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Ball Don't Lie

The NBA handed out its Executive of the Year Award. Twice

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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A tricky situation was made much trickier Tuesday by the NBA. The league asked its 30 executives to vote for its Executive of the Year Award, and Miami's Pat Riley tied with Chicago's Gar Forman with 11 first-place votes.

Awkward.

What's that? Chicago's John Paxson got three votes? Voters didn't know which Chicago personnel boss to vote for?

Awk-ward.

And despite pulling in two of the best players at their respective positions in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and one who's not far off in Chris Bosh, teams may have decided to vote against Miami because they're jealous with Riley buying up all the good marbles and then rubbing their faces in it? They're now insisting that Riley share the award with his Chicago brethren, who together earned 14 votes to Riley's 11?

SUPER AWKWARD. LIKE, FIRST SEASON OF THE UK VERSION OF THE OFFICE-AWKWARD.

The Sun-Sentinel's Ira Winderman (writing here for Pro Basketball Talk) will be the first to admit to being a little biased as he writes from his Miami-area home, but the Chicago native writing you this particular post can also admit that Ira's probably a little right, in his take on the subject.

Let's quote him:

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In essence, there were 14 votes for what the Bulls accomplished, 11 for the Heat's haul.

First, let's recap: The Bulls visited Cleveland in July to woo James. They then held multiple meetings with Wade and Bosh in Chicago.

Riley signed all three.

Chicago then settled for consolation prizes Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer.

Winderman goes on to point out that the Bulls did have the best record in the NBA this year, and perhaps the biggest signing of the offseason happened when Chicago inked Tom Thibodeau to …

No, let's stop there. The biggest signing was the one where LeBron James signed with the Heat. The best one after that was when Dwyane Wade signed with Miami. Then there was the one with Bosh, after that. The Mike Miller signing was 142nd.

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I've always pictured the Executive of the Year Award as a term designation that starts with the draft, and leads up through the end of the regular season. So the Bulls shouldn't get credit for grabbing Derrick Rose a couple of years ago, and Riley doesn't really get credit for grabbing all those expiring contracts.

And, taking in that 10-month stretch, Riley acquired better talent for his basketball team. There's no question about that. Based on that, he deserves the award moving forward, because there isn't an NBA team out there that wouldn't prefer Miami's summer of 2010 booty in comparison to Chicago. Even if Rose were thrown in, perhaps.

However, I would have voted for Gar Forman. He has a slight edge, mind you. And I'm one hundred percent sure this wasn't what the team execs were thinking when they voted for Forman or Paxson. No, that was jealousy.

I'm not jealous. OK, I'm a little jealous, but I have another take.

Pat Riley has not completely let one of the brightest young minds in this game coach the Miami Heat as he sees fit.

Riley has gradually loosened the reins on the Heat's playbook this year, but by and large Erik Spoelstra is still using the 2006 sets that can be quite predictable at times. While I'm not going to pretend that Forman and/or Paxson have the same gravitas or coaching know-how as a man who led five championship teams to the top of the heap while on the sidelines, they have molded their Bulls in Tom Thibodeau's image. And that's the biggest reason why Chicago's newish roster won 62 times in 82 tries, and Miami struggled needlessly.

The Heat are molded, still, in Riley's image. And he has to let that go if this team is ever going to reach its potential. The Heat could waltz to the title this year (they probably will, actually), and they still might not meet that potential.

To me, that's a slight edge to Chicago. It was enough for the Bulls to change and grow as the year moved along. It was enough for them to point to the scoreboard, as they won more games than Miami (or anyone else) this season. It took too long for Riley to trust his former tape operator, and as a result there was some real square peg/round hole business going on in Miami.

The point is to win games, and while Riley did more than Forman did to help his team win games, he also added in some mitigating factors with his leadership that made it so Miami won fewer games than Chicago. It's not significant, but there is a difference there.

But, by all means, enjoy your split award. All three of you.

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