empty staples center

Why are there no games tonight? Blame the Lakers.


We’re two games into each series of the conference semifinals, all of which are competitive and saw the higher-seeded team lose home court advantage.

The NBA says it’s the first time since the league went to a 16-team playoff format in 1984 that all four series are tied after two games. So why is the schedule blank Thursday night, with zero games being played to keep the momentum going?

Henry Abbott of ESPN’s TrueHoop has the answer:

No games in the whole league on Thursday. I’m told it’s in fact not because of the “American Idol” final, but because several first-round series ended early, moving the start of some second-round series into last weekend. Now they need to stretch out the second round a tad to reduce the risk of a long layoff before the start of the conference finals, which has a fixed start.

So essentially, like seemingly everything else, it’s the Lakers’ fault?

Well, at least partially.

The Lakers and the Bucks fell victim to the Spurs and the Heat respectively in very quick first round sweeps. Instead of extending the layoff beyond eight days for Miami and San Antonio, they started their second round matchups as soon as their opponents were ready, despite every other first round series lasting at least six games.

There would seem to have been a way for the schedule makers to have given us at least one game on Thursday, instead of having double-headers every night until this point. But with the Conference Finals scheduled to begin no earlier than May 21, and the NBA Finals set to start on June 6, the only way to avoid ridiculously long layoffs in the unlikely event we see one or more semifinal series wrap up quickly was to create a small break in the action.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at NBA.com.

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.