The blog post about comparing the NBA and the Oscars

1 Comment

You may have heard there’s an award show tonight. The Oscars are always a fun glance into the politics and business of the film industry. And they’re also a fascinating parallel to the MVP race in the NBA.

Much like the golden statues, there are no guidelines drawn for the MVP voters. There’s no set definition for what determines the winner, and as a result, there are always questions as to what in God’s name the voters are thinking.  They suffer from the same pitfalls, most notably, hype over performance, subject over context, and of course, the body of work argument.

Often times, most notably in the Best Actor/Best Actress categories, the award will be granted based on the fact that someone has been an influential performer for years, yet never rewarded with the perfect combination of subject matter and performance. The result is a reward for a career’s worth of work, instead of the individual performance granted, or film produced.  Take your pick of which MVP you disagree with in regards to this. Kobe in 2008, LeBron in 20o9, Karl Malone, etc.

Steve Nash is the most vigorously debated MVP of the modern era. Nash was so overrated that the reaction of calling him such made him underrated. Okay, not really, because that sentence is stupid. But Nash wasn’t granted a lifetime achievement award. Instead, he’s more the recipient of the product of hype. Essentially, Nash was “Forrest Gump” to Kobe Bryant’s “Pulp Fiction.” “Forrest Gump” is a brilliant film, well-executed, with masterful performances and direction. But “Pulp Fiction” is an influential film which lasted longer, had a greater cultural impact and was, well, cooler. I think if you consider the elements in play, that it’s hard to argue it was a better film than “Forrest Gump” though. And I say that as someone who owns the complete Tarantino collection.

At least the Oscars provide multiple opportunities to reward a film or performance. You don’t look at Defensive Player of the Year in the same frame as MVP, and there is no offensive player of the year. Why, we’re not sure. Offense is just as important as defense, in that at least you can hold your opponent to 20 points and still lose if you score 19. Wouldn’t creating such a trifecta of awards lessen the vitriol spit towards good players? Furthermore, for the Oscars, it means something just to be nominated. Even with the Best Picture nominees expanded to ten, the films on this year’s list gain a different level of success by having been nominated. “Winter’s Bone” for example, has no shot, but it gets the film in front of more people to appreciate its work.

Instead, with the MVP award, we find ourselves tearing down candidates based on our preferences. If “The Social Network’ falls to “The King’s Speech” tonight, it won’t diminish its cultural impact or the stature of its accomplishment. Conversely, Dwight Howard will be considered a lesser player than Derrick Rose should Rose win the MVP. And in the meantime, we come up with reasons it shouldn’t win. The criticisms of “The Social Network” are either one of personal preference or independent of the film’s consideration for Best Picture. Instead, Dwight Howard is somehow a “lesser player” because he’s not the MVP in the mind of critics. In reality? Rose, Howard, James, along with the other candidates are all incredible players. It should be a huge honor and something to appreciate when a player becomes worthy of MVP-consideration, not an opportunity to dissect their game and blow gigantic nitpicks out of proportion.

But therein lies the huge difference between the two awards.

The Oscars are an opportunity to celebrate what has been great in film during the season. The MVP is an opportunity to accentuate the differences in our personal feelings about players. Film is art, while basketball is sport, yet the sporting award is more based on feeling than the artistic award.

With that, here are some parallels from tonight’s Best Picture nominees to this season in the NBA:

“The King’s Speech”: Is there a more fitting parallel to the Duke of York engaging with a speech therapist than Dwight Howard working with Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing on developing a jump shot? It represents the expansion of his game and overcoming something he’s particularly sensitive about. Nevermind that Helena Bonham Carter is Stan Van Gundy in this scenario.

“The Social Network”: Egomaniac driven by a complicated relationship with friends, stabbing the people who got him to where he is in the back in pursuit of global dominance while befriending a slick set of friends in a nicer locale, threaded by a sad and desperate need to be close to people to avoid being lonely? I mean, I don’t have to spell this out, right?

