Around the Rim: A tale of two kings


1. The new king of the league
He’s got the rings and now he’s got the trophy. For the first time in his career, Kobe Bryant can officially be called the MVP. It took 12 seasons of patiently waiting for his turn in the spotlight, but Bryant ran away with the award on Tuesday, taking 82 first-place votes for a total of 1,105 points compared to Chris Paul who finished second with 28 first-place votes and 889 total points. Kevin Garnett finished in third while LeBron James came in fourth place. Bryant will receive his trophy tonight before the Lakers host the Jazz in Game 2 of their second round series. There’s no doubting Bryant deserved the award with his 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.84 steals per game during the regular season, but we’re figuring it was the wins that earned him the trophy. After all, besides winning more games, his numbers are virtually identical to his production over the previous five to eight seasons. If you ask us, there is a distinct bias against young players amongst the MVP voters. It the same bias that kept the award out of Bryant’s hands in the past and kept Paul from winning his first MVP despite posting better numbers than Steve Nash did in either of his two MVP reigns.

2. Knocked off his throne

It wasn’t pretty for King James or his court in Game 1 against the Celtics. LeBron James finished with just 12 points on 2-of-18 shooting as Cleveland lost 76-72 in an ugly, ugly offensive game. Despite grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out nine assists, the game was one of James’ worst ever considering he racked up 10 of the team’s 17 turnovers. LBJ became just the third scoring champion to have two or fewer field goals in a playoff game the same year they won the scoring title. It was that bad. While the grass was greener on the Celtics’ side of the fence, it still wasn’t all that great. Ray Allen went scoreless for the first time since his rookie season and Paul Pierce missed 12 of his 14 attempts, finishing with just four points. Luckily, Kevin Garnett’s 28 points proved to be enough in a tremendously disappointing game for both teams and the fans alike.

3. Mike D’Antoni weighs his options
Chicago might have finally found its next Mike. While Michael Jordan won’t be walking through the arena’s doors anytime soon, Mike D’Antoni very well could be. The current Suns coach appears to be off to the Windy City where he will become the latest person to attempt to make the baby Bulls grow up. Chicago GM John Paxson sounded impressed after a pair of interviews with D’Antoni, but New York is still a possible landing spot. Personally, we think it’s a good move if the Bulls want to put together a European-style, run-n-gun offense, but the defense will never be a priority under D’Antoni. Rick Carlisle would be a much better candidate for turning Chicago around, but it’s sounding more and more like he’ll be heading to Dallas.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Kevin Garnett vs. Cleveland 40 min, 28 pts (FG: 13-22, FT: 2-2), 8 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl

Buzzer Beater: From the “Too little, too late” file:

The NBA admitted Chauncey Billups’ 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter of Monday’s Detroit-Orlando playoff game should not have counted, but said referees weren’t allowed to review instant replay to determine that.

League president Joel Litvin also said the disputed shot, which gave Detroit a 78-76 lead in its 100-93 victory, could not have been replayed after the clock malfunction was discovered.

“After reviewing the video of last night’s Pistons-Magic game, we determined that the play that concluded with Chauncey Billups’ 3-point field goal at the end of the third quarter took approximately 5.7 seconds,” Litvin said in a statement. “Because there were only 5.1 seconds remaining in the quarter when the play began, the shot would not have counted had the clock continued to run.”

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