NBA Schedule released, here are your highlights

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This NBA season is shaping up to be a fun one.

Yes, we know, we know… IF there is an NBA season. But deep down we want to believe that the owners and players are too smart to piss away all the momentum the league has built up. For today we’re going to move ahead with the assumption the entire NBA schedule is going to be played. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

So here are your schedule highlights.

Opening Night, Tuesday Nov. 1: Chicago at the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, which means a banner gets raised and players get their rings (or whatever); also Oklahoma City against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Nov. 2, the New York Knicks christen the renovated Madison Square Garden with a season opener against the Miami Heat. Also, Mark Jackson gets to start his coaching career at home as Golden State catches a Lakers team on a back-to-back.

Nov. 3, Orlando Magic on the road against the Miami Heat, and Andre Miller and his new Nuggets teammates take on his old team in Portland.

Nov. 13, the Chicago Bulls start their annual circus trip, on the road for eight straight games while clowns fill the United Center. No, not Vinny Del Negro, actual clowns.

Nov. 16, Carmelo Anthony makes his return to Denver as a member of the Knicks.

Also, the Boston Celtics travel to Miami to face the Heat. Little Miami Heat note here, they start the season off with 9 of 12 at home and 25 home games in the first three months of the season, then just 16 the last three months.

Nov. 18, Miami comes to Cleveland and while the rest of the nation has moved on there’s still some anger in that city.

Nov. 24, Thanksgiving, Philadelphia at Atlanta and the New Orleans Hornets take on Blake Griffin and the Clippers.

Dec. 8, the Los Angeles Lakers at the Miami Heat.

Dec. 15, the Los Angeles Lakers travel to Dallas and try not to be embarrassed again.

Dec. 25, Christmas, just three games on the schedule that day: Boston at New York, Miami at Dallas in a finals rematch, and Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers.

Jan. 6, Milwaukee travels to Phoenix — the Bucks have not won in Phoenix since 1987.

Jan. 12, Sacramento at Utah, also known as the Jimmer Fredette homecoming game.

Jan. 14, Deron Williams returns to Utah as the Nets come to visit.

Feb. 6, San Antonio Spurs start their nine-game rodeo road trip staring against the Wizards (a rodeo takes over the Spurs arena for a couple weeks).

Feb. 9, the Los Angeles Lakers come to Boston, and not just to see the Bill Russell statue.

Feb. 26, NBA All-Star game in Orlando… the perfect family-friendly city for an event filled with wild parties and debauchery.

March 11, Boston comes to Los Angeles to see the Lakers and not just Jack Nicholson.

March 29, Dallas finally comes back to Miami for a finals rematch.

April 1, a rematch of one of the best playoff series, Memphis at San Antonio.

April 17, Spurs at Lakers — these two old rivals play two of the final four games of the season against each other.

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

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Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates and family for helping him reach this point.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.

James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win.

The last player from Europe to win the MVP award was Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

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Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.

This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year

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Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).

It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).

Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.

He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.

Clippers’ Lou Williams won second-straight, third overall Sixth Man of Year Award

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The Clippers bench play this season was the reason they made the playoffs (and pushed the Warriors to six games in the first round). Montrezl Harrell blossomed into his own as part of that.

However, it was Lou Williams who made it all work, which is why he won his second straight (and third overall) Sixth Man of the Year Award on Monday night. He garnered 96 of the 100 first-place votes.

Williams spoke from the heart about second chances and his faith in himself.

“Four years ago, I thought I was done, like I was coming to the end of my career,” Williams said.

Williams averaged 20 points a game and he is still one of the better bucket getters in the NBA, an isolation master. What he did better this year, however, was playmaking, dishing out 5.4 assists per game. His teammate Montrezl Harrell — the NBA’s best energy big off the bench last season who finished third in the Sixth Man voting — was the biggest beneficiary of those passes.

Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis came in second in the voting, with Spencer Dinwiddie of the Nets third and Terrence Ross of Orlando fifth. Here is the voting breakdown.