Media members need not be protected, accountability in award voting is a must

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As in most things related to the NBA, the ultimate goal should be transparency. Transparency in the officiating, especially in a post-Donaghy era. Transparency from the league office in how they deal with specific rulings, punishments, and edicts. Transparency from coaches and general managers, who optimally wouldn’t pretend to be vying for a playoff spot if it was well out of reach, and who are well capable of imparting knowledge if they abandon the convenient cliché.

It’s about damn time the same applies to the media as well.

Media members write all kinds of things about the NBA on the daily basis, and their work is available for public scrutiny. If facts aren’t checked, if stories are unfair, or if something is misrepresented, the writer will hear about it. That’s how the wonderful world of feedback works, and that ability to respond not only makes for better writing, but a better understanding from consumers concerning what an NBA scribe hopes to accomplish. It is, in a word, good.

So why then does it make sense that on the occasion that such scribes have the ability to significantly impact NBA lore — in award voting — they’re completely removed from the results in a way that makes them completely unaccountable? They’re not revealing their party preferences or voting on controversial legislation, but casting a ballot for MVP or Defensive Player of the Year; the sanctity and security of the democratic process should be far removed from this particular arena, because well, it’s not democratic. Certain writers are privileged with a vote, and those with a vote should be able to defend their selections.

Choosing an MVP or Rookie of the Year may be a matter of opinion, but that doesn’t mean there are not wrong answers. There are also interesting answers, worthy of further explanation and clarification. There are toss-ups that fans would want to hear about, there are snubs that they would want explained, and there are surprise vote-getters that may even earn voters a pat on the back.

Howard Beck of the New York Times has been throwing this idea around ever since David Lee stumbled into a Defensive Player of the Year vote, and collected his thoughts in a post for the NYT Off the Dribble blog:

Removing anonymity from the process could have some drawbacks. Beat writers, who see the same team every day, may feel pressure to vote for the players they cover if they know the results will become public. Voting for a rival could conceivably cause tension with the home team’s star player or coach, or the media-relations staff.

But these concerns do not seem to have adversely affected the balloting in baseball or the N.F.L. And many N.B.A. writers already make their choices and rationale public, in blogs and in newspaper columns. No one seems overly worried about potential backlash from teams or fans.

Transparency creates more accountability because voters have to be prepared to explain their choices publicly. That is a routine part of baseball’s award process, and it helps promote discussion of the results, which benefits the game.

Beck could be correct in how beat writers could be swayed, but isn’t that what journalistic integrity is all about? These writers are supposed to be trusted to write what’s actually going on in the games and in the locker room rather than rosy pieces loaded with team-sponsored propaganda, so why can’t we trust them to do the same with the awards voting?

If someone is voting for an award with actual implications, they should be prepared to defend their choices. They should be able to tell us why there are three better defenders than Dwight Howard, how Ben Wallace or Ersan Ilyasova could possibly be the Most Improved Player, or why Jonny Flynn deserves a second-place vote for Rookie of the Year. That’s the responsibility that should come with the privilege of voting, and it’s honestly a wonder to me that secret balloting has lasted this long.

    

Aggressive, attacking Boston drives right into heart of Miami defense, wins Game 3

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On Boston’s first possession of the game, Marcus Smart drove right to the rim and got an and-1 on a reverse layup.

Next possession, Jaylen Brown got a bucket cutting for a layup, with the assist from Smart. Next possession, Brown drove the lane and banked in a floater. The next Boston bucket was a Jayson Tatum driving layup.

The first nine Boston points came with them attacking the heart of the Miami defense (going at Duncan Robinson in particular), and that continued all game with the Celtics getting 60 points in the paint.

“Boston came out with great force. You have to give them credit for that,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said after the game.

Throw in 31 quality minutes from Gordon Hayward in his return from a sprained ankle — providing more quality wing play and good decision making — and Boston raced out to a comfortable lead then hung on at the end for a 117-106 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 not until Wednesday night (a little delay to allow the West to catch up).

After a sloppy Game 2 loss where the Celtics became passive in the face of Miami’s zone defense in the second half, followed by a postgame meltdown and meeting of the minds, the guys at the heart of the Celtics young core stepped up their game.

Particularly Brown, who had 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting and was getting to the rim all game. He also was playing smothering defense.

Smart — an All-Defensive Team player — had his best game of the series, blanketing Goran Dragic, who had been the Heat’s best scorer and shot creator through two games. Without Dragic breaking down the Celtics’ defense and getting points in the paint, Miami has to live by the three and the Celtics defenders did a better job staying home.

