Mark Jackson went with James Harden over Stephen Curry as his choice for MVP, which is (a) hypothetical, because he doesn’t get an actual vote, and (b) only newsworthy because of the fact that Jackson coached Curry and the Warriors last season.
“If you twisted my arm today, I would probably vote for James Harden,” Jackson said. “The reason why is because he single-handedly has put that Houston Rockets team in the position that they’re in today.”
The comments come as a stark contrast to the way Jackson had previously championed his former charge as a superstar in the league, while he was coach of the Warriors. …
“It’s his opinion obviously,” Curry said. “He’s probably been watching the league. People are going to ask what he thinks, especially his ties to the Warriors organization and myself specifically. Surprised me he said that. But, it is what it is.”
I don’t think the comments are all that surprising.
In Jackson’s previous role, it was his job to publicly praise his players, and ride with his guys over anyone else. Now in an analyst role, Jackson theoretically has a more critical eye when watching the league at large, and the reasons for Harden winning it are honestly more compelling than Curry’s case as simply the best player on the league’s best team.
Curry may very well win the MVP, and I wouldn’t have any problem with that; he’s put together a ridiculous season, and he’s been the most entertaining player in the league to watch. But Harden’s case is extremely strong, and Jackson saying so shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise.
Andrew Bogut cracks on Mark Jackson’s James Harden MVP pick
BOSTON – George Hill doesn’t shy form describing how last season went for him.
“I wasn’t happy,” the Pacers point guard said. “I felt like, to play the way I want to play, I’ve got to be happy. The way things finished off last year and me not feeling like I was that involved on the offensive end and things like that, I wasn’t happy.”
He also didn’t shy away from doing something about it – and the results have been a quietly spectacular season that has the Pacers still in the playoff race despite losing Paul George (to injury) and Lance Stephenson (to the Hornets).
Hill began his offseason regimen the day after Indiana eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals, according to Pacers coach Frank Vogel. Hill said he was often in the gym three times per day.
“We had to ask him to back off several times,” Vogel said.
Said Hill: “I didn’t ease up. I kept going. He can say that all he wants, but I’m the player. I wanted to get better. So, there was no easing up for me.
“I’m a person that, once I’ve got my mind made up, there’s no knocking me off that course.”
Hill said he was intent on “just getting back to who I was in college… get back to being myself.”
In college, Hill was a big fish in a small pond.
He starred at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) from nearly the moment he arrived as the reigning Indiana high school scoring leader. Unlike Damian Lillard, who went to Weber State because bigger programs overlooked him, Hill held scholarship offers from Indiana and Temple and was courted by Florida.
But Hill, stating the loyalty Edison taught him, refused to transfer. Besides, Hill believed the NBA would find talent anywhere – and he believed he had plenty of talent.
So does Vogel, even when there were limits on Hill’s ability to show it.
Hill, whose usage percentage had never cracked 20, saw it plummet to 14.8 last season – tied for lowest among starting point guards:
“I knew that when he was getting criticism last year for not being the point guard that everyone thought that this team needed, I thought it was unfair, that he was capable of carrying a much bigger load,” Vogel said. “And he’s proven that this year.”
Hill’s usage rate has soared to 24.7.
All along, he planned to carry a bigger load, but without George and Stephenson, Indiana really needs it.
Hill is averaging career highs in points (16.4) and rebounds (3.9) per game, and his 4.7 assists per game are within a hundredth of his career high. Yet, he’s playing just 28.4 minutes per game, his fewest since becoming Indiana’s starter.
As a result, Hill is posting career highs in points (blue), assists (gold) and rebounds (gray) per 36 minutes:
Unfortunately for the Pacers, despite Hill’s breakout season, they still might miss the playoffs. They’re two games out and 11th in the Eastern Conference entering tonight’s pivotal contest with the 10th-place Hornets.
Don’t blame Hill for Indiana’s perilous position, though.
Hill missed the first 28 and 39 of the first 44 games of the season due to injury. Before he got healthy, the Pacers looked cooked. But he – along with David West, who also began the season injured – has rejuvenated them.
They’re 20-16 with Hill and 12-27 without him. They outscore opponents by 4.6 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court (equivalent of fifth in the league) and get outscored by 3.4 per 100 when he’s not (24th).
The biggest gains have come offensively, where Indiana had really fizzled.
Hill runs more pick-and-rolls than before, serving as the defined playmaker he wasn’t last season. And he has hit severalhugeshots:
At this point, it’s probably worth taking a step back and remembering Hill was hardly a bad player before this season – even in a limited role. He defended well, hit spot-up shots, kept the ball moving and, perhaps most importantly, kept turnovers down. He started for a team that won 105 games and four playoff series the previous two years.
LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin and Mike Conley were the only players to post more win shares both of the last two seasons.
He has taken that challenge head on, and he’s succeeding. Not only has Hill increased his load, his efficiency has remained in tact. He’s shooting a career-high 48.3 percent from the field, and his 3-point percentage is a solid 36.5. Despite having he ball in his hands more, his turnover rate remains low.
Hill, because he fit his role so well, posted All-Star-caliber numbers in certain advanced stats prior. Now, his numbers are up and he looks like an All-Star.
Beyond lifting Indiana into the postseason, other challenges loom.
Much like in Miami, when LeBron James was there, everything the Cleveland Cavaliers do this season is part of the soap opera. The latest “sensational” story line: LeBron is calling some plays.
If you have LeBron James on your team, you should let him call some plays as he sees the defenses/matchups dictate. Do you tell Peyton Manning “don’t change the play call, go with what the OC sends into your headset?” That would be idiotic. LeBron is as high IQ a player as there is in the league, he sees the game. You should give him the freedom and David Blatt is smart to do so.
It’s different if Russell Westbrook or even James Harden wants to do it.