There was no drama surrounding this year’s Rookie of the Year selection.
After missing the entirety of what would have been his rookie season, Blake Griffin exploded out of the gates in 2011 and never looked back. He put up some of the best numbers for a rookie forward in the last few decades, provided incredible highlight dunks with stunning regularity, and single-handedly revived interest in the Clipper franchise.
Griffin averaged 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game, and led all rookies with a PER of 21.93. There was no other choice for rookie of the year, and the voters acknowledged that, making Griffin the first unanimous choice for Rookie of the Year since David Robinson in the 1989-90 season. (Chris Paul missed being named the unanimous rookie of the year by a single vote after the 2005-06 season. He was robbed.)
Griffin still has to work on his jump shot, get more comfortable going over his right shoulder and using his left hand in the post, and improve on defense, but he’s already one of the best rebounders in the league, and he’s as effective without the ball as any other player in the league. The only thing more incredible than Griffin’s production this season was the way he produced, and I’m very pleased that every single voter recognized just how special Griffin’s rookie season was.
After years of struggle, things are looking up for the Clippers, and that’s all because of their incredible young power forward. As great as this season was, it’s only the beginning for him.
Bulls 102 Magic 99.
This was a fantastic ballgame that will be overshadowed by narratives about the MVP. The questions will be about how the Magic nearly beat the Bulls with Dwight Howard spending a one-game suspension for hitting 18 techs, and what that says about Howard’s MVP candidacy. The other side will respond with how another brilliant game from Rose nearly resulted in a loss due the defense, which many say is the real MVP of the Bulls, and what that says about his MVP candidacy. In reality, both of those questions are stupid. It was a great game for Rose, an example of why he’s probably winning MVP, and shows that the Magic have some teeth left in them.
Perhaps most notable in the game was how the Bulls were undone by an effective defense and how the Magic’s ability to create ball movement inside led to cuts. The Bulls’ normally tenacious defense was pretty meek today, allowing cuts inside and Ryan Anderson to be active at the rim. On the flipside, the Magic played solid defense in terms of bringing doubles in the post. This gave Bulls fans a full look at what they’re getting from Carlos Boozer in the playoffs. Boozer was terrific in the first quarter, using a nice array of moves to create points in the post. In the fourth, he was mostly a disaster, including a terrible pass out of a soft double that led to a transition bucket from Jason Richardson.
But all the doubles the Magic brought? None of them were committed to keeping the ball out of Rose’s hands on the perimeter. Time and time again Rose caught a kickout pass with a defender trying to recover, ball faked and went right around the defender. The result was a blistering 39 points, 5 assists performance. Though Rose did have five turnovers to those five assists, he also scored those 39 points on just 17 shots. Crazy efficiency. And that was the difference in the game. Well, that and about .000001 seconds.
Jameer Nelson had a shot to tie the game at the end of regulation. He caught and had to pump fake to free himself from Rose. He rose, and fired from 38 feet, making it. The ball left his hand just a tenth of a second late. Waived off, Bulls win.
A great game that showcased that if these two meet in the second round, this could be tougher than most people are counting on.
Provided that Gilbert Arenas doesn’t get minutes. Yeesh.
- Chris Duhon actually played really well in limited minutes to keep the Magic in it late. Then Gilbert Arenas came in and, well, yeah.
- Joakim Noah played terribly in the first quarter and was benched for most of the game. Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau each took turns screaming at Noah early. Strange.
- Taj Gibson hit a
three loooong two. Actually happened.
- The Magic still needed that player everyone says they need, who can create perimeter penetration to open up lanes. Turkoglu did some, but wasn’t fast enough and the drives wound up bogging down.
Ron Artest, who once jumped into the stands and got suspended for a full season, and Dwight Howard, who currently leads the league in technical fouls, are both finalists for the Walter J. Kennedy Citizenship award. The award is given each year to an NBA figure who shows “outstanding service and dedication to the community.” Kyle Korver and Marcus Camby are the other two finalists for the award.
Artest has become a spokesman for mental health awareness, and auctioned off his NBA championship ring to pay for school psychiatry.
On Valentine’s day, Dwight Howard launched the D12 Foundation, whose stated goal is “to work with children’s organizations in establishing programs that will plant seeds of generosity, encourage education, support leadership, and inspire activity and health in the youth it reaches.”
Korver launched the Kyle Korver foundation, which reaches out to underprivileged youth in Philadelphia, Omaha, Salt Lake City, and Chicago.
Marcus Camby has been heavily involved with many charitable organizations throughout his 14-year NBA career.
Coach of the Year may come down to whether you’re old school or new school this year.
The expected favorite for the award is Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau, who has brought Chicago around to what may be the best win-total improvement, seed improvement, and clearly defensive improvement in the league this year, in only his first season with the Bulls. Thibodeau has helped Derrick Rose reach an MVP level (mostly bey admittedly staying out of the way and letting Rose do his thing), and made a defensive juggernaut out of a team featuring Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Kyle Korver, and Keith Bogans.
But his biggest competitor has the best advantage he can have. A superior record. Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs is gaining more and more traction for his performance in leading the Spurs to a ridiculous 54-12 record. You can count Rockets coach Rick Adelman among those who think Pop’s done the job this year.
“I think Pop’s just done a great job this year,” Adelman said. “To me, the record they have, he’s the Coach of the Year, the way he’s put these guys together and the type of season they’ve had.
via Rockets notes: Adelmans COY vote goes to Popovich | NBA Basketball | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle.
The award may end up coming down to whether Thibodeau’s Bulls manage to hold onto the top spot in the East which they now share a piece of after Saturday’s win over the Jazz. If they secure the top spot in the East after being an 8th seed speed bump last year, with a group of new pieces, that may be enough to win. But if the Spurs keep pace, voting against Popovich will be extremely difficult.
Thibodeau does have one other advantage. He’s coaching a team with significant roster changes, featuring three new starters from last season, guys who are playing together for the first time. Much of the bench unit has changed as well with Korver, Ronnie Brewer, and Omer Asik. Getting new guys to play this well together is extremely tough.
Just ask Erik Spoelstra.
Celtics legend Bill Russell, who won 11 championships in 13 seasons and is almost universally regarded as the best defensive player of all time, was named one of the 15 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Other recipients of the award this year include former president George W. Bush, Warren Buffett, Maya Angelou, Stan Musial, and Yo Yo Ma. Russell will be the first professional basketball player to receive the award.
Here is the statement the White House gave about Russell:
Bill Russell is the former Boston Celtics’ Captain who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball. Russell led the Celtics to a virtually unparalleled string of eleven championships in thirteen years and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player five times. The first African American to coach in the NBA—indeed he was the first to coach a major sport at the professional level in the United States—Bill Russell is also an impassioned advocate of human rights. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has been a consistent advocate of equality.