“Marcus’ ball pressure on Dragic was important,” Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens said postgame. “It’s something we need to continue to look at. Marcus did a great job on a guy who is playing better than I’ve ever seen him.”

Boston also got more minutes from Gordon Hayward than expected, minutes Stevens called a “stabilizing force” for the team.

“I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore,” Hayward said postgame, adding with the extra days off he should be good to go for Game 4.

Hayward’s presence also allowed Boston to play small ball without Daniel Theis or any true center on the floor, the Celtics switched everything defensively, and Miami didn’t take advantage. Look for Eric Spoelstra to turn to more Bam Adebayo against that small lineup next game.

“They got us on our heels. They were out there hooping and having fun. I guess that was the difference in the game,” Bam Adebayo said postgame.

Miami didn’t shoot the ball well Saturday night, hitting just 27.3% from three. Jae Crowder, who had been hot, was 2-of-8 from deep, while Tyler Herro was 4-of-12. Adebayo had 27 points and 16 boards to lead the Heat.

Boston had four players with more than 20 points: Brown (26), Tatum (25), Kemba Walker (21), and Smart (20).

Boston will need another game like that — and they will need to close better, Miami made it interesting late — to even the series on Wednesday.

Miami said postgame they saw what happened in this game as a challenge to them. Game 4 is going to be intense.

Ja Morant points out one person who didn’t vote him Rookie of the Year

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Ja Morant was not the unanimous Rookie of the Year — 99 out of 100 media members voted for him, one voted for Zion Williamson.

When the media votes became public Saturday, Morant got to see who the one voter who voted for someone else was: Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Crowley stood up for his vote, and everything was good between them (at least on social media).

While the votes come from media members, the NBA goes out of its way to put together voters who see things differently, something ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne talked about is an excellent thread on Twitter, although she was speaking about the case for LeBron James over Giannis Antetokounmpo for MVP.

To be clear, I was one of the Morant voters, and I will readily admit that Zion is the better player (at least right now). I consider the impact on winning heavily when voting, which led me to Morant because he played 59 games before the bubble and had his team in a playoff position, while Zion played only 19 and did not (only games before the NBA restart in Orlando were to be considered, per NBA rules). I also expect and respect the fact that not everyone will see it that way, or even define what matters most in winning the award the same way. Diversity of thought and views is a good thing, it leads to better outcomes. Crowley should vote what he sees and believes, and that should be respected.

Unanimous or not, Morant will go down as the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year. The voting will be a footnote at most.

Boston’s Gordon Hayward warming up, available to play in Game 3

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The Celtics are getting their X-factor back — Gordon Hayward is available for the must-win Game 3 for Boston.

This had been expected, but he was out warming up pregame as reports he would be available started to bounce around the web.

Even 20 minutes of Hayward would be a big boost for the Celtics. Hayward suffered a grade III ankle sprain in the first game of the playoffs against Philadelphia. He’s been out ever since, even leaving the bubble for a while to get treatment.

Hayward’s return gives the Celtics another versatile player who can create his own shot and knock down the open looks others create for him. Hayward can run pick-and-rolls with the second unit while Tatum and Walker get rest. He’s the Celtics’ fourth-best scoring option right now, but he’s more dangerous than any other team’s fourth scorer.

Miami leads the series 0-2. If Boston doesn’t find a way to break down Miami’s zone defense and defend the rim better themselves this series is going to be short. Maybe Hayward can help with that on Saturday night.

Ty Lawson dropped by team, reportedly banned from Chinese league after social media posts

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Ty Lawson’s off the court challenges were among the reasons he was playing in China and not the NBA this season. He signed for good money in China instead.

That era of his career after some social media posts, apparently of him at a strip club in China, has him dropped by his team and rumored to be banned from the league.

Lawson’s team, the Fujian Sturgeons, apparently gave this statement to Chinese news agency Xinhua:

“His inappropriate words are inconsistent with the social responsibilities and values abided by our club and have brought serious adverse social impacts to the club and the league. We will not sign him for the new season.”

Emiliano Carchia, the CEO of Sportando, reports that Lawson is out of the Chinese Basketball Association for good.

Lawson’s quickness and ability to create space and score could help some NBA teams, but incidents like this make it less likely an NBA team would roll the dice on the 32-year-old point guard. Lawson spent eight seasons in the NBA then the last two in China.