The blog post about comparing the NBA and the Oscars

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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.

Stephen Curry is hitting ridiculous shots. Again. Including 3/4 court shot to end quarter.

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Stephen Curry is a show unto himself.

Before the game, Curry was doing this during warmups.

Then at the end of the first quarter came this.

The man is worth the price of admission, even when the Warriors struggle (which they did in the second quarter of this game and the Spurs took a comfortable lead).

Isaiah Thomas gets choked up after tribute video, welcome back from Boston fans

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Isaiah Thomas is still loved in Boston.

He’s the undersized hero who played like an MVP, led the Celtics to the playoffs, all while playing through hip pain and the death of his sister. He embodied what Celtics fans want to see in their stars.

Monday night he returned — in a Denver Nuggets uniform — and IT became emotional during the tribute video and reception from the fans in Boston.

There was more love when Thomas checked into the game.

Next season hopefully Thomas is fully healthy for an entire season and lands in a place where he can truly showcase his talents.

Isaiah Thomas not happy to be benched in Denver, still working to find way back

Associated Press
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Isaiah Thomas is frustrated and nobody can blame him.

Just a couple of seasons back he was fifth in the MVP voting and was lined up for a “back up the Brink’s truck” payday, but he tried to play through a hip injury that eventually required surgery and nobody stepped up with a payday. This season in Denver, on a one-year minimum contract, he was given plenty of time to get his body right, but when he came back he wasn’t helping a team thinking deep playoff run. Thomas averaged 8.6 points a night but is shooting 27.3% from three (where he takes 44% of his shot attempts), and even when he gets to the rim he’s only finishing 50% of his attempts. Coach Mike Malone couldn’t keep Monte Morris — who is a Most Improved Player candidate with his play this year — on the bench while Thomas worked things out, and IT has been moved out of the rotation.

That doesn’t mean he took the news well. From Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

It’s very possible we’ve seen peak Thomas. That doesn’t mean most of the NBA is rooting to be proved wrong on that — I’m among many who want to see him succeed.

Hopefully next season he lands somewhere and really gets that chance. Denver became too good too fast to really be that place for him this season.

 

Celtics, Nuggets look ahead to playoffs, not to past meeting

Associated Press
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ASSOCIATED PRESS — November was a long time ago, so chances are the Boston Celtics have gotten over Jamal Murray‘s antics from the first time they played the Denver Nuggets.

Then again, NBA players have long memories.

Murray scored 48 points in the Nuggets’ 115-107 in Denver on Nov. 5 and jacked up a last-second 3-pointer to try to reach 50. Boston guard Kyrie Irving wasn’t happy and threw the basketball into the stands after the buzzer, drawing a fine.

After the game, Murray acknowledged he got caught up in the moment, and Irving said there would be no hangover.

“What kind of competitor wouldn’t it bother? I was (mad), but we’re not going to make a big thing about it,” he said that night.

Irving can prove there are no hard feelings when the teams meet in Boston on Monday night. In fact, the Celtics might be thanking the Nuggets for helping them in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Denver beat the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night while Boston was taking care of Atlanta, allowing the Celtics to move within a game of the Pacers for the fourth seed.

Boston (43-27) has two more games against Indiana but the Nuggets are the immediate priority. The Celtics have bigger concerns than payback for Murray, too. Center Al Horford left Saturday’s game after he banged his knee but was able to return, while forward Gordon Hayward left in the first half with a strained neck and didn’t return.

Horford appeared fine but Boston is trying to manage his minutes down the stretch. Hayward’s status for Monday is unknown after colliding with Atlanta forward John Collins. Coach Brad Stevens said after the game that Hayward was woozy at halftime.

“You could see right away that it was quite a hit,” Stevens said.

Denver has dealt with injuries all season but is finally fully healthy. Despite that, the Nuggets have struggled the past two-plus weeks, going 4-4 since Feb. 28 and needing late-game heroics to pull out two home wins.

All-Star Nikola Jokic hit a game-winner against Dallas on Thursday, and Saturday it was Paul Millsap saving the day. Denver (46-22) is securely in second place in the West as it starts a four-game trip through the Eastern Conference, thanks in part to a 12-3 record in games decided by three or fewer points.

“It’s great. Those are the moments that make the team,” Millsap said of the close victories. “It shows the type of character we have, it shows the type of team we have. Those situations can make or break a team and we’ve been able to thrive off of it.”

Jokic has been the catalyst, leading the team in scoring (20.3), rebounds (10.7) and assists (7.6). He showed his temper Saturday when he got ejected with 2:56 left and Denver leading by seven. Indiana rallied to tie it only to have Millsap hit the winning layup with seven seconds left.

“(We’re) talking about an All-Star guy who gets knocked around a lot, but through it all he (does) have to keep his composure, fight through it,” Millsap said. “Playoff atmosphere. Plays like that are going to happen, you’re not always going to get the call, you just have to fight through it.”

Monday’s game could be the first Nuggets guard Isaiah Thomas plays at TD Garden since he was traded to Cleveland 18 months ago. Thomas led Boston to the 2017 Eastern Conference finals but was dealt for Irving in the offseason, and then to the Los Angeles Lakers during last season.

Hip surgery kept him out until just before the All-Star break. He played in nine games before being out of the rotation the last three heading into Boston.