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NBA Awards 3/1/13

Thursday Night Action 
The only non-TNT game last night was the only game with any drama – Clippers/Pacers, two of the better teams in the league. It was at Indy, but the Clippers won, largely behind CP III’s best game in quite a while – 29 pts, 6 reb, 8 asst & 11-18 shooting, including scoring the last 8 Clipper points. Additionally, Blake double-doubled (18/14) and Jamal Crawford won The Hollow Man Award off the bench – 23 pts, 1 reb, 0 dimes, 0 stl, 0 blk. David West (22/6/4) & Paul George (20/4/5) led Indy but both shot poorly, combining to go 12-32 from the floor. Lance Stephenson was quite nice at SG though, hitting 7 of 8 shots for 16 pts to go with 7 rebs, 4 asst, and some nice defense on CP III at times…..The Bulls hosted the 76ers and rode an absolutely monstrous effort from Joakim Noah (more below) to a 93-73 victory. Philly was behind basically all night, but closed to 75-71 with 7 minutes left, but then Chicago went on an 8-0 run and that was that. Boozer (21/12) was also big in the game, while the 76ers got a nice double-double from Spencer Hawes (20/15) and 22 pts from Jrue Holiday. Chicago still has offensive woes to deal with, as Noah was the only Bull to shoot better than 50% in the game, as the team shot 38.6% from the floor, 3-14 from distance…..In the final game of the night, the Lakers had very little trouble handling Minnesota, winning 116-94 behind 33/5/5 from Kobe. The Timberwolves were led by their guards as Rubio was two rebs from a tri-double (13/8/13), JJ Barea had 20/4/5 off the bench, and Ridnour poured in 19. Derrick Williams had 15 & 8 rebs in his homecoming (La Mirada is about a 30 min drive from Staples, unless the 5 freeway is packed).
The Akeem Olajuwon Award —  Joakim Noah  —  23 pts, 21 rebs, 1 asst, 7 FTM, 3 stl, 11 blk, 0 treys, and 8-12 shooting…What a game…11 fly swats! The first 20/20/10 blk tri-double since 7’6″ Shawn Bradley in 1998 (yeah…he did have his moments). An interesting question came into my mind last night: Can Joakim’s hoops career ever equal his dad’s tennis career? Let’s look at the data. Yannick won 23 tourneys (13 runner-ups), including one slam win (1983 French), and made just one other slam semi in his career – the 1990 Aussie Open. He definitely underachieved in this regard, as he finished the year ranked in the top 10 every year from 1982-87 (finished 4th in 1986, his best). He did make 8 other slam quarterfinals though. As for his son, he made his first All-Star team this season, and would definitely be regarded as a top 25 player in the league right now, maybe even top 20. He has twice averaged a double-double for a season, but missed 18 and 34 games those two seasons. He only missed two games last year, and was just .2 rebs away from averaging a double-double again. This year he’s missed just 4 games so far, and is having his best season yet, averaging a career-high in pts (11.9), rebs (11.4), asst (an impressive 4.2 – among the best of the bigs), stls (1.3), and blks (2.2). He just turned 28, and has never been as gifted athletically as his dad (played with a lot of flair, very graceful & smooth), but probably has 3-4 more years of prime play before he starts declining significantly. So he’ll probably come up a bit short, but I’d say he’s definitely bettered his dad in one area already – getting the most out of his natural talent.
The Mark Randall Award —  Chauncey Billups —  3 pts, 1 rebs, 1 asst, 0 FTM, 1 stl, 1 blk, 1 treys, and 1-6  shooting in 21 minutes…Now in his 16th season, I stll remember seeing him play live twice his rookie year and being very impressed – first with Boston, then with the Raptors. I liked his size, his burst, and his aggressiveness. I had no idea he’d eventually become such good, polished PG, known for hitting many clutch shots, but I was definitely surprised when just a couple years later (1999-2001) he was basically thought of as a 10 min/night backup, a former #3 overall pick who became a bust. But he revived his career in Minnesota during the 2001-02 season when Terrell Brandon went down, signed with Detroit the following summer, and the rest is history – an NBA title, 5 All-Star games, and 8 straight seasons of at least 16 pts, 5 dimes. A very unique career arc – very rare for a guy to emerge so late after basically being considered a bust 3 yrs into his career.

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