The 2009-10 Inaugural NBA Cliché Awards
Now I know most of you are probably thinking, "Wait, what?" and I can't really blame you for that, but stick with me. I was sitting on my couch watching my fifth consecutive hour of NBA TV trying to determine who I thought deserved the individual achievement awards for this season, when I came to realize something.
Now, I'm not sure if you have watched a whole lot of NBA TV before, but if you have, you know exactly what I mean when I say the commentary isn't really all that great. Don't get me wrong, I love the coverage they provide, and there is a definitely a reason I stay glued to that channel. It's just, sort of the minor league for former players that turn to announcing, and as a result, there are about four or five poorly used sports clichés per segment.
This got me thinking, people are using these clichés for a reason, and that is because they apply. So, I decided that I would take some of my favorite overly used sports clichés, and appoint them to a team based on relevant aspects of that teams season.
Simple right? Well, maybe not, but either way I digress, and present to you, the inaugural Cliché Awards.
Taking It to the Next Level
Hold on a second...wasn’t it supposed to take the Thunder a couple more years before they made the playoffs? Kevin Durant was supposed to need a couple more years to develop into a superstar, and his surrounding cast definitely needed some time to mature, right? Wrong.
Kevin Durant definitely took it to the next level, and then he proceeded to go ahead and jump up to a whole other one. Not only did the third-year swingman that defines the word lanky get into his first All-Star game, he also led the entire league in scoring--netting just more than 30 points a game. He also led his team to a 52-win season, paving the way for the first playoff appearance in franchise history.
Russell Westbrook, well, he took it to the next level too. He managed to average 16 points and eight dimes per game in just his second season in the league. It was also a season in which he consistently stepped up and made big plays when his team needed him too, while proving to be a perfect sidekick to Durantula on the offensive end of the court.
Jeff Green decided to play up to the expectations that the, then, Sonics had selecting him with the pick that was sent by Boston in exchange for Ray Allen, the move that started the rebuilding plan that molded the current Thunder roster. He scored 15 points and pulled down eight boards per game, all while playing stellar defense all season long at a variety of positions.
Sure, it’s probably not going to happen this season, but as long as they can hold on to all the players, this is a team that can contend for a championship one day. At least for now, it is going to be a lot of fun to watch the Durant vs. Kobe matchup in the first round of the playoffs.
Although, to beat a Lakers team that is hitting on all cylinders (foreshadowing), the Thunder and Durant will have to once again take it to the next level (zing!).
Hitting On All Cylinders
It must be nice to be a Lakers fan knowing that your team has been sitting on top of the Western Conference for what seems like months, watching teams battle frantically against each other in hopes that they won’t have to face your team in the first round of the playoffs.
Don’t get me wrong, the Lakers have a really tough Thunder team in the first round, but when it comes down to it, the Lakers really are hitting on all cylinders.
They have looked great all season long. Kobe was Kobe. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum both played the way that the Lakers needed them to play when they were healthy. Odom continues to be one of the best sixth men in the league, dominating the glass and tabloids with ease. The bench looks great as well, especially with the emergence of Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar.
The only real question mark with the Lakers all season long has been Ron Artest; and when the biggest question mark in the entire league is your team’s biggest questions mark, you shouldn’t really sweat it too much. Despite a lackluster season, Ron Artest will go into the playoffs ready to play hard-nosed defense on Kevin Durant, reminding us all of what he did to deserve that free-agent contract last offseason.
Expect to see Phil Jackson and the Lake Show playing in June.
A Bitter Pill to Swallow
Growing up in Michigan, the general mantra was always "in Joe D we trust," and why not right? He was a key part of those back-to-back championship ‘Bad Boys’ teams, and also built a championship team that also made six consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference Finals. Sure he had the occasional blunder—-*cough*Darko*cough*—-but for the most part he had been great.
That was until this year, where Joe has left us with the ‘Next Generation Bad Boys.' Now, don’t be confused by that title, I’m not talking about the type of bad that usually describes mamma jammas or Leroy Brown, I am talking about BAD, as in, BAD at playing the game of basketball.
Was it really worth clearing up Chauncey Billups’ salary, to deal with the whole Allen Iverson fiasco, only to recklessly throw huge contracts at Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, so that they could go on to average a combined total of 25.7 points per game?
Let’s face it, Joe has lost his touch. Not only did he throw those two huge contracts out, he is still stuck with Rip Hamilton’s awful deal on the books. Remember Rip? He’s the guy that Joe prematurely gave a huge extension to a couple of seasons back. He used to make jump shots. Oh yeah, did I mention he plays the same position as Ben Gordon?
The team is a mess, and all of that is without even mentioning the fact that the team has missed the playoffs for the first time in my post pubescent life, and finished the year at 27-55.
Yeah, I’d the say Pistons really earned this Bitter Pill to Swallow award.
