Oscar statues at the Kodak Theatre, whic

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.

Way too early look: Who could make up USA’s 2020 Tokyo Olympic basketball team?

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 21:  Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan and Kyle Lowry #7 of United States stand on the podium after defeating Serbia in the Men's Gold medal game on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Let’s start with the obvious: This is an exercise in futility. There is no way to predict accurately what the 2020 USA men’s basketball team headed to the Tokyo Olympics will look like. There will be injuries that sideline guys. There will be contract situations where key guys decide it’s in their best interest to sit out. Plus, there could be a guy just now entering his junior year of high school who we don’t know well yet but in four years will be a clear choice for the team.

Now that we’ve gotten through the tedious disclaimer, let’s have fun:

What will the 2020 USA Basketball team look like?

First, it will have a bit of a business attitude — Gregg Popovich is coaching now. Not that Mike Krzyzewski ran a college party Team USA, far from it, but with Popovich’s demeanor and the scare put into the 2016 team (and some improving world powers, such as Canada), expect the USA to be a little more focused next time around.

For the roster, who from the 2016 gold medal team in Rio returns for more gold? At the top of the list: A 31-year-old Kevin Durant will be back for one more run (and to climb on top of the USA Olympic scoring list). He will be the unquestioned team leader. The alpha. It will be his team.

After that? Young stars who want one more go at it such as Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, and Klay Thompson will seriously consider a return. Maybe Jimmy Butler. Those guys will have a leg up having Olympic experience and a commitment to the program.

After that, some big names that passed on Rio are going to suit up in Japan. There will be far less defection of top talent this time around — the fears around Brazil will be gone, and NBA players wanting to sell more shoes in Asia will be eager to sign up. I expect you will see Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, and maybe James Harden decide they are in for the next round. LeBron James said he felt left out and may consider a return, but he will be 35 years old with 17 NBA seasons on his body by that point, does he want to put his body through an international curtain call? Probably not.

Rounding out the roster, expect a few guys from this year’s USA Select Team — the team the Olympic squad practiced against in Las Vegas at the start of camp — to make the leap up (as Kyrie Irving and others did this year).

Who? That’s the hardest thing to predict, it depends on development. Guys to watch include Victor Olidipo, Justise Winslow, Devin Booker, Brandon Ingram, and Jabari Parker — some of them will be ready to make the leap.

One clue to the 2020 roster: Players that you see in China for the 2019 FIBA World Cup will be more likely to make the 2020 team. (Yes, the World Championships are now the year before the Olympics, welcome to more of FIBA’s wisdom, as is the fact the Cup qualifiers fall during the NBA/Euroleague seasons.) Guys from the select team now that head to China in three years and perform well in that setting will likely have the USA across their chest in Japan.

Whatever team we send will have the most talent in those games. The question is will that be enough?

Check out the Cleveland Cavaliers Top 10 plays from last season

AUBURN HILLS, MI - APRIL 24: Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers prepare for tip off against the Detroit Pistons in game four of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Palace of Auburn Hills on April 24, 2016 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With athletes such as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on the team, you know the Cleveland Cavaliers Top 10 plays of last season were going to have some special moments.

Yes, the block by LeBron and the stepback three by Irving that sealed the first Cleveland title in 52 years are on top of the list.

But there are some other ridiculous Irving handles and even a Timofey Mozgov dunk in there (a $64 million dunk, apparently).

Watch Spurs’ Dejounte Murray throw off-the-backboard alley-oop to himself in pickup game

Washington guard Dejounte Murray, center, dribbles the ball past Mount St. Mary's center Taylor Danaher (50) as Washington forward Marquese Chriss, right, watches duirng the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Just a suggestion for rookie Dejounte Murray: Don’t do this in front of Gregg Popovich. You may not like his reaction.

That said, the Spurs needed to get more athletic this off-season — landing Pau Gasol certainly didn’t help that cause — so enter first-round pick Murray, who pulled this off in a recent pickup game.

Murray is going to be brought along slowly in a backcourt where Tony Parker and Patty Mills will be splitting time at the point. Murray is more of a combo guard and is going to have to shoot a lot better than he did in college (28.8 percent from three) to get some run. But this is a situation where the Spurs can groom him, bring him along slowly, and see if they have another draft steal.

He’s certainly got the athleticism.

Corey Brewer: “James (Harden) is going to play defense this year”

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 18:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets walks across the court during their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Toyota Center on March 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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James Harden‘s defense is not as bad as its reputation.

Well, at least it wasn’t two seasons ago — his near MVP season he was in good enough shape that he could put in a respectable effort on that end and still handle his massive offensive load. There were still some mental lapses, but his focus was better and his improvement lifted the team defense. Last season, he regressed back to youtube “highlight” defense Harden — his conditioning was not where it needed to be, he didn’t expend as much effort on that end, and it showed.

Harden got a massive contract extension this summer, and Dwight Howard is Atlanta’s problem — now Harden has to lead the Rockets. By example. Corey Brewer told ESPN you’re going to see that on defense.

“I think this year he’s going to play better defense, We’re going to let the past be in the past. It’s the future of the Rockets, man. James is going to play defense this year.”

We’re all Missourians on this one: Show me.

Remember that the Rockets will be out and running — Mike D’Antoni is the coach now, and Daryl Morey is going to get the up tempo ball he wants (which Kevin McHale had them doing, but Harden didn’t like him so…). D’Antoni’s teams in Phoenix played better defense than their reputation — points per possession they were middle of the pack — but that has never been his focus.

Will Harden be able to run like he needs to on offense and still defend at a reasonable level?

If he can, it’s a big step toward the Rockets being a dangerous team in the West because if he does it others will follow. Otherwise, every Rockets game will be a shootout, which is entertaining but not going to get a team deep into the playoffs.