Thursday, April 17, 2008

Advantage... and End-of-Season Awards

Feigen said it right in his blog entry (Rockets versus Jazz. Bad matchup. Good news?), the Rockets have a terrible match-up but they're better off. Nobody believes they can win, which is strangely when they win. Plus, they get the added bonus of being underdogs with home-court advantage. And even though T-Mac's backing off the heat on this one, it's still on Mac. Just in a different kind of way.

As Feigen mentions, yes, the Jazz will not double McGrady unless it is warranted. T-Mac must make it so. He doesn't have to play great, just good enough to draw double teams. The offense can then take its course. The hustle and defense of Battier, Scola and Hayes will do what they can against a versatile and physical Jazz front-court. Whatever Boozer, Okur or Kirilenko do, the Jazz will play bad enough on the road to give Houston a chance. Whether Mac likes it or not, the Rockets will win or lose each game based on his shooting. Which isn't to say Mac isn't right about his assessment of the team's new offense. It's not on him to create every play, no, but it is on him to create when no one else can.

But we do prefer him to defer don't we? How many of us cringed last season when he said it was all on him? When he guaranteed 2nd round status? In truth, it is on him, but we don't want Mac to say it, or act it. Because for him, the pretense just seems to be too much pressure. Just play ball like you used to, like you have something to gain instead of everything to lose.

• • •

2007-08 NBA End-of-Season Awards

Most Valuable Player: I've thought all season that despite Kobe clearly in a class of his own as the best competitor (if not, flat out best player) in the league, that Chris Paul was doing unprecedented work for the Hornets. The Hornets... Paul has made them into a contender, not without David West, of course, (but really, would we be talking about the Lakers as a Finals shoe-in without Pau Gasol?) Paul does things on the court physically I've never seen anyone do at any level. Granted I can only go as far back lucidly in the NBA as Isiah, but I watch the EBC at Rucker Park every summer and nothing, not the best street-ballers in the world can do what Paul does. But, as I've been telling Duke and my brother, Train, since after the All-Star break, it goes to who wins the Western Conference. My friends, your MVP is Kobe Bryant. Finally. (Honorable Mention: Chris Paul; Also getting votes: Kevin Garnett, Lebron James)

Coach of the Year: It's Doc Rivers. Anything else is unacceptable. And Tom Thibodeaux should get a nice blurb on the engraving. Biggest single-season turnaround in NBA history (42 gms), 1st in opponents FG% (.419), 3FG% (.316) and point differential (+10.3) and 2nd in opponents PPG (90.3) behind only the Detroit Pistons. Byron Scott did New Orleans proud but Doc made Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett work. Ask Rudy, Dream, Charles and Scottie Pippen how easy that is. Or isn't. (Honorable Mention: Byron Scott; Also getting votes: Rick Adelman, Phil Jackson)

Defensive Player of the Year: It's gotta go to Shane Battier this year. I don't know how he's been completely overlooked in past seasons. But this time, even from a mainstream media perspective, he's impossible to ignore. Everyone saw what he did with Kobe in that game vs. the Lakers on ABC. He was the best defender on a very good Rockets defense. Of course, KG wasn't half bad either. Call me homer. (Honorable Mention: Kevin Garnett; Also getting votes: Chris Paul, Marcus Camby)

Sixth Manu of the Year: Just call it the Ginobili award. (Honorable Mention: Leandro Barbosa, Jason Terry)

Most Improved Player: I've always been a fan of Hedo Turkoglu. I spent 5 months in Turkey, traveling and playing ball and fans out there loved him for being in the NBA but always thought Mehmet Okur was the real deal. Now they know better. Hedo was Orlando's offensive MVP this season, it all generated from him. If you thought otherwise, you wouldn't be crazy, but you'd be wrong. Every year should be a contract year. (Honorable mention: Stephen Jackson)

Rookie of the Year: This is usually a hype award and Kevin Durant has gotten the hype all season long. But Luis Scola and Al Horford have been right there with him for becoming integral pieces to playoff teams. Durant can't say the same about the Sonics. March and April saw significant increases in production from Scola, having been locked into the Rockets starting rotation; and Horford as the Hawks made their push for the 8th spot in the East. Unfortunately, it also saw Durant put up the best numbers of the year. Say what you want about his shot selection but Durant put up 21.8 ppg on .526 shooting in March and 24.3 ppg on .461 shooting in April, not to mention 6.4 rebs and 4.1 asts per. Dropping 42 on the final game of the season doesn't hurt either. Averaging 20+ ppg in the NBA for a full season is not something any rookie can do. So how did Jordan drop 28.2 ppg in 82 gms his rookie year? (Honorable mentions: Al Horford, Luis Scola)

Originally posted at Yao Central on April 17, 2008 11:01 AM

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