No individual award in American sports generates more debate than the NBA MVP. No one cares about hockey, and half the awards are given to players where the voters don’t really understand why they’re voting for them. Baseball awards are too mired in the debate between how we view the game today and how it used to be viewed, what matters now and what mattered then, and of course the difference in how the game is played. NFL MVPs are basically just given to quarterbacks whose standing we’ve already identified.
But the NBA MVP, that’s something of a certificate. Go back through the list and you’ll see pretty much every player was the definitive player of that year or era. Or were supposed to be, and later to be found out as something of a fraud. But even that’s hard to sell. Steve Nash’s two wins were scoffed at at the time and still kind of are, but then more and more teams started playing the way those Suns teams did. Dirk Nowitzki has one, and now almost every big man can play like him. Those are just the ones aside from the pillars of the game’s past and present that have racked them up. If it didn’t make sense at the time, the game has bent to back them, marking them out as ahead of their time.
Winning an NBA MVP is supposed to make a player part of a very exclusive club. And teams are supposed to win championships because they have at least one player in that club. It’s almost unheard of to do so without one, even if the Raptors did it two years ago (though Kawhi Leonard played at that level for that season, at least). An MVP award is basically a ticket into the Hall of Fame (except you, Derrick Rose).
So does Giannis have to give his two trophies back?
Giannis isn’t the reason the Bucks got their asses rubbed in the moonshine last night, at least not solely. Khris Middleton was terrible for the second straight game, they had no one who could hit consistently from three, and the Nets have Kevin Durant, who is in one of his unguardable phases again.
But Giannis certainly didn’t help the cause, and in a game the Bucks really needed, it was the same old story. The Nets cut off the pick-and-roll at the top of the key, put up the picket fence across the foul line, and made Giannis’ drives either unavailable or extremely challenging. And Giannis can’t make teams pay because he can’t hit consistently from outside. The evidence is pretty clear.
It’s disheartening because it’s so predictable. It’s what the Raptors did two years ago. It’s what the Heat did last year. And yet the Bucks keep getting caught cold. The Nets are small, and yet Giannis is unable, or unwilling, to try and generate from the block. It’s not really where his game is, but by this point in his career, it should be. Especially when it’s so obvious how teams will defend him and the Bucks when the chips are down. And yet here we are again.
There’s still time for Giannis and the Bucks to turn this around, and they have two home games coming up. James Harden’s health is a question, and the Nets are beat up elsewhere. But the same problem has been facing the Bucks for three years now, and head coach Mike Budenholzer is still running into the same wall, assured that this time will be different.
Coming to America
The Montreal Canadiens finished off the Winnipeg Jets in the North Division final in overtime, 3-2.
Thanks to the NHL’s COVID divisions, the result has given us one of the better Twitter memes in a while: