Those ballots, the ones that had to be in no later than the close of the regular season, is it possible we might be able to get them back?
Like every other major sports league, the NBA closes the balloting for its annual awards in advance of the postseason.
Yet, as we’ve already seen over this past month, those first six months of competition aren’t exactly the most meaningful, now that the Mavericks, Cavaliers, Dirk and LeBron are gone.
Yet there is no summoning rewrite.
A few years back, when I asked David Stern about holding off such balloting until the end of the playoffs, his curt response was that the league also has a postseason award, the MVP of the NBA Finals.
But that voting only takes into account the league’s best-of-seven championship series, not the two-month breath of the postseason.
Unlike Major League Baseball, with its month of postseason games after its six months of regular-season play, or even the NFL, with its 16 regular-season games and as few as three postseason wins required for a Super Bowl, the NBA goes six months during the regular season and another two during the postseason.
That essentially is a quarter of the season ignored.
And the need to present the hardware while the playoffs still are in progress doesn’t wash. Baseball hands out its awards well after the World Series, some served up with Thanksgiving dinner, with the NHL holding an awards banquet after the Stanley Cup Finals that draws Idol-like ratings north of the border.
As it is, the NBA has become a master at turning irrelevancy into prime-time programming, as evidenced by this week’s draft lottery. Think about it, we’re talking NBA TV programming throughout July, ESPN having more than baseball highlights to offer in advance of NFL camps.
So what would have changed? Here’s what:
— Kobe Bryant, with his current momentum, easily could have passed LeBron James for Most Valuable Player. Shouldn’t the MVP be remembered for having the greatest impact on the entirety of a season?
— Rajon Rondo certainly would not have been left off the All-NBA teams and might have contended for a first-team spot. Right now, he justifiably can be viewed as the best point guard in the league.
— Doc Rivers would soar in the Coach of the Year balloting. In retrospect, holding back his veterans matched Scott Skiles pushing his underachievers or Scott Brooks barely advancing into the playoffs.
— Lamar Odom would be pushing Jamal Crawford for the Sixth Man Award. What he is accomplishing in reserve is coming with the stakes elevated.
— A case could be made for third-team Pau Gasol moving ahead of second-team Dirk Nowitzki on All-NBA.
No, it is not an equal playing field, with nearly half the league being dropped from the postseason equation.
But what the Celtics currently are proving is that the playoffs are where a season is defined, where reputations truly are delineated.
Unless, of course, it comes to NBA awards.
Then, somehow, a December Cavaliers-Clippers game carries more weight than Lakers-Celtics in June.
Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.