It’s going to come down to LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant.
That is your MVP race and it is going to be close. Chris Tomasson at Fox Sports Florida decided to ask 11 former MVPs who would get their vote. Fun idea.
Durant won five votes to four (with two abstentions).
“I think that this year’s MVP award will end up in the hands of Kevin Durant,’’ Abdul-Jabbar said of the Oklahoma City forward. “Durant is my choice as front-runner due to the success of his team. Yes, he is on a young and talented team, but his presence has been the catalyst for their recent dominance.’’
For a dissenting opinion…
“There’s no question LeBron deserves the MVP, with his performance playing a complete game and for a successful team,’’ said Hakeem Olajuwon, the 1994 winner for Houston. “When you look at his contribution to his team and their record, there’s no question he deserves it.’’
I personally lean toward LeBron, but I think the final voting will go a lot like this poll — close but with a slight edge to Durant. While LeBron has had the better statistical season, Durant has a better narrative and his team and person are just better liked in general.
It is close. LeBron is scoring 26.9 points per game on 52.8 percent shooting, with 8 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. He has a league best PER of 30.5 and he contributes more on defense than does Durant. Not that Durant is putting up shabby numbers — 27.8 points per game on 50.3 percent shooting with 7.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game and a PER of 26.7.
I don’t think Durant is a bad choice, I just think LeBron has had the better season and done more for his team at both ends of the floor. But when you ask people who write stories for a living to vote, the guy with the better narrative wins whether or not he is the better statistical choice. Ask Derrick Rose.
After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.
The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.
But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.
Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:
“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.
“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.
This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.
But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.
Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.
Pistons big Jon Leuer underwent meniscus surgery, leaving plenty of doubt about his availability for next season.
Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
After losing Anthony Tolliver in free agency (to the Timberwolves), Detroit needs Leuer as a stretch big off the bench. Unless Henry Ellenson is ready for rotation minutes, which…
If Leuer isn’t quite ready for the start of the season, Stanley Johnson could play small-ball four, but that weakens wing depth.
The Pistons’ best hope is Leuer getting healthy on schedule.
Mocking Dwight Howard‘s frequent team changes has become commonplace around the NBA.
It even has crossover appeal.
On “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver opened his monologue on President Donald Trump’s trade war with a few jokes at Howard’s expense. Suffice to say, Oliver doesn’t believe Howard will transform with the Wizards.
(warning: rest of Oliver’s speech contains not-safe-for-work language)
Paul Pierce was stabbed 11 times at a Boston nightclub on Sept. 25, 2000. He suffered a collapse lung and underwent emergency surgery. But Pierce famously played all 82 of the Celtics’ games that season. That feat was seen as a testament to his resolve.
Really, it was a coping mechanism .
Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:
Long after he was released from the hospital, Pierce remained nervous, jittery, anxious. He couldn’t sleep. The Celtics urged him to seek counseling, but he waved them off. “I thought, ‘I can do this myself,'” Pierce recalls. “I didn’t want anybody else in my business.”
But as the weeks dragged on, moving around in public spaces became almost unbearable for Pierce. The trauma of the event had stripped him of his confidence. His anxiety spiked while dining at Morton’s restaurant in Boston just a few months after the stabbing, when the manager approached him with a house phone and said a friend was insistent on speaking with Pierce. He picked up the receiver, and a menacing voice sneered, “I’m going to kill you.”
“So now I’m really paranoid,” Pierce says. “I don’t want to go anywhere. The police sat in the front of my house for months. I was a mess.
“I think that’s the reason I got back on the court so fast. Me sitting at home thinking about [the stabbing] didn’t work. I went to every practice, sat on the sideline for hours, because that’s where I felt safe. I didn’t want those practices to end because then I had to go back out there in this world that really scared me.”
“I should have opened up earlier than I did,” Pierce admits. “It was eating me alive. Once I finally started talking to a family member, it helped me.
“I realized, ‘I should have done this sooner.’ I would tell everyone to get the help they need. My depression was bad — really bad. I never want to feel that way again.”
This is one small excerpt of MacMullan’s incredible piece on mental health in the NBA. I highly recommend reading it in full.