Jerry Zgoda's Sunday Insider: Better LeBron = (half-season) MVP

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 3, 2013 - 7:21 AM

Close races abound for the NBA's postseason awards halfway through the season, except for the top rookie.

hide

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6)

Photo: Elise Amendola, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Timberwolves' season hit the midway point last week. Here's a look around the league at the early leaders for the NBA's postseason awards:

MVP: LeBron James, Miami

Yes, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and the Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul have done everything to lead their teams to a better record than the defending champion Heat, but let's go with a novel concept for defining MVP: the best player in the world. Nobody's more efficient or a more versatile defender who's also shooting a career-best 58 percent and is a playmaking point guard in a 6-8 body. He's better than he was last season but not as good as he will be next season.

Runners-up: Durant; Paul; Carmelo Anthony, New York; Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers.

Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard, Portland

A runaway so far in a season filled with close contests, at least until -- or if -- No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis gets completely healthy. The little guy from little Weber State has transformed the Trail Blazers into playoff contenders with his scoring.

Runners-up: Davis, New Orleans; Bradley Beal, Washington; Andre Drummond, Detroit; Alexey Shved, Timberwolves.

Most Improved Player: Paul George, Indiana

A winner who will break the hearts of Wolves fans -- their team had an offer to trade Jonny Flynn to the Pacers for the 2010 draft's 10th overall pick, which it likely would have used to select this guy, but refused it. George is blossoming into a star.

Runners-up: Anthony, New York; Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia; Greivis Vasquez, New Orleans; Larry Sanders, Milwaukee.

Sixth Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford, L.A. Clippers

Perhaps the best free-agent signing last summer. He's a fearless scorer on perhaps the league's deepest bench. The Wolves pursued him last season, but he made his intentions clear when free agency struck on July 1 and the Clippers quickly did the same.

Runners-up: J.R. Smith, New York; Kevin Martin, Oklahoma City; Jarrett Jack, Golden State; Ryan Anderson, New Orleans.

Coach of the Year: Mark Jackson, Golden State

A finalist for the Wolves job when Kurt Rambis was hired in 2009, Jackson had never done this until last season, but he has adapted just fine. He has a top assistant in Mike Malone and a treasure of accumulated talent including David Lee and Steph Curry. With a little luck and Memphis' decision to trade away Rudy Gay, the Warriors could earn a home-court playoff seed.

Runners-up: Tom Thibodeau, Chicago; Mike Woodson, New York; Vinny Del Negro, L.A. Clippers; Frank Vogel, Indiana.

Defensive Player of the Year: Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City

The backbone of an improving Thunder defense. He's an accomplished shot-blocker and active help defender.

Runners-up: Joakim Noah, Chicago; Tony Allen, Memphis; Kevin Garnett, Boston; Sanders, Milwaukee.

JERRY ZGODA'S NBA SHORT TAKES

Hot hand, or hothead?

Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook is back at it.

The All-Star point guard known for freakish athleticism and world-class temper stormed off the court and briefly went to the locker room during Thursday's victory over Memphis.

Westbrook yapped at teammate Thabo Sefolosha and jacked up a shot that caused Scott Brooks to pull him, then blew up when assistant Mo Cheeks tried to talk some sense to him on the bench.

"Listen, Maurice Cheeks and my man Scott Brooks got to handle this," TNT analyst Charles Barkley said afterward. "This has been going on for years now. But now they're an elite team. It's championship or bust. ... At some point, Scott and Maurice got to go, 'Hey dude, you either got to grow up or we can't win a championship.' This thing is going to show its ugly head deep in the playoffs if they don't. ... They've got to handle this."

The Beas is back

Phoenix started 3-2 under Lindsey Hunter after beginning the season 13-28 when Alvin Gentry coached, and former Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley seems to be turning himself about as well.

Granted, it's a small sample size, but entering Saturday night, Beasley had doubled his scoring average -- to 18.2 a game -- and was shooting 53.4 percent when playing for Hunter.

"No more nonchalant Beas," he told reporters. "I'm back to the Beast."

Parting words

TNT analyst Shaquille O'Neal on the Grizzlies' trade last week that sent away Rudy Gay -- and more importantly, his huge contract -- to Toronto: "I don't like the trade because every year there are four or five good teams that have a legitimate shot at winning the championship. Memphis, with Rudy Gay, really had a shot to win the championship."

WOLVES' WEEK AHEAD

Monday: 7 p.m. vs. Portland (FSN). Wednesday: 8 p.m. vs. San Antonio (ESPN/FSN). Friday: 7 p.m. vs. New York (FSN)

Player to watch: Carmelo Anthony, New York Formerly the superstar who never really was, he grew up at last summer's OIympics and now at least has entered the MVP discussion. He set a franchise record by scoring 20 or more points in 31 consecutive games -- a run that ended Saturday.

VOICES "It felt like there were too many people out there." — Ricky Rubio on pregame warmups Wednesday when the Wolves had 12 players healthy for the first time since Dec. 26.

 

  • related content

  • The Wolves' week ahead

    Sunday February 3, 2013

    Monday: 7 p.m. vs. Portland (FSN). Wednesday: 8 p.m. vs. San Antonio (ESPN/FSN). Friday: 7 p.m. vs. New York (FSN)Player...

  • Jerry Zgoda's NBA short takes

    Saturday February 2, 2013

    Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook is back at it.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 101 1st OT 0:52
San Antonio 104
LA Clippers 70 3rd Qtr 2:53
Denver 64
Oklahoma City 0 1st Qtr 10:22
LA Lakers 2
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 3rd Prd
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
NC A&T 57 FINAL
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 51 2nd Half 4:50
Creighton 69
Colorado State 78 2nd Half 0:48
Denver 71
Alabama A&M 46 2nd Half 1:11
Marquette 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 44 2nd Half 5:11
Texas Tech 60
Eastern Wash 24 1st Half 3:38
California 29
Idaho State 20 1st Half 3:43
Utah State 26
Arizona 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 10:59 PM
Chaminade
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
UCLA 71 FINAL
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
NJIT 62 FINAL
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
ULM 42 FINAL
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 67 2nd Half 2:21
Southern Ill 54
Pacific 28 1st Half 7:12
New Mexico St 13
No Dakota State 35 2nd Half
Cal State Fullerton 45
Utah State 39 1st Half 0:23
Sacramento St 44
Bethesda (CA) 17 1st Half 5:50
Fresno State 18
Utah Valley U 21 2nd Half
Montana 34
LSU 2 1st Half 17:05
UC Santa Barbara 2
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close