Bulls-Wizards Playoff Preview: Five Key Factors

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Joakim NoahThe Wizards made us really, really upset on the final night of the regular season by moving up from sixth place to fifth place, denying us a rematch of last year’s Bulls-Nets series that went seven games and was won by Joakim Noah in his old home borough.

Well, I guess it wasn’t the Wizards’ fault. All the Nets needed to do to lock up that matchup (and avoid the Heat in the second round) was beat Cleveland. Instead, they lost by 29.

Hmmm. When you think about it, that might have been the signature moment of this Tankapalooza season.

Sheridan’s Postseason Awards Ballot: Durant is MVP, Thibodeau is Coach of the Year

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voterIn a break with tradition, I am casting my NBA awards ballot after the 81st game, not the 82nd. It’s a rarity, but this season I will not hem and haw and sleep on it until the afternoon after the final day of the season. You’re welcome.

I have been an official NBA postseason awards voter for nearly a decade, and it would have been longer if not for a rule at the Associated Press, where I worked from 1987-2005, forbidding beat from voting for postseason awards (It is OK for them to declare the national champion in college football, but it is not OK for them to vote in other sports. Does that make sense?).

It is a privilege that I do not take lightly.

Chris Bernucca’s Postseason Award Choices

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Image.AdamSilverTransparency is a two-way street.

For years, NBA media members – echoing the sentiments of its passionate fan base – wanted more transparency from Commissioner David Stern and his executive staff. Whether it was a lottery drawing, a suspension in the playoffs or a referee scandal, folks felt like they were entitled to an explanation. And they were.

Stern grudgingly came around. He arranged for the media to meet with referees prior to the season about rules changes. He allowed the media into the lottery drawing. He okayed press releases that admitted, Yes, we blew that call.

Since replacing Stern as commissioner less than three months ago, Adam Silver has taken the NBA’s transparency up a notch. He declared that there will be an open dialogue about officiating and is walking the walk by making internal memos available to the media.

But Silver is getting something back, too. At All-Star Weekend this year, the media presented the notion of transparency with regard to how its members vote on postseason awards, and the commissioner bought in. 

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Mark Heisler’s Postseason Award Choices

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Heisler_125Now for the annual post-season awards no one else has, by whatever means necessary.

Kill this page if you’re looking for the Blue Plate Special featured everywhere else with Michael Carter-Williams as Rookie of the Year, Gregg Popovich as best coach, DeMar DeRozan as Most Improved, Joakim Noah as Defensive Player of the Year, etc.

All are deserving… but it’s not as if the other candidates are chopped liver, as it seems these days when everyone compares picks over the internet and— Moooooo! –joins the herd.

All of these categories are close. In all of them, voters can use whatever criteria they choose.

In other words, it’s a meaningless popularity contest. How much good did the second of LeBron James’ back-to-back MVPs in 2010 do him after he flamed out in the postseason while playing hurt, then left Cleveland for Miami?

Joakim Noah, Al Horford and others around the league thrilled about Corey Brewer’s 51 points

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corey_brewer_headshotWhen you think of Corey Brewer, scoring is not the first thing that comes to mind. The swingman has never scored more than 29 points in his seven-year career, so it caught plenty of people off guard when they saw the stat sheet between Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets:

51 points.

He shot 19-of-30 from the field and also had six steals. How hot was he? This hot. It was a career game worth remembering for Brewer, who helped the Timberwolves upset the Rockets 112-110 despite playing without Kevin Love, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic. Some of his college teammates and others who were simply impressed in general reacted to the surprising outburst by Brewer on Friday: