It’s not a surprise, and it’s about to become official on Thursday.
According to the Associated Press, on Thursday Minnesota’s Kevin Love will be named the NBA’s Most Improved Player.
Love averaged an impressive 20.2 points and 15.2 rebounds per game this season. He went from being a sixth man for large stretches of last season to a guy the Wolves need to build around.
What makes me most happy is that he actually improved — often this award goes to a guy who just does what he does but do to circumstance gets a bump in minutes (inflating his numbers). And Love did play 7 more minutes a game this season.
But his shooting percentage jumped 20 points to 47 percent overall and he got to the line more often too, jumping his True Shooting Percentage (which includes all points scored) to 59.3 percent.
Then there is the rebounding — he grabbed 23.6 percent of the available rebounds when he was on the floor (third in the league), and 34.2 percent of the defensive rebounds.
That fueled the double-double streak that got him noticed.
What was amazing was early in the season when Kurt Rambis did not recognize what he had and benched Love for long stretches and key moments. He kept being frustrated with Love for what he is not (and he is not a great defender by anyone’s definition). But what he does he does very, very well. He rebounds, he can outlet the ball, and the man is a big who can score inside and also shot 41 percent from three this season. He is one of the most fundamentally sound big men in the game.
This is a good fit. And while at times in the past this award has been the kiss of death (Aaron Brooks, Bobby Simmons) it will not be in this case. You just have that feeling he is only getting better.
As of tomorrow, training camps around the league open, and all the focus goes to the 2016-17 season.
For fun, let’s look back one more time at last season — the 50 top circus shots of last season.
Stephen Curry driving the lane and throwing up prayers once he draws contact (and hitting them), there is Russell Westbrook throwing the inbounds pass off an opponent’s back, and so much more. Enjoy. Then let’s get on with next season.
Kevin Garnett intimidates people. In the machismo-fueled world of professional sports nobody comfortably admits they were intimidated, but in the wake of Garnett announcing his retirement, a number of players stepped forward to say exactly that. And that KG trashed talked them fearlessly.
Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams found a way to avoid that — tell KG he didn’t speak English.
Adams was lucky, KG had a reputation for going harder at foreign-born players with his trash talk and intimidation. Then again Adams is not the kind of guy prone to be intimidated.
Athletes are injecting themselves into the needed national conversation about race, violence, and policing in this nation. That has taken some very public forms, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony speaking at the ESPYs, and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and leading others to do so. Some NBA players likely will follow Kaepernick’s lead.
Pistons coach/GM Stan Van Gundy likes seeing players speak out.
A couple of his Detroit players — Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris — said they backed the 49ers quarterback. Here is what the never shy Van Gundy said about all of it, via Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.
“I’m encouraged by the fact of what some of those guys stood up and did at the ESPYs and had a conversation,” Van Gundy said. “I’m really proud of the fact that we have guys that not only see the problem, but want to try to do something about it…
“To me, in some ways, (police brutality is) just the most visible to focus on and it goes to deeper inequities in our criminal justice system, our education system so there’s so much to focus on,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s great that we have players that want to be part of that conversation, and a lot of players that want to go beyond the conversation and be part of the solution.”
Van Gundy has been telling his players part of that solution is to vote.
The players union and NBA sent out a release saying they wanted to work together to create positive change, but details are still vague on what that might be. The only thing we know for sure as we head into the NBA season — with as divided a nation and election as anyone can remember as a backdrop — is that some NBA players are going to try and keep the conversation going.
It was the last game of the group stage of the 2000 Olympic basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics, the USA was taking on France, another USA win on its way to another gold medal.
But what we all remember is this one play — Vince Carter dunking over the 7’2″ French center Frederic Weis.
Best. Dunk. Ever.
Weis was never the same.
In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.
Hat tip to nitramy at NBA Reddit.