We’re back with another of our four sets of Fantasy Awards, this time tipping our hat to the hoops heroes and villains that deserve special mention.
Fantasy Stud of the Year
Is it any doubt? The King reigns supreme in the association as LeBron James just keeps getting better and better. Then again, what do you expect? He won’t be 25 until later this month. In contrast to Chris Paul, LBJ has stayed healthy the past year, and his shooting touch – especially from downtown – just keeps getting better. His FT shooting has also improved significantly, and is no longer a weak link in his game. Last season, James cut his turnovers and matched a career high with 1.1 blocks per game, and this year, he’s been dropping dimes like nobody’s business, putting up a career-best eight assists per game.
The Cavs are again rolling in 2009-10, leading the Central Division thanks to their superstar who is currently second in the NBA in scoring.
All that’s missing from this dude’s repertoire is a ring, but from a Fantasy standpoint, the only championships owners care about are their own, and if you have LBJ is tow, chances are pretty damn fine you’re bagging your share of titles.
Honourable mention: Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.
Fantasy Dud of the Year
It’s so hard to believe that’s it’s been just over a year since Allen Iverson was still considered a high second round pick. Since then, he’s played with four different teams, retired, spent plenty of time moaning, missed a massive amount of action with a back injury and alienated his Fantasy owners all over the land. Oh, and now he’s off getting an MRI on his knee. The scary thing is, the way things are going for AI this season, his owners are probably dreaming of the “good old days” in Detroit. I’m not sure I can ever remember a superstar’s career going downhill as fast as Iverson’s has.
Honourable mention: Shawn Marion, Kevin Garnett, Elton Brand, Tyson Chandler, Al Jefferson and David West.
Fantasy Rookie of the Year
Last season, and to a smaller extent, this season has produced a ridiculous bounty of Fantasy-worthy rookies, making this the most difficult category to pick a single winner. But because of the rarity of big men to jump on the scene and immediately pay dividends, we’re giving the nod to Brook Lopez. At least something should go right in the Swamplands this year, don’t you think? The Stanford product was damn good in 2008-09, but his work in the first half of this season is what clinches this honour. It’s conceivable that Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Michael Beasley, among others, will go on to have better careers than Lopez, but no one has become such a dependable Fantasy asset as quickly as he has.
Honourable mention: Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Omri Casspi, James Harden, Jonny Flynn, Beasley, O.J. Mayo, Rose, Kevin Love, Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Mario Chalmers and Jason Thompson.
Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year
While the reemergence of Jason Williams this season and the fact that Grant Hill didn’t miss a single game in 2008-09 were excellent stories, our vote has to go to Nene, who not only stayed healthy but enjoyed a career year. The Brazilian big man was an absolute steal for his Fantasy owners, setting personal bests almost across the board. The fact that he’s kept the party going this year with even more rebounds and a ton of steals clinches the honour for Nene.
Honourable mention: Williams, Gilbert Arenas, Pau Gasol and Hill.
The Fair Play Award
As we all know, so much of sports these days is driven by big business. Determining who you can sign is all about the holy Salary Cap – and damned is the team that goes astray from this device. So when Portland Trail Blazer president Larry Miller sent an e-mail to every NBA team in January warning them that he would sue anyone who tried to sign Darius Miles for the purposes of screwing the Blazers’ salary cap flexibility, we reached a new level of insanity. The NBA chose not to penalize Portland for its threatening e-mail. Hey, all’s fair in love and sports, I guess.
Almost anyone can be the Most Valuable Player, but it takes a special kind of talent to become the Most Annoying Player in the Association. Time and time again, Nate Robinson has shown that kind of super pest ability. Whether it’s scrapping with his own teammates to the point where he almost gets himself demoted to the D-League, using his annoying energy to win the Slam Dunk contest or taking shots at his own freaking basket during a game, KryptoNate definitely stands apart from the crowd. But it was the technical foul he received earlier this year, and the subsequent reaction by his coach that earned Robinson special merit in our 2009 Awards. In a game against Coach Mike D’Antoni’s former team, the Phoenix Suns, Robinson got T-ed up – from the bench — for taunting Amare Stoudemire. D’Antoni was not impressed: “To be honest with you, that’s why you don’t have concealed weapons, ’cause I’d have shot him at that point,” D’Antoni said. “He doesn’t need to get a technical at that point…Now I do like his feistiness, but he just needs to channel it in the right way. And he knows that.” Feistiness. Hmmm….that’s a very polite way of describing Robinson’s asshole tendencies. Note to self: don’t piss Robinson or D’Antoni off. Oops…too late.
Crotch Grab of the Year
Lamar Odom, originally drafted by the Clippers, decided to show them what they had been missing in recent years when he had a furious put-back slam and grabbed his crotch while hanging on the rim (err…so to speak). The Clips got so pissed at this that they asked the league to look into it, but no discipline (spanking or otherwise) was ever doled out as far as we know. This is the only video I could find of the “junk mail” and it’s not very conclusive. Perhaps Khloe has better footage? (Speaking of Khloe, there’s more on her later…)
Best Owner Tirade of the Year
We often think the biggest babies in sports are the players themselves, and there are countless examples to back this notion up. But sometimes it is those that make sports possible – the owners – who are the juiciest pink tacos in town, so to speak. Take, for instance, Cleveland Cavalier head honcho Daniel Gilbert’s reaction when Jameer Nelson made the 2008-09 NBA All-Star game over his point guard, Mo Williams. And when Nelson got hurt, but it was Ray Allen – not Williams – named the successor, Gilbert spazzed out to the point he was making up words. Now that’s impressive:
“Ben Wallace was right when he called Mo originally being passed over for the All-Star Game a ’shamockery,’” Gilbert e-mailed to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “But not naming him as the natural and obvious replacement for the unfortunately injured Jameer Nelson is stupidiculous, idillogical and preposterageous.”