“The Black Swan”: A psychosexual thriller. Tread carefully. Let’s go with Carmelo Anthony, struggling to achieve what he believes he’s destined for and the immense pressure that surrounds it. The personal circumstances surrounding this season are his own skin removal.

“The Fighter’: The tale of dealing with a brother’s downfall due to chemical addiction and the ever-popular theme of overcoming all odds is probably best fit for the Pacers. Tremendous initial success, followed by struggle including losing their coach, but now seemingly on track for the playoffs. This one could turn into a tragedy pretty quick, though.

“True Grit:” The Boston Celtics. We’re at the point now where it looks like the fugitive has escaped and all hope is lost. In this scenario, Danny Ainge is a drunken Rooster Cogburn.

“Toy Story 3”: The Suns. Think about it.

“127 Hours”: (chanting) Don’t make a Blazers joke. Don’t make a Blazers joke. Don’t make a Blazers joke. Don’t make a Blazers joke.

“Inception”: Orlando’s season, because they’re constantly trying to figure out whether they’re dreaming or not.

“Winter’s Bone”: The CBA negotiations.  Because it’s hard to watch, in a place few people think about in public, and a struggle to figure out what the right thing is.

NBA revamps website dedicated to providing officiating info

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA is trying to get even more transparent about the calls its officials make.

The league has revamped its nba.com/official website, adding video archives of plays that merited reviews as well as detailed breakdowns of the responsibilities of officiating crews working each game.

A daily injury report is a new addition to the site. That injury report will be updated three times per day.

Other features of the new site include a sortable digital rulebook with video breakdowns of what makes a certain play legal or illegal, as well as the continued postings of the detailed reports breaking down all calls made in the final two minutes of close games.

 

Steve Kerr on military displays at games: “Sometimes, it’s really inspiring… sometimes it feels like we’re being patronized”

Getty Images
1 Comment

Things changed in sports after 9/11. The national anthem had always played before sporting events, but in the wake of our national tragedy American sports leagues turned to patriotic and military displays before games as a way to help unify fans. In a small way, some sporting events helped heal the country after that life-altering event.

However, those militaristic displays have continued on 17 years later, with some leagues buying in more than others, and not everybody in the sports world is comfortable with that.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr, never someone shy about speaking out about political and social issues, was asked about the displays at sporting events as part of a wide-ranging interview with Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area, which can only be seen in full on the new NBC Sports My Teams app, but we have a clip.

“Sometimes, it’s really inspiring. You see a mother and daughter or a father and son reconnected after a tour of duty, and everybody gets emotional. And sometimes it feels like we’re being patronized. Like this is being used. We’re just playing a sport here, and it feels sort of nationalistic, if that makes sense. So we are kind of wandering down a dicey path on this front.”

Kerr speaks out on politics — usually to bash President Donald Trump — and likely will do more of that with the midterm elections coming up. However, don’t think he takes that step lightly, or that he thinks it’s for everyone. Kerr has a nuanced view and understands the risks of what he does.

“First, you have to feel comfortable with what you’re talking about and what you’re discussing. So if you’re not comfortable with speaking about social issues, then I don’t blame anybody for not doing so. But there’s also a sense, when you’re in a job like this, that you’re working for people. You’re working for a league. You’re working for an owner. You’re working for an organization. And almost everything you say is going to be looked at two different ways. You start to worry about offending people. You start to worry about ‘Am I doing something wrong?’ ‘Am I going to get fired?’ ‘Am I going down the wrong path?’ ‘And I really like this job and I like coaching basketball and I just want to coach. So you sort of leave that alone. I’ve got no problem with that.”

Kerr can speak out because he’s in a secure space (same with the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich). For a lot of coaches, the backlash from speaking out may not be worth the hassle, not from just fans but from within the organization.

Kerr also teamed with Rock The Vote to try and get more people to use their voice at the ballot box. Kerr also knows his megaphone is larger than that, and he’s not afraid to use it.

Did Suns deserve all 35 of their assists? (video)

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Suns had 35 assists in their season-opening win over the Mavericks last night.

