There is a procedure for determining the MVP. Ballots are e-mailed to 126 media members who cover the NBA on a regular basis, and they are due back at the league office the day after the season ends. The league then tallies the votes and decides when to announce the winner.
That, folks, is a procedure.
Which brings us to proper use of the word “procedure,” and how it relates to the media’s coverage of the NBA. Specifically, the Oklahoma City media – and one writer in particular.
Webster’s defines “procedure” as “a series of actions that are done in a certain way or order; an established or accepted way of doing something.”
So, when player gets injured, and a surgeon and a scalpel are involved, the typical procedure is for the media to report that a player is going to undergo “surgery.”
In the case of Kevin Durant, when he began experiencing soreness in his surgically-repaired right foot nearly a month ago, a surgeon removed a screw from Durant’s fractured right foot and inserted a replacement. The Thunder said he would be re-evaluated in a week, and they used the word “procedure” in their news release.
“Surgery” is a scary word, and it makes sense that the Thunder’s PR department decided to use a more benign term. General manager Sam Presti has been known to be such a control freak that anything published on the team’s web site or released by the PR department must get his personal OK before it goes public.
The media’s job is to sort through the euphemisms and get to the crux of the story. In this case, Durant was clearly having foot surgery — imperiling the team’s chances of making the playoffs. But when the story was reported by Royce Young on ESPN.com, the word “surgery” did not appear in the body of the story. (Presti probably patted himself on the back). In fact, it was termed a “minor procedure.” Today, the Thunder shut Durant down for the season.
This past week, it was learned that Serge Ibaka would undergo arthroscopic knee surgery, and his chances of returning before the playoffs were iffy.
So how did ESPN report the news? Young again refrained from using that dirty word. He said Ibaka would undergo a “procedure.”
Once again, there was a surgeon involved.
Once again, Young did not use that word.
So who is covering the Thunder for ESPN? Is it Presti? Or Young?
This is important for several reasons:
_ If readers cannot trust that a reporter is giving them the full story, they will not trust the writer and they will not trust the news outlet that is doing the reporting. Rule No. 1 for sportswriters is to remain objective. Rule No. 2 is to give their readers the most accurate information possible. Yes, it is semantics. But “surgery” is a far more descriptive and accurate word than “procedure.”
_ Durant and Ibaka have both undergone “surgery” in the past month. So two of OKC’s top three players are out of the picture right now, and Russell Westbrook is carrying the team on his back. That is why he is in the MVP discussion. And if he keeps getting triple-doubles and leads his team into the postseason without any late-season help from Durant and Ibaka, he deserves serious consideration for the award.
_In my book, the “procedure” when voting for the MVP is to make “value” the operative word. Did a player lead his team to an extreme level of success despite unforeseen circumstances? Example: Blake Griffin leading the Clippers to the most wins in franchise history a season ago, while LeBron James captained a season in which the Heat underperformed, by their standards.
My other procedure is to wait until all 82 games have been played before casting my ballot. This is a regular season award, so why not wait until the regular season is over before making a decision? Something can happen in Game 82 that changes the equation, and we could see that very thing this April when the New Orleans Pelicans play the San Antonio Spurs in the final game of the season. If that game determines the Pelicans’ playoff fate, and if Anthony Davis plays a big role in winning that game and getting the Pels somewhere nobody thought they would get, it is going to impact my vote.
So as we move forward, beware anyone who says he already knows whom he or she will vote for. Because in my eyes, that is not the proper procedure for a responsible voter.
And so on we go to the rankings, which is our normal “procedure” in handicapping the race as the season moves along.