Um…the only question I have is just how many times has Gilbert seen Mary Poppins?
Best Teammate of the Year
The Phoenix Suns were one of the bigger disappointments of 2008-09, but – damn it – it sure as hell wasn’t the fault of their star, Amare Stoudemire. “It’s always on my shoulders when something goes wrong…I’m not a captain so you can’t place too much of the blame on me,” Stoudemire said. “It’s not my job to rally the troops and get everybody on board. It’s the captain’s job to do that.” The “captain” that he was referring to is Steve Nash, so essentially Stoudemire was hanging the Canadian star out to dry. Very nice.
“Stat” didn’t stop there and sort of dissed ex-teammate Shaquille O’Neal for hogging all the boards: “(As far as rebounding), I’ve got Shaq down there. I can’t get 15 rebounds a night with the big fella taking up all the space.”
For the record, Stoudemire had averaged 9.6 and 9.1 boards per game in the two previous seasons, but slipped to 8.1 in 2008-09 – his worst full-season average ever. But in 2009-10, Shaq’s gone, so Stoudemire must be back to close to double digits, right? Uh, maybe not. He’s pulling down just 8.6 per game (in fairness, he’s stepped up in December).
I was absolutely shocked that Stoudemire wasn’t dealt since his tirade. Stranger yet, the Suns have bounced back this season and are among the top teams in the West.
Apparently, the moral here is that we don’t need no stinking chemistry.
The Misplaced Effort Award
How the hell does a basketball player wind up with pieces of glass in his arm by playing football? Um, ask Ben Wallace. That’s what happened to him in February. Assumedly, he dove for a catch and went flying through a window. Now, there’s a great mental picture. Just close your eyes and imagine Big Ben working that hard on his free-throw shooting. Woah….I just got a crazy visual of Steve Nash with Wallace’s huge-ass ‘fro. Okay, I need therapy now. Well…I need more.
Yoko Ono Award
Cristal Taylor, a.k.a. the “Little Jailbird,” as she was affectionately known to Disco Dirk, claimed to be pregnant by her supposed boyfriend Nowitzki. This situation had Yoko Ono written all over it, and the Mavericks organization had apparently even warned Nowitzki about his taste in women.
The ex-stripper (who doesn’t love a sentence that starts that way?) was arrested in May because of a probation violation and theft of service (whatever that means…stealing cable, perhaps?).
Shockingly, reports emerged that Taylor was a divisive force between Nowitzki, his family and his teammates. That does sound familiar, doesn’t it, Yoko?
Thankfully, Nowitzki started to clue in before it was too late, so we will likely be spared the equivalent of a Ringo Starr solo album (videos of Jason Terry’s shot-blocking technique? Jason Kidd’s perfect jumpshot? Shawn Marion’s shooting technique? Rolling Doobies Made Easy, by Josh Howard?).
Leaving Your Bride at the Alter Award
Sometimes it’s what you don’t do that winds up being smarter than what you do. Just ask Richard Jefferson and Lamar Odom, who took very different approaches with their nuptials (no, not together…although that wouldn’t have been a big shock considering the long-standing rumours of RJ’s sexual preferences).
At any rate, Jefferson had a $2 million wedding to marry Nets dancer Kesha Ni’Cole queued up. But the weekend before the wedding was scheduled, RJ broke up with his finance – via e-mail. That’s classy. “Sometimes you might write an e-mail to get your thoughts down right,” he said. Fantastic. But don’t cry for Kesha too much. Jefferson gave her six digits to go away. “I’m not trying to buy her off,” he said. “She has a lump sum to help her move on.” Right. A lump sum. As opposed to a lump of coal.
Should Have Left Your Bride at the Alter Award
The flipside of this story, of course, is Lamar Odom’s sudden (and I do mean sudden) and likely ill-advised marriage to Khloe Kardashian. They met in August at a Ron Arest party (now there’s a place where romance blooms) and just over a month later, they were married. Um, Lamar…why did you not heed the lesson of Reggie Bush, the Saints running back that dated Khloe’s Sister Kim and never reached his potential?
The best part? Odom’s bachelor party was thrown by Joe Francis – the dude who founded Girls Gone Wild.
So let’s see…what do you get when you put Ron Artest, a Kardashian, a Laker and Girls Gone Wild together? Fucked if I know, but I can’t see this ending well.
Speaking of Ron Artest, what awards ceremony is complete without an appearance from him? His recent revelation that he used to drink at halftime is the stuff that legends are made of. Can’t you just see Ron Ron, furtively sipping his Hennessey out of a paper bag in his locker? Okay, it’s not Hennessey, but this is close enough, and it has Dutch subtitles, to boot!