. But it won’t. Politics will win out.