Before the Lakers’ 126-114 Game 1 win over the Denver Nuggets to tip off the Western Conference finals, the league announced the MVP voting for the 2019-20 season on Friday, and James came in second to the Milwaukee Bucks‘ Giannis Antetokounmpo.
It was the fourth time in his 17-year career that the Lakers’ star finished as the runner-up for the league’s most prestigious individual award.
“Pissed me off. That’s my true answer,” James said after pumping in 15 points and 12 assists in the series opener. “It pissed me off because out of 101 votes, I got 16 first-place votes. That’s what pissed me off more than anything.
“You know, not saying that the winner wasn’t deserving of the MVP. But that pissed me off. And I finished second a lot in my career, either from a championship, and now four times as an MVP.”
James was referencing his NBA finals record of 3-6, a winning percentage that often gets brought up as the first thing separating him and Michael Jordan, who was 6-0 in the championship round.
It was James’ closest second-place finish, with 209 MVP voting points separating him and Antetokounmpo. In 2017-18, he finished 227 points behind James Harden. In 2005-06, he ended up 236 points