But as Rocky Balboa once pontificated, there is such a thing as “the disease of being shy.”
It’s a tough thing, really.
You can’t easily overcome shyness, and it doesn’t really go away over time. Shy people don’t always get everything they deserve, because non-shy people often mistake their shyness for docility or indifference.
In our extrovert-dominant, squeaky-wheel-gets-the-grease society, being quiet can hurt you.
You don’t see a ton of shy people winning Academy Awards, or running for President, or taking home, say, the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. Sometimes people don’t take note of how great you are unless you’re telling them how great you are 500 times a day ad nausea.
So, you probably haven’t heard a lot of talk about Kawhi Leonard for Most Improved Player.
The Spurs forward plays for the NBA’s quietest franchise and just might be the NBA’s quietest player. Have you ever heard him speak? It’s painful. Dude didn’t even smile after he won Finals MVP.
He’d never say this himself, so I’ll say it for him:
Kawhi belongs in the conversation for Most Improved Player.
He is averaging a career-high 21 points per game, shooting 88 percent from the line and 46.2 percent from 3-point range, which is better than Steph Curry! He’s a bona fide All-Star, a candidate for First Team All-NBA and should finish in the top five in MVP voting.
But if you ask him about his basketball greatness, he’d probably just put his head down and mumble something about teamwork, or coach Popovich, or taking it one game at a time.
Shy people. What are you gonna do, right?
OK, I’ve got nothing else to say.
(Lack of eye contact.)
(Nervous phone checking.)
Ummm…let’s just move on? To the rankings:
1. Stephen Curry, G, Golden State Warriors: What slump? Curry shook off a couple of sluggish performances against the Spurs and Wolves by going Larry Bird’s jersey number (33 points) in back-to-back games. His numbers have improved across the board from last season, and we’ll say it again: No one in NBA history has increased his scoring numbers more in the year after an MVP season (he’s at 30.2 ppg after 23.8 last season). Larry Legend is second on that list, improving from 24.2 to 28.7 ppg in 1985-86. Curry’s also got 11 40-point games this season; he had nine his entire career coming into this year.
2. Kawhi Leonard, G, San Antonio Spurs: “Shy Kawhi” is a legitimate – albeit quiet – candidate for this award, as he has improved his 3-point shot by almost 120 percentage points (up to .462). He also is shooting 88 percent from the free throw line, which is 78 points higher than last season. Leonard is making almost 1.5 more field goals per game and putting up a career-high 21 points per (up from 16.5 last season).
3. C.J. McCollum, G, Portland Trail Blazers: The likely award winner (voters have no guts) has been balling lately, going for 26 against the Spurs last Thursday and hanging 30 on the Pelicans a day later. McCollum has been consistent all season long, averaging right around 20 points per game each month. Like any competitor, though, he doesn’t like the idea of being called Most Improved Player. “I’m not Most Improved,” McCollum said earlier in the season. “I’ve always been good.”
4. Draymond Green, F, Golden State Warriors: It’s Draymond’s ability to share the ball that has made him a better player this season. He’s dropped 10 dimes twice in his last six games; overall, his assists are way up, from 3.7 last season to 7.4 this year. He’s also shooting a career-high 48.4 percent from the floor, and took over when Curry couldn’t find his touch against Minnesota, scoring 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting and helping the Warriors to a 109-104 win. Just another reason why Golden State is 65-7.
5. Kemba Walker, G, Charlotte Hornets: We’re keeping Kemba in the rankings in large part because, like Leonard, he has used an improved shot to become a better player this season. His scoring average is 21.1 points per game, up from 17.3 last season, because he is shooting a career-high .377 from the arc (up from .304) and a career-high .430 overall (up from .385 last season).
ALSO FROM KELS DAYTON: SIXTH MAN RANKINGS