Gave it 110%
If you were to tell me at the beginning of the year that Michael Redd would blow out his knee and miss the entire season, I would not have been surprised.
However, if you were to tell me that despite this, the Milwaukee Bucks would finish 10 games above .500 and finish the year as the 6th seed in the east, I would have not only laughed, I would ask you how much you wanted to wager.
Luckily for me, no one really ever mentioned the Bucks. That was, until their super fly, hi-top fade wearing point guard blew up against the Warriors for 55 points in November. Jennings had a fantastic rookie season, but that particular game may have actually set him back, as he began to force his own shot far too often, rather than letting it come him through the offense.
What that game did do, however, was awaken his teammates. The Bucks’ veterans realized that it was going to take a lot more for them to win than having their star rookie pour in 50 on a nightly basis. This allowed Brandon Jennings to buy into Coach Scott Skiles' system, resulting in the Bucks starting to play some great team-first basketball. They didn’t have a single player average more than 20 points a game, but they had seven guys that averaged double figures.
Speaking of Scott Skiles, it will be a travesty if anyone else wins Coach of the Year. The way he got this team to play together, as well getting Andrew Bogut to increase his level of play the way he did, makes him by far my hands-down favorite to win the award.
The Bucks definitely gave it 110%. Andrew Bogut played his way into the top five centers of the league discussion. The front office made a brilliant move bringing in John Salmons, which was the definite turning point for their season. John Salmons was absolutely amazing as well, leading the Bucks to a 21-8 record after the All-Star break.
With the unfortunate injury to Bogut at the end of the season, I have a feeling it will take about 120% to get out of the first round against Atlanta.
Taking It One Game At a Time
This cliché is usually saved for college athletics, used often by coaches when pressed about the big rivalry game looming ahead in the next couple weeks. However, since the Nets spent most of the season playing like a JV college squad, I deemed it appropriate.
12-70. Yup, that was actually the Nets' final record this season.
Actually, New Jersey, I think you guys may have taken it a little more than one game at a time. As a matter of fact, if remember correctly, you guys started the season 18 games at a time. Yes, that is right; the New Jersey Nets actually began this year 0-18, costing my all-time favorite nerdy coach, Lawrence Frank, his job.
The Nets were so bad, as a matter of fact, that when I went to do some research on the team's official site, the first thing I seen was a countdown until the 2010 Lottery, not the DRAFT mind you, but the lottery. No, you really can’t blame Nets fans for wearing those bags on their heads.
At least they have Brook Lopez, who happens to be a really good basketball player. He hasn’t had too many chances to prove it yet, due to a lackluster supporting cast, but his averages of nearly 19 points, nine boards and two blocks per game aren’t inflated. He is actually that good. It’s too bad we didn’t get to see him next to a healthy Devin Harris for the entire season as well.
Let’s just hope that Jay Z and that Russian billionaire can right this train by grabbing John Wall or Evan Turner in the draft and making it rain all over the free agency market. Oh yeah, that new crib in Brooklyn won’t hurt either.
Left It All On the Floor
How are the Rockets good? Their success reminds me of a Dikembe Mutombo press conference--even though I don’t exactly get it, I absolutely love it.
Yao goes out for the year, Tracy McGrady’s career as a Rocket more or less expired, and they still found a way to be in playoff contention all season long. Those guys have been the staple of the franchise for years, and now, were M.I.A. all year...and the Rockets still found a way to finish two games above .500.
Aaron Brooks was an absolute stud this season, and will most likely win the Most Improved Player award. Luis Scola is underrated, and shouldn’t go unrecognized for getting 16 points and more than eight boards a game while shooting better than 50% from the field. Trevor Ariza outplayed his media proclaimed counterpart Ron Artest in just about every category, and Shane Battier did exactly what you would expect Shane Battier to do.
It wasn’t just the players that left it all out on the court however, the Houston Rockets front office had a spectacular season. They did everything right, whether it was the free agent signing of Ariza, bringing in Kyle Lowry, or trading for the draft-day slider and absolute steal Chase Buddinger. It seemed like every move they made panned out.
Then, the trade deadline came around and they absolutely nailed it out of the park (maybe they should have won that award?) by bringing in the big time scoring threat that they absolutely needed in Kevin Martin, as well as two former lottery picks in Hilton Armstrong and Jordan Hill. On top of that, they got the right to swap 2011 first rounders with the Knicks, who will probably be as bad as usual next year, as well as getting New York’s first rounder in 2012 outright.
Kevin Martin averaged better than 21 points a night in a Rocket uniform, and Jordan Hill has looked like he actually deserved to be in the lotto. This Rockets team is going to be trouble out west next year, mark my words.
I know I said they left it all on the floor, but I just felt the need to point out that this is going to be a team that will be starting Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin in what will be sure to be a dynamic backcourt, with a frontcourt consisting of two consistent work horses in Trevor Ariza and Luis Scola, and this one 7’6 guy from China that we haven’t seen for a while.