April 25, 2012 2011-2012 DC Dime Awards
Edited by: Bohlin
As the NBA regular season winds down, it’s time for the Dime to take a nostalgic look back on the lockout-shortened year. This season has been filled with intriguing story lines, drama (Cough, Dwight Howard, cough), lingering injuries, but there’s one thing that stands out above the rest: the schedule. With owners looking to minimize the hit to their bottom lines from locking out the players, the league embarked on the most compact season in its history. Teams were forced to play 66 games in a total of 124 days, including at least one stretch for each team of games three straight nights for the first time since the 1998-99 lockout-shortened season. In one word, the schedule was stupid. It was more physically grueling than it needed to be and as a result the product suffered. Stars such as reigning-MVP D.Rose, Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki, and the lovable Z.Bo (Zach Randolph, if you don’t know now you know) missed significant time due to injuries. With all that said, the year wasn’t a total failure; we got to see why the league hasn’t had more talent since the days of His Airness. We witnessed the emergence of young stars in Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio (Before a Kobe knee ended his season), an underdog making the world Linsane in the membrane, an unappreciated star taking their game to the “next-level” in Kevin Love, and continued excellence from all the usual suspects (CP3, Kobe, Lebron, KD, Steve Nash etc.). The league is currently in great hands; we have veteran stars continuing to play at a high level, and young stars scrapping to become household names. Here at the DC Dime we wanted to show some love to the year’s top performers, and express our disdain for those who fell short of expectations. Without further ado, here are your 2011-2012 DC Dime Award Winners:
1) Defensive Player of the Year- Over the last few seasons, this award has belonged to Dwight Howard. No one can affect the game on the defensive end like Superman. Unfortunately, this year Dwight was more worried about where he would be playing next season than he was in leaving it all on the floor for his current team. Not that he mailed it in, which he didn’t, but he never fully invested himself in the success of his team. For this, he is not eligible to defend his title for the fourth year in a row.
This year, the award deserves to go to Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks. Even in the midst of his best ever offensive season (He’s shooting 68% from the field), Chandler continued to be dominant on the defensive end. Take a look at the Knicks roster. Outside rookie Iman Shumpert, not a single player on that team has any interest in defending. The Knicks are a middle of the pack defensive team this year thanks to the work of Mr. Chandler.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Garnett, Lebron James
2) Coach of the Year- Did you know that the Coach of the Year award has never gone to the same coach in back-to-back years? Unfortunately for Tom Thibodeau, this year will not be the year that breaks that streak. Thibs has done an absolutely amazing job with the Bulls this year, currently leading the Eastern Conference despite the fact they played without MVP Derrick Rose for 26 games this season. However, he has been outdone this year by a veteran who definitely deserves to win this award for a second time: Gregg Popovich.
Popovich has shocked the system and guided the ageless Spurs to the West’s top record. He has dealt with the injuries of Manu Ginobili, introduced more youth than normally accustomed to with the emergence of Tiago Splitter, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, managed Timmy Duncan’s decline ( DNP-Old, remember that?), and changed styles of play to better suit Tony Parker’s skills. He’s got the Spurs looking like a legitimate contender for a title. The man’s a four time NBA champ, and its time he’s recognized by the media for his coaching excellence.
Honorable Mention: Thibodeau, Doc Rivers, Vinny Del Negro (Just Kidding)
3) The Donald Sterling Memorial Award- If it’s a reward in honor of Donald Sterling, you already know we won’t be lauding an executive for excellence. In fact, we will be rewarding the exact opposite. Mr. Sterling has been the golden standard for ineptitude in sports ownership/management for the last three decades. Due to his insistence on cutting corners and costs, and his ability to alienate a fan-base and be loathed far and wide, Donald Sterling is the epitome of bad. Why give a reward in Donald’s honor you ask? It’s simple. At the DC Dime, we’re not interested in patting these millionaire and billionaire businessmen on their collective backs for doing their jobs as decision makers well; we’d much rather ridicule and criticize the judgment of the ones who suck at their jobs. There were many deserving performances submitted by executives throughout the league for the inaugural Sterling Memorial Award. A runner-up who really stood out is none other than league commissioner David Stern. Serving as owner/decision maker of the New Orleans Hornets, Stern introduced sports fans to a never before seen conflict of interest in his handling of the Chris Paul situation. As he unloaded one of the best players in the league for a poo-poo platter of players/picks highlighted by a talented, but oft-injured Eric Gordon, Stern tarnished his legacy as one of the sport’s great commissioners. BUT, he did grace us with what became our favorite hashtag of the month of December when he nixed said deal for simply “Basketball Reasons”, and for that we thank him.
