The envelope, please, for major awards


Pro Basketball

April 15, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

With the regular season coming to a conclusion this week, it's time to peek at one reporter's ballot for the league's top official honors:

Most Valuable Player: The candidates (in alphabetical order) - Tim Duncan, San Antonio; Kevin Garnett, Minnesota; Allen Iverson, Philadelphia; Shaquille O'Neal, Los Angeles Lakers; Chris Webber, Sacramento.

This year's race is considerably closer than last year's, when O'Neal captured all but one first-place vote, as he carried the Lakers on his broad shoulders to a title.

All five players have had terrific seasons, and serious arguments can be made for all of them. Webber has been simply splendid in carrying the heretofore moribund Kings to the top of the Pacific Division, while Duncan has been similarly terrific in leading the Spurs, the hottest team of the second half, to the league's best record.

The edge, however, narrowly goes to Iverson for rounding out his game and doing about what O'Neal did last season, but with a foot less height and minus 150 pounds. It turns out CNN/SI's Fred Hickman was right about voting Iverson the MVP. He was just a year early.

The order: Iverson, Webber, Duncan, O'Neal, Garnett.

Coach of the Year: The candidates - Rick Adelman, Sacramento; Larry Brown, Philadelphia; Don Nelson, Dallas; Pat Riley, Miami; Jerry Sloan, Utah.

Adelman got the Kings to learn to play defense, and, as a result, they've been around the top of the West standings all year. Nelson, who has been dealing with cancer, got his bunch of ragamuffins to round out into a solid, interesting team. Riley kept the Heat thriving despite injuries to Alonzo Mourning and Eddie Jones. Sloan should get credit one day for keeping the Jazz so good for all these years.

But the best man on the bench this year has been Brown, by far. The peripatetic Man Who Never Smiles has taken the 76ers to a level no one could have expected by challenging Iverson to grow up and be a leader, and by asking the rest of the team to play killer defense and accept Iverson's unconventional leadership.

The order: Brown, Adelman, Nelson, Sloan, Riley.

Rookie of the Year: The candidates - Marc Jackson, Golden State; Kenyon Martin, New Jersey; Mike Miller, Orlando; Morris Peterson, Toronto.

Last June's lackluster draft yielded one of the least exciting rookie races in recent memory. Jackson, who went overseas for three years, was the heavy favorite until he got hurt in February. Martin, the first player chosen in the June draft, made up ground after a slow start, but broke his leg last month and is out for the rest of the season. And Peterson has been a nice complementary player in Toronto but nothing showy. Based on his March performance, Washington's Courtney Alexander might have run away with this if he had been with the Wizards all season.

So, it looks like Miller, who has helped Tracy McGrady guide the Magic to the playoffs in the absence of Grant Hill, will win the award, almost by default.

The order: Miller, Jackson, Martin, Peterson.

Most Improved Player: The candidates - McGrady, Orlando; Donyell Marshall, Utah; Steve Nash, Dallas; Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas; Jason Terry, Atlanta.

If the award went strictly to the person who boosted his stats from one season to the next, then McGrady would win this hands down. But it ought to go to the person who showed the best progression, which makes it a battle between the two Mavericks.

Nash, who was trashed by Dallas fans two years ago, has become a premier point guard, nearly doubling his scoring output and adding a third more assists. But Nowitzki has become a top-shelf player with the ability to play four positions. This award should be his.

The order: Nowitzki, Nash, Terry, Marshall, McGrady.


The Easter Bunny may leave the league a nice gift in its basket today in the form of the 8 millionth point scored in NBA history. Statisticians expect that the history-making point could happen in one of six games today, including the Wizards-Cleveland Cavaliers matchup, which would give spectators exactly one reason to be there.

At any rate, while it took 37 years for 4 million points to be scored in the NBA, the next 4 million have come in just 19 years. Name the player who achieved the milestone. (Hint: He did it against a team he had played for.)

A word of advice

To the president of basketball operations of the Wizards: If you truly are tired of addressing rumors and if you really want people to stop speculating about your return, you need to say, once and for all, that you're not coming back under any circumstances.

In other words, remove that one-tenth of a percent of doubt you've been holding on to.

Quiz answer

Philadelphia's Moses Malone scored the NBA's 4 millionth point in a Feb. 18, 1983, game against Houston.


"All in all, we're still a horrible, horrible team, but we got the win. I'm happy to go home and go out. When we get a win, it's like winning the championship back in Chicago. We can lose 50 in a row and get one win and be king, so we can go home and be king."- Chicago forward Ron Artest after the Bulls ended a 25-game road losing streak Wednesday against the Wizards.

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