First of all, I want to congratulate TrueHoop's Henry Abbott on his huge move to ESPN.com. There could be no bigger NBA midseason news. He's the leading NBA blogger, and it's a fantastic move for ESPN to get him. I had the chance to finally meet him in person a few weeks ago, and he was as genuinely nice face-to-face as he is via email. I'll be curious to see the reactions and reverberations throughout the insular sports-blog world. (My question, of course: Which NBA blog out there fills the void as the leading "indie" voice?)
Next, I want to thank all the readers who contributed their own awards analysis in yesterday's preview post. (Click on the link, then scroll down through the comments, many of which are very astute.)
At midseason, here's what I've experienced so far: The NBA season – for all of its flare-ups and mini-dramas – is dragging. When the most intriguing debate is over which player should go No. 1 in the Draft, it's a slow year.
The NBA regular season has become – or perhaps always was – a non-factor. The Playoffs are everything, and it doesn't help that we already seem to know the contenders:
(And the East is a joke: Everyone seems to be simply waiting around until the Playoffs start and the Heat turn it on -- it crystallizes this idea that the regular season is irrelevant.)
That's a big reason why these Midseason Awards are so important: They allow for fans to spotlight the handful of players and stories that have made the season slightly more than a mere prelude to the playoffs.
MVP: Gilbert Arenas. Let me ask you this: In the preseason, who had the Wizards in contention for best record in the East and Eddie Jordan coaching the East All-Stars? (Anyone? Anyone? Exactly.)
I'm also layering in off-court impact, and this season, no player has had more of that than Agent Zero. (And, yes, I am absolutely biased by the fact that he's the bloggers' favorite player.)
Rookie: Kevin Durant. Oh, wait. What a weak crop! As good as the draft in June will be, the negative consequence of artificially holding this year's freshmen back from the NBA is that this season's NBA rookies are totally uninspiring. Brandon Roy will get most of the votes. Andre Bargnani probably deserves it, as one Commenter pointed out, for being a contributor on a playoff team.
(Actually, if I could go completely unconventional with my pick, I'd take the group blog over at NBA Fanhouse, which has had the best debut of the NBA season.)
Coach: Isiah Thomas. You read that right. Has he led the Knicks to playoff contention? No, but no coach – not Mike D'Antoni, not Phil Jackson, not anyone – would have done that. Let's stick with the standard he had to beat: Larry Brown. And he has nearly done it... in nearly half the number of games.
Most Improved: David Lee. An afterthought of a draft pick (and on Larry Brown's bench), Lee has turned himself into one of the most high-energy, high-impact players in the league -- he has emerged as one of the NBA's top rebounders, particularly offensively. And, yet, he's still not starting. (PS: I appreciate the votes for Kevin Martin and Deron Williams.)
Biggest Disappointment: The Nets. They should be absolutely dominating that sorry Atlantic Division, but instead they are hobbled by injuries (Kristic,
*Nash: Better than ever?
*Arenas: Bloggers' MVP
*Amaechi: "Man in the Middle"
*Nuggs: Melo's ban, AI trade
*Celtics, Grizz: Race to bottom
*Draft Debate: Oden or Durant?
Feel free to weigh in. (Don't forget to check out yesterday's Comments.)