The only person more deserving of this award is the most fiercely competitive man in NBA history, that’s right Michael Jordan. MJ raised the stakes on David Stern’s candidacy by not only trotting out the worst team in NBA history, but also showing himself to be an extreme hypocrite throughout the lockout. One of the “hard-line” owners throughout this year’s lockout, MJ had once famously told our own Abe Pollin (RIP) “If you can’t make it work economically, you should sell the team”. Mike, take your own advice in the offseason and jump ship, it’s a lost cause in Charlotte. But, do take this inaugural Donald Sterling Memorial Award with you as you ride off into the sunset.
Honorable Mention: Ernie Grunfeld (Consolation prize is a two-year extension!!!!)
4) Sixth Man of the Year- This is the only award that deserves a unanimous vote. Going into the year, we knew this was James Harden’s award to lose and the Beard did not disappoint. Being more like a 6th starter than a 6th man in terms on minutes played (32 MPG); Harden was at many times the Thunder’s most dangerous offensive weapon. Possessing a throwback game, Harden is as comfortable distributing the ball off a pick-and-roll as he is knocking down an open jumper. He is the perfect complement to the skills/personalities of stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook all the while rounding out the league’s newest (and potentially most dangerous) “Big Three”.
5) Most Improved Player- This award is one our favorite to present. This award goes to a player who took the long off-season to improve many areas of his game and came into the season prepared for a breakout year. The countless hours in the gym go entirely unnoticed until the games start; and if you can’t translate the skills from the practice floor to the games, all your hard work means little. These players really seized their opportunities this year, expanded their roles and made a huge impact for their teams. These guys aren’t super stars, but true professionals and deserve some praise for their terrific years.
Greg Monroe- The sophomore really took his game to another level this year. Although much of his work went unnoticed as his Pistons struggled through the season, Monroe quietly emerged as one of the league’s top young big men due to his sophisticated skill set and efficiency.
Ersan Ilyasova- Ersan (Or Ghostface Ilya as my colleague Michael Bohlin calls him) came out of nowhere this year to help many a fantasy basketball team to their respective championships (including this Dimer). The young Turk put up some gaudy numbers throughout the year, including multiple 20-20 efforts.
Ryan Anderson- A sharp shooting big-man, Anderson provides Orlands with a perfect front court complement to Dwight Howard. Deadly from three-point range, this former first rounder out of California has found himself a nice home this year in Stan Van’s three point happy attack.
Kevin Seraphin- Our beloved Washington Wizards may have found a gem, ladies and gentlemen. Seraphin blossomed after the trade to ship JaVale out of town and showed that he may be the big man of the future in DC and not just some French guy with 6 fouls to use up. After an off-season to continue to improve and work with veteran Nene, we should all be excited about the future for this young big.
These players are all deserving of recognition for their improvement, but there can be only one winner. The award goes a big man who hails from the DMV, stayed at home to go to school, and was rewarded for his stellar play with his first All-Star appearance this year. That’s right; this year’s Most Improved Player award goes to…
Roy Hibbert- Hibbert, much like throughout his college career, continued to get better as the season went on and helped anchor the middle for an upstart Pacers team. Posting career highs in Rebounds, Points, and Blocks, all while leading Indiana to the postseason. For these reasons, Roy is our winner for most improved player.
6) Least Valuable Player- Annually, the league recognizes the player that had the greatest impact on his team during the given year with an MVP trophy, ensuring his place in NBA lore. But why not allow the least valuable player get his due place in NBA infamy? A few players need to be mentioned in the consideration for least valuable player. Chris Bosh came into the year “stronger” and “bigger”, boasting he would average double digit rebounds. Bosh is currently averaging fewer than 8 rebounds a game and posted a less than impressive amount of double digit efforts. He is the Heat’s highest paid player, but has done little to warrant the fat checks and the “Big Three” moniker.
As mentioned above, Dwight Howard spent much of this year going back and forth on whether he wanted to remain in Orlando. Ultimately, Dwight choose to stay but has since shut it down due to back surgery and is reportedly going to be asking to be shipped out of town in the offseason. His constant waffling and his alleged desire to see his head coach canned dominated the league’s headlines this year. Dwight did have his normally dominant year, but we were just too distracted by his antics to notice.
The players above certainly have had forgettable years. But they do not come close to the season had by the run-away winner of the LVP so let us congratulate….
