Winderman: The dirty little secret of NBA awards voting

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Having read Rob Mahoney’s post in this space earlier, and having caught up on Howard Beck’s screed on the New York Times’ “Off the Dribble” blog, it is time to weigh in on the NBA’s dirty little secret, and why so many seemingly out-of-bounds ballots are cast in the polling for the league’s postseason awards.

Yes, the vote for each individual NBA postseason award other than Executive of the Year is a media poll.

And, yes, transparency should be a priority for any self-respecting media member.

Only in this case, it is not that simple.

And all is not as it appears.

In recent years, several media outlets have banned their employees from voting for such awards, due to concerns about conflicts of interests.

Beyond that, as the media industry contracts, there are fewer traveling beat reporters, with many teams being covered by a single newspaper beat writer on the road.

When the postseason ballots are distributed to media-relations staffs, the priority is distributing them to those who see the team on a fulltime basis, both home and away.

And that’s where it gets murky and why more than a few self-serving votes apparently are being cast.

Among the electorate are NBA employees, those directly drawing checks from the teams themselves.

Television broadcasters. Television analysts. Radio play-by-play men. Radio color commentators.

Take the Miami Heat, for example. Postseason voting privileges are granted to five team employees who work for the organization’s broadcast outlets.

While all have ample credentials and integrity, the fact remains that employees of teams are voting in award races that involve players on those teams.

The league’s rationalization is it is the only way to create to substantial electorate.

But these are employees of the very same teams that are creating award campaigns.

It is one thing to have votes cast from broadcasters from national media outlets. Their paychecks aren’t signed by the Knicks or Nets or Nuggets.

But as long as team employees are voting, the process will remain suspect even with total transparency.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Rumor: Bulls’ belief in Zach LaVine waning

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Zach LaVine was the centerpiece in the Bulls’ return for trading a star. Chicago was reportedly willing to match a max offer sheet for LaVine in restricted free agency.

But maybe the Bulls have at least somewhat soured on him.

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

I don’t know why the Bulls would be down on LaVine now. I also don’t know why they were so high on him the first place.

LaVine is a good 3-point shooter and impressive dunker. But, despite his athleticism, his all-around contributions are lacking. He also hasn’t looked completely over his February 2017 ACL tear.

This leak could just be strategy. Instead of trying to scare off teams with the threat of matching any offer to LaVine, Chicago could be trying to dissuade suitors by projecting its own reluctance.

The Bulls don’t want to overpay LaVine. But they also don’t want to lose him for nothing.

Will anyone make a hard push for the 23-year-old? He surely wants a lucrative long-term contract, whether he re-signs directly with Chicago or gets an offer sheet. But, if the Bulls aren’t sold on him, I’m not sure any team will is.

LaVine’s qualifying offer will be $4,333,932. That might wind up his next salary.

PBT Extra: Grading the top of the NBA Draft

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The Phoenix Suns got it right at the top of the draft — they took Deandre Ayton.

But what of their move to trade for Mikal Bridges, the No. 10 pick, surrendering a valuable pick and the potential of Zhaire Smith for what should be a solid “3&D” wing to go with their athletic stars?

How did the Kings do at No. 2? What about Dallas’ big trade up to land Luka Doncic at three, or the Atlanta bet on Trae Young?

In this PBT Extra, I grade the top 10 picks in the draft, from the moves I like (I think Dallas did well) to ones I’m not sold on (sorry Chicago).

 

Have questions leading up to free agency? Submit your questions via e-mail for our PBT Mailbag feature. Drop us a line at pbtmailbag@gmail.com.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.