March 18, 2008 -- Is it just me or are there awards for just about everything these days? Finish in last place in the town spelling bee? No worries, here is a plaque with your name engraved on it. Place sixth at the best homemade chili contest at the county fair? Step right up, there is a ribbon waiting for you. Eat 66 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes? Here is a check for 10 grand.
That inspired me to come up with some awards of my own that I doubt you will actually see handed out.
Tale of Two Cities Award
(Given to the player who helped two different teams reach the playoffs)
The winner this season is Kyle Korver. His trade from Philadelphia freed up playing time for rookie Thaddeus Young. As a Sixers fan, I loved the sweet-shooting Korver, but the Sixers were going nowhere with him in the lineup. His departure allowed Young to show that he is one of the important pieces to the puzzle that is the Sixers future.
The 12th pick at last yearís draft, Young has seen an increase in production in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Iím not saying he is the biggest reason Philadelphia is 17-6 since Jan. 26, but he does deserve some of the credit.
Korver's new team, the Jazz, has been on a roll since he unpacked his bags. In the 36 games Korver has played in, Utah has an impressive record of 28-8.
Best of Both Worlds aka Underachieving Duo Award
(Given to two of the best in their profession who decide to perform on the same stage like R. Kelly and Jay-Z only to produce disappointing results)
The winners this season are Denverís Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. Melo (25.5 points, 7.4 rebounds per game) and A.I. (26.5 points, 7.2 assists) have both enjoyed outstanding individual seasons. Still, despite their big numbers, if the playoffs started today, the 40-26 Nuggets would be home watching the postseason from their couches. That would be a huge letdown for a franchise that also has Defensive Player of the Year, Marcus Camby.
This Year We Crawled, Next Year Weíll Walk Award (Given to the team that is rebuilding a lot faster that anyone could have predicted)
The winners this season are the Portland Trail Blazers. Greg Oden, who has missed the entire 2007-08 campaign, was at practice the other day giving teammates a glimpse of what they can expect to see next year. Led by budding stars Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, the young but talented squad is three games over .500 with 15 games left to play. A playoff berth is not out of the question next season.
The winners this season are the Phoenix Suns, who are trying to mesh an aging future Hall of Famer with a group of fast athletic players in time for the playoffs. Thursday night was the perfect example of why the Suns may be better equipped for a long postseason run with Shaquille O'Neal playing a limited role. Shaq played just 14 minutes because of foul trouble, so Phoenix was forced to play small ball. The result? The offense clicked on all cylinders and the Suns ran past the Warriors, 123-115. That is the style of play that helped Phoenix win 177 games the past three years and the style of play that the lumbering OíNeal is not best suited for.
Best Superhero Sidekick Award (Given to the player or players who help an existing megastar achieve a goal or get in position to achieve said goal)
The winners this season are Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. As we enter the final month of the regular season, Boston's two offseason additions have been as good as advertised. Paul Pierce and the boys are the only squad in the Association with over 50 wins (53-13) and have been the leagueís top team since day one.
Educator of the Year Award (Given to the person who excels in his field at properly teaching and micromanaging to achieve extraordinary results. This honor is similar to the Coach of the Year Award)
The winner this season is Rick Adelman. He has the Rockets sharing the ball, playing defense as if their lives depended on it and has allowed all of the role players a chance to show what they can do. Houston has won 10 games in a row since Yao Ming shut it down and 22 straight overall to take over the best record in the West.
Run, Here Comes Deebo From Friday Award (Given to the team that nobody wants to face in the postseason for fear of a bully-like beat down)
The winner this season is the defending champion Spurs. With all the hype the Lakers have received, the attention being showered on the streaking Rockets and the feel-good story in New Orleans, not enough pundits are talking about the Spurs. In Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan, they have two players who wonít win the MVP, but deserve to be mentioned in any conversation about the candidates, a legendary coach, an All-Star point guard and a ridiculously deep bench.
Donít Take Fantasy Advice From These Guys Award (Given to the franchise that makes a midseason trade that upsets at least one title contender)
The winners this season are the Memphis Grizzlies for the Pau Gasol deal. The Lakers got Gasol for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, the rights to Marc Gasol and two first-round picks (2008 and 2010). While the trade helped Memphis as far as the salary cap is concerned, the reason rival teams such as the Spurs werenít happy is because the Lakers didnít have to part with any of their core players. Pau is averaging 18.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists since arriving in Los Angeles 19 games ago.
The New York Knicks for many obvious reasons.
Last Week's Rank - 1
With his partner in crime Pau Gasol injured, he had the opportunity to put a little space between himself and the two MVP candidates trying to chase him down. Instead, the Lakers suffered back-to-back losses to Chris Paul's Hornets and Tracy McGrady's Rockets. L.A. has dropped three out of four.
Last Week's Rank - 3
So much for me stating that the MVP race would come down to Kobe and LeBron. I was this close to putting CP3 into the No. 1 spot this week after he notched his sixth game of the season with at least 30 points and 10 assists on Monday.
Last Week's Rank - 2
James continues to put up big numbers on a nightly basis, but unfortunately the Cavs are struggling to string together wins. In their past four games, they've lost to the Nets, Wizards and Magic, while beating the Bobcats.
Last Week's Rank - 5
The streaking Rockets are getting all of the headlines for good reason, but don't overlook the Celtics who have won 12 out of 13 and are 29-1 against teams with .500 or worse records.
Last Week's Rank - 7
In Houston's matchup with the Lakers on Sunday, T-Mac was scoreless at halftime. While most scorers on his level probably would have forced some shots in the third quarter in an attempt to get their numbers, McGrady continued to let the game come to him. That is proof that he trusts his teammates and that winning is more important than stats to him.
Last Week's Rank - 8
"I got Paul for MVP this year," Garnett told the Boston Globe last week. "He does a lot of things, just little small things that people don't see. There are only three people I like to watch on offense, and he's one of them, man. He makes scoring look easy. He has an uncanny confidence about him that I love, cockiness and self-assurance. I told you, there is a reason why I came here. He's one of the reasons."
Last Week's Rank - 11
The Mavericks are 21 games above .500, riding a five-game winning streak and last season's MVP is playing some of his best ball of the season. What does that get you in the West? The seventh seed.
On the Outside Looking In (averages - last week's rank)
Last month at the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans, Cleveland's LeBron James was rewarded for his all-around on-the-court brilliance by being selected for MVP honors. Did you know that if James were to win the regular season and Finals MVP as well, he would become just the fourth player in league history to accomplish that feat?
The others are:
Willis Reed, New York Knicks (1969-70) Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (1995-96, 97-98) Shaquille OíNeal, L.A. Lakers (1999-2000)