Monday the NBA announced the Players of the Week for the past seven days. This wouldn’t normally be tweet-worthy news, but this week saw a veteran player get the honor for the first time in over seven seasons.
NEW YORK — The Atlanta Hawks’ Paul Millsap and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant today were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, Jan. 20, through Sunday, Jan. 26.
Millsap led the Hawks to a 3-1 week behind averages of 21.3 points (ninth in the conference) on .508 shooting from the field, 7.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.5 steals (fifth in the conference) and 2.0 blocks (fourth in the conference).
Millsap collected five blocks in a road win over the Orlando Magic on Jan. 22, and filled the stat sheet with 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists on Jan. 20, in a win over the Miami Heat.
Durant led Oklahoma City to three wins during a 4-0 week, having missed the 101-83 win over the Celtics on Jan. 24 (shoulder). He averaged a league-leading 38.0 ppg and added 8.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists.
Durant collected a triple-double with 32 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists during a 103-91 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 25.
Here is a recap of the week for Millsap and Durant:
Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks
Jan. 20 vs. Miami: Scored 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting, and added seven rebounds and four assists in a 121-114 win over the Heat.
Jan. 22 @ Orlando: Collected 24 points, six rebounds, five assists, five blocks and three steals in a 112-109 win over the Magic.
Jan. 25 @ Milwaukee: Tallied 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals in a 112-87 win over the Bucks.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Jan. 21 vs. Portland: Scored 46 points and added five rebounds and four assists during a 105-97 win over the Trail Blazers.
Jan. 22 @ San Antonio: Tallied 36 points, seven rebounds and five assists in a 111-105 win over the Spurs.
Jan. 25 @ Philadelphia: Notched a triple-double with 32 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in a 103-91 win over the 76ers.
Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Brooklyn’s Mirza Teletovic, Charlotte’s Al Jefferson, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Memphis’ Zach Randolph, Miami’s Chris Bosh and LeBron James, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, New York’s Carmelo Anthony, and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross.
This is not the NFL, which has been America’s pastime for a generation and can do no wrong in the eyes of its fans. The only time the NFL has an image problem is when a storm affects satellite reception.
This is also not baseball, which has a considerable image problem with its collection of prima donnas on PEDS. But it also has more than a century of tradition on its side.
NBA fans constantly have to argue the merits of their sport not only against other sports but against other versions of their sport. The international game is more fluid. The college game has more energy and emotion. The women’s game has more fundamentals.
So what do NBA fans do to cultivate and protect the image of their favorite sport? They ignore common sense and vote their darlings as All-Stars.
Can the East even field an All-Star team?
A year ago, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Tyson Chandler, Kyrie Irving, Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday were among the East’s All-Stars. You can make the argument – irrefutable in some cases, strong in others – that none of those players should be invited back this season.
And a handful of the usual suspects with All-Star resumes – Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Al Horford – won’t fill the void because they have been injured or awful.
Not even Rudy Gay – who at $17.9 million is the league’s highest-paid player who never has been an All-Star - can grab one of the spots now that he has been traded to the West.
So who will be filling the dozen spots? Lotsa Pacers, lotsa Heat and lotsa guys making their All-Star debuts.
Brain-twister for you today, folks.
Go back to the start of the 2005-06 regular season, and try to name a superstar player who has represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Your answer cannot include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo or Ray Allen.
It’s OK. Keep thinking …