So, we now know that the Miami Heat will get the chance to experience springtime in Milwaukee. Except for the fact that springtime in Milwaukee typically lasts about two days. Then winter returns. Then summer magically appears out of the blue.
And there’s no telling from year to year whether those two days will be in April, May or June.
True story: While covering the Eastern Conference finals in 2001, it was May 31 and the Bucks had just finished practice and were preparing to play Philadelphia in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. Ray Allen gave an interview to myself and Doug Smith of the Toronto Star saying the outcome of the series had already been pre-determined by the NBA, which wanted to see Allen Iverson in the finals.
Yes, Allen said the series was fixed — and this was one day before Game 6 was going to be played. Then then went out and had nine 3-pointers as the Bucks forced a Game 7, which they lost in Philly.
Realizing that Allen was dropping a bombshell (and coach George Karl was going there, too) and perhaps speaking without thinking, Smitty and myself gave him a chance to temper his comments by asking a few follow-up questions in which we asserted the seriousness of his allegation. But Allen would not back down — “It’s all about BRI (basketball related income)” and having MVP Allen Iverson in the finals, Allen said – and so I filed my story to the AP desk in New York, stepped outside to get to my rental car and walked through a freezing rain.
It was so cold, you could see your breath.
On May 31.
So James should not expect an abundance of warmth to greet him and his teammates when they travel to Milwaukee for Games 3 and 4 of their first-round sweep. James will know where to get the best steak in America (he was tipped off to a place in Dahmer’s old neighborhood) and he will be able to indulge in frozen custard, which is what Milwaukeeans eat instead if ice cream, and with good reason. If he likes beer, the smart thing for him to do would be to find a place that serves Schlitz, which has gone back to its original formula.
But what he will not know throughout the first round, and which he won’t get a feel for, is whether he will have become the unanimous winner of the MVP award. The NBA keeps those results a closely guarded secret, and it would not be unprecedented for a lone wolf voter to put him in the No. 2 spot (see last week’s rankings for the story of how Chris Paul received 125 of 126 first-place votes for Rookie of the Year).
But he is going to get the award, and what little suspense remains concerns who will finish second behind him.
I will cast my ballot at the conclusion of Wednesday night’s games (and here’s hoping that the No. 8 spot will be on the line in the Lakers-Rockets and Grizzlies-Jazz games), and I will have LeBron in the top spot.
For spots 2 through 5, I remain uncommitted — but these rankings give a clear indication of which way I am leaning with four days left in the season. Check back Thursday for a column on who I voted for in all the NBA postseason awards. Coach of the Year and Sixth Man are the two toughest decisions. Danny Schayes says COY should be Mike Woodson.
For now, here’s how I have the MVP race …