That’s their most assists since… their final game last season, when they also dished 35 assists against Dallas. But the Mavericks were tanking hard. Before that, Phoenix last had 35 assists with Steve Nash at point guard.

How did they Suns do it?

They moved the ball well and knocked down shots.

They also appeared be quite generous in scorekeeping.

The NBA defines an assist as a “pass that directly leads to a basket. … An assist can be awarded for a basket scored after the ball has been dribbled if the player’s pass led to the field goal being made.”

Would you say all four of these assists led directly to a basket?

Many scorekeepers systematically award assists if the shooter took two or fewer or dribbles after receiving the pass. Those above plays are not egregious in league-wide context, though maybe a couple of them should be.

But this Deandre Ayton pass really stretches the limit (hat tip: Carter Rodriguez of Fear The Sword):

Again, maybe we just have to live with a hard-and-fast two-dribble rule. Even though Josh Jackson turned and hesitated a couple times while using both dribbles, this technically falls under the threshold.

But then explain this Trevor Ariza assist to Jackson, who took three dribbles:

That looks like more of an assist than some of the two-dribble plays above. So, maybe the standard is fitting the spirit of the definition OR a player shooting within two dribbles. That casts quite a wide net.

But remember, don’t cast stones at the Suns from inside a glass house. They’re not alone in their loose assist-granting.

LeBron James set to make debut for Lakers at Trail Blazers tonight

Getty Images
2 Comments

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) — It’s not going to be just a game when the Los Angeles Lakers invade Moda Center Thursday night to face the Portland Trail Blazers in the regular-season opener for both teams.

It will be a happening.

It’s the first game in the splendid 16-year NBA career of LeBron James that the future Hall of Famer will be wearing the uniform of a Western Conference club — the Lakers, with whom he signed a free-agent contract during the offseason.

Members of the national media and a TNT audience will be watching along with a full house at the 20,000-seat Moda Center. And James has caught the fever.

“The season is here,” James told reporters after a recent practice. “First of 82 (regular-season games). It will be fun.”

The basketball world is intrigued to find out how well the 33-year-old James will mesh with his mostly younger teammates, and how much he can help them improve on their 35-47 record of a year ago. Thursday at Moda Center is the first step, but Lakers coach Luke Walton isn’t taking it as a giant leap for mankind all in one swoop.

“We’ve got four years,” said Walton, referring to James’ contract, which calls for three years guaranteed and a player option for a fourth. “We want to make sure we’re not only playing our best come the end of the season, but that he is fresh. It’s a goal for us, and it’s not a one-year journey.”

James, who led the NBA with 36.9 minutes played per game in 2017-18, likely won’t match that average this season. Even so, he figures to be on the court a lot Thursday night.

“If my body is feeling good, then I’m out there,” James said. “If my body is not able to perform at the level I would like to play for my teammates, then I won’t.”

The Lakers could have drawn an easier first opponent that the Trail Blazers, against whom the Lakers have had no success in recent years. Portland holds a 15-game win streak in the series dating to March 2014, and has won seven in a row at Moda Center.

The Blazers mostly stood pat after going 49-33 and earning the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs a year ago, then getting swept in four games by New Orleans in the first round. Portland added a pair of low-cost free agent guards, Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas, to bolster its perimeter shooting game. The Blazers may also have a more significant role available now for 7-1 stretch forward Meyers Leonard, who shot .783 from the field and .727 from 3-point range in the preseason.

“Seth and Nik give us a totally different element with Meyers, the way he shot in the preseason,” Portland general manager Neil Olshey said. “We brought in guys who could have more of an impact at the offensive end.”

The Blazers may be without their starting small forward, Moe Harkless, who missed the entire preseason while rehabbing from knee surgery. His place will likely be taken Thursday night by third-year pro Jake Layman, who averaged 12.0 points and shot .512 from the field and .500 on 3-point attempts through the preseason.

“We’re pleased with the way Jake has seamlessly stepped into that role,” Olshey said.