Lamar Odom- Mr. Kardashian had his feelings hurt so badly that the Lakers wanted to trade him for Chris Paul (A better player) that he shut it down for the entire season. The reigning sixth-man of the year was never able to muster up enough pride to compete for the defending champion Mavs, leading to Mark Cuban sending him home for the remainder of the season. All the while, we were able to watch his life unfold on reality-TV as he became the newest member of the Kardashian clan. Lamar is going to find employment next year, he is too talented not to. But buyers beware, we saw this year just how big a head-case the LVP truly is.
7) First Team All-NBA- A traditional First Team All-NBA will include one player from each of the five positions. At the DC Dime, we don’t want to be forced to pigeon-hole players into strict positional categories; it’s much more important to us to reward the 5 players who had the best seasons, regardless of position. After much debate and consideration, here is our First Team All-NBA:
Chris Paul- The maestro in Lob City, Paul helped make the Clippers relevant for the first time ever, for that alone, he deserves the nod.
Kobe Bryant- After a visit to his favorite doctor in Germany, Kobe came back this year gunning for Kareem’s scoring mark. No matter the miles he racks up on his body, he continues to play at an elite level and put the ball in the basket.
Kevin Durant- KD holds a narrow lead for the scoring title, but he expanded his game in other areas this year. Durant helped lead the Thunder to one of the league’s best records and has emerged as one of the league’s truly elite superstars.
Lebron James- Despite extended absences from D.Wade and a bench that may be worse than last years; Lebron kept the Heat in the race for the East all year. The league’s most complete player, James is capable of dominating the game on both ends of the floor like so few can.
Kevin Love- Love made the jump this year into the elite. Playing alongside Ricky Rubio, he had the Wolves looking like a legitimate basketball team again and has made David Kahn seem like a respectable decision maker again after his years of ineptitude.
8) Most Valuable Player- The Most Valuable Player award this year is widely regarded as a two horse race, with Durant and Lebron as the two most likely candidates. Many players had terrific years, but these two stood out above the rest. However, just yesterday the always humble KD came out and gave his endorsement for his rival to receive the award. If there was any doubt in your mind before who should win the award, that simple statement should wipe it away. Even the fiercely competitive Durant is able to acknowledge the truth; that everyone’s favorite player to hate came back this year with a more complete offensive game (a scary thought), and has played this season at a historically high level. We have seen few players do what Lebron James has done this year statistically. His dominance on the offensive and defensive side of the ball (he’s a lock for First Team All-Defense) make him the most complete player in the game. He’s put up career high in rebounds, and increased his scoring efficiency with highs in field goal percentage, and three point percentage. He’s added a low post game after years of refusing to go down to the block. Regardless of what you think of him as a person, or businessman, you have to respect him as a player. James will be entering a special class of players by winning his third MVP trophy, but he needs to add some jewelry to his finger before truly being on that level. The MVP is just a regular season award after all, now it’s time to see how the MVP will fare when it really matters: in the playoffs.
Editor’s Note: Echoing Jason’s last statement should LeBron (Or LeBum as I like to call him) win his third regular season MVP trophy this year he will be the only three-time league MVP to have not won a Championship. Better get working on all those titles he predicted at whatever that gathering was in South Beach last summer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT-I8jQDQ7c).
9) Rookie of the Year: Last, but certainly not least we have to recognize the young guys. The future of the association is certainly bright as we had numerous rookies leave their mark on the NBA landscape. One young star shined brighter than the rest however, not surprisingly, I am refering to Kyrie Irving. The first pick in last summers draft proved to the doubters that despite playing in only a handful of college games at Duke he was more than ready to lead a team against the big boys. Averaging 18.8 ppg and 5.5 apg while shooting an impressive 47% from the field Irving ignited life into a stagnant Cleveland Cavaliers franchise that was thought to be left for dead after Lebron took his talents to South Beach. In my opinion, Irving is the run away winner of this award. While Ricky Rubio did have a nice season before it was unfortunately cut short by an ACL tear it would be hard for me to look at him as a rookie as he has been playing professionally in Spain for years now. Kyrie took a hapless Cavaliers franchise and made them somewhat competitive winning 20+ games this season after being the whipping boy of the NBA in 2010-2011.
As we wind down from what has been an extremely entertaining NBA regular season and look to the playoffs we at The DC Dime, once again, would like to congratulate all of the players named, for good and bad reasons, in our Inaugural Awards article. Were we to actually have any of your addresses you would receive your award and I can assure you it would be glorious. Thanks again for reading and we look forward to unveiling the next phase of The DC Dime to you all shortly!