1. James Harden, Houston Rockets. Just dropped a career-high 50 on the Nuggets. It was the 29th game with at least 30 points and seventh with 40 this season for Harden, who has been carrying his team solo since Dwight Howard went down with swelling in his knee on Jan. 23. Props to our managing editor, Chris Bernucca, who pointed out in his Monday column of March 9 that Harden led the NBA in career 40-point games (11) without ever having scored 50. Harden’s body of work has stretched through the entire season. Westbrook’s run of triple-doubles has been crazy good, but he has not been producing game in and game out the way Harden has. (LAST EDITION: No. 1)
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors. At a certain point you have to go with the Jeff Van Gundy rule: The only thing that matters is winning. Period. When I was covering the Knicks for the Associated Press back in the day, Van Gundy had a unique idea about how to reward players properly. If you win, you get paid. If you lose, you don’t get paid. Jeff was a font of wisdom back then, whereas now he is a font of negativity every time he speaks into an ESPN microphone – unless he is defending someone in the coaching fraternity. I liked him better when he had hair plugs. He has never liked me, which is fine. I have taken the high road with him and never reported what many maintain was the true reason why he quit the Knicks in 2001 when they were 10-9. As for Curry, the dude is winning at an unprecedented clip — at least for the Warriors. And their victory Wednesday over the Hawks was stunning for its decisiveness. (LAST EDITION: No. 5)
No. 3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder. When Westbrook had a dent in his face, he came back awfully quickly from his “procedure.” The guy is a gamer; right now he is the most exciting player to watch in the NBA. He is turning Enes Kanter into a max player, he is putting together a series of statistical accomplishments that we haven’t seen in the NBA in decades … and yet he may end up watching the first round of the playoffs from his sofa. This is a problem that needs to be fixed, and I wrote an open letter to Commissioner Adam Silver calling for the six division winners and the 10 teams with the next best records, irrespective of conference affiliation, to be seeded 1 through 16 in a new playoff format that would allow for East vs. West games throughout the playoffs. It would be a shame for the postseason to commence without this guy taking part. (LAST EDITION: No. 2)
No. 4. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans. Very, very important thing to remember: His team has the tiebreaker over the Thunder by virtue of beating them 2-1 in the season series. That is why early and mid-April – and the last few games of the regular season – will be so much more compelling to watch than the first round of the playoffs … well, the Eastern Conference playoffs. And remember, this guy has been leading his team despite the lengthy absences of Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday. Yes, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon deserve plenty of credit, too. But when this guy is on his game, he is a wonder to behold. There are no weaknesses in his game. Example: He has a higher FT percentage (.829, 41st in the NBA) than Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant and Gordon Hayward, to name just a few. (LAST EDITION: No. 4)
No. 5 LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers. He showed his peripheral vision skills in the locker room two nights ago when he chastised two reporters for taking cellphone photos of him while he was sitting at his locker wearing only a towel. Media reports of the incident did not identify the reporters, but they should have their credentials revoked. Unprofessional behavior by people like that is what is going to lead to the banning of all media from locker rooms, preventing the professional media members from doing their jobs, further reducing the quality of NBA coverage , and making guys like Royce Young who are afraid to use the word “surgery” the norm rather than the exception. Memo to aspiring basketball journalists: Beware of what you are getting yourselves into. Being on-call and online 24/7 is no way to lead a happy life – especially if you cannot get one-on-one access to the players you aspire to cover. (LAST EDITION: No. 3)
DROPPED OUT: None.
NEXT FIVE: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland; Dwyane Wade, Miami; Chris Paul, LA Clippers; Pau Gasol, Chicago; John Wall, Washington.
EDITION XI: THE END OF THE HEADBAND?
EDITION X: WESTBROOK IS RISING LIKE A VIKING BEAST
EDITION IX: CONSUMMATE NEW YORKER EDITION
EDITION VIII: BLATT IS RIGHT ON LBJ, SORT OF
EDITION VII: MUTTERINGS ON THIBODEAU
EDITION VI: MOZGOV THE MVP, IN A WAY
EDITION V: LeBRON JAMES APPROACHES THE BIG THREE-OH
EDITION IV: FROM NEW YORK TO SLOVENIA TO CUBA
EDITION III: PRINCE WILLIAM MEETS LeBRON JAMES
EDITION II: HEADLINE PORN FOR MARK CUBAN
EDITION I: ODE TO VANCOUVER
Chris Sheridan, publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com, is an official MVP voter. Follow him on Twitter.