It shouldn’t be an NBA coach’s job to promote his players for individual awards, although distressingly more and more coaches seem to be up for the extra task. Mark Jackson isn’t an NBA coach, though, and he’s under no obligation to shill for the players on the team he used to coach – the Golden State Warriors – in the same way that he’s under no obligation to hype up any of the seven NBA teams he used to play for.
"If you twisted my arm today, I would probably vote for James Harden. And the reason why is because he singlehandedly has put that Houston Rockets team in position that they’re in today.
“It’d be tough. I think Steph Curry, I’m totally fine with, obviously, he’s my guy. I’m fine with selecting him. The season that he’s had has been incredible. Westbrook with 10 triple-doubles and carrying that team, injury prone, into the playoffs. LeBron being the best player in the world. But I think right now I would go with James Harden for what he’s done. And he’s stepped up his game defensively. He’s not a great defender, but he’s competing on the defensive end.”
On Friday, Stephen Curry lent his voice to the proceedings:
Much has been made of Jackson’s comments, because as Ethan Sherwood Strauss noted, Curry publicly went to work for Jackson last spring when it became apparent that his job was in jeopardy.
"It would definitely be a shock to me if anything like that were to happen. I’m going to voice my support for coach, you know, you’ve got anybody that asks me all summer. He deserves to be our coach next year and we’re going to come back and build off the momentum we’ve gained in the last three years, and continue to grow as a team. And I want Coach Jackson to be the guy leading us."
So Mark Jackson underachieves as coach of the Warriors, creates great unease within the organization (to put it mildly), paints himself as a persecuted figure in the months following his dismissal, throws pathetic shade at the Warriors as they roll toward what could be a nice 69-win season, and now he can’t even support the guy he used to be buddies with as he works on what most definitely is an MVP-level season.
So what? It must be Opposite Day, because we’ve got Mark Jackson’s back, ‘ere.
Mark Jackson doesn’t have to do a damn thing for Stephen Curry’s MVP candidacy. If he feels like James Harden is a small Euro-step ahead of Curry in the race, then he should be allowed to say as much regardless of the ongoing or past relationships he might have with players in the race. That would be the case even if Mark Jackson weren’t a paid (again, for whatever reason) NBA analyst. His job is to fill the air with banal sports talk radio chatter, and Mark Jackson did his job here.
Can we also agree that this is a stupid job?
I watch NBA games all night and write and read about the NBA all day, I love my life and my job, and yet the only time in the week I’m ever, ever considering the MVP race is when I’m asked about it by sports talk radio hosts. That’s not the fault of the hosts, it’s what they’re fans want to talk about apparently, but it’s of absolutely no concern to me – the guy whose obsession with the NBA permeates through just about every waking hour.
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We shouldn’t act as one of those tiresome “SCOREBOARD, dude”-types that abhors the idea of individual recognition within a team sport. There are only five to a side in pro basketball and one player can make a hell of a difference. The raging MVP race fever has less to do with fans’ obsession with the award and more to do with the brilliant seasons that Curry, Harden, Westbook and LeBron are having. Having the award, and the discussions that go along with it remains understandable.
Still, I rather liked Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt’s bemusement about the interest from earlier this season:
"In the European game, there's a lot less talk about it," Blatt said. "It's not something that's constantly gauged and written about or spoken about. First and always it's what the teams are doing in the various competitions that they're playing and then at the end of the day, they decide who the MVP. But it's almost never talked about."
Of course, this will bring in the “International players care more about fundamentals I don’t even watch the NBA anymore nobody plays defense and nobody can shoot and my wife and kids won’t listen to me and I hate my neighbors”-comments, but it’s still worth re-posting.
The MVP race is a close one, and there are arguments to be made for all four players. It’s understandable that many want Curry to win – some fans like their “best player on the best team”-argument wrapped up in a tidy bow, and Harden’s free throw-heavy approach to winning isn’t as flashy and fun as Curry’s forays – but nobody can claim that either is a clear winner. The same would be the case had Westbrook, LeBron, and Anthony Davis had full and healthy seasons. The NBA is in a good place.
And it’s just fine to pick one of four when your arm is twisted and when you’re asked to do so for your job. For once, even Mark Jackson was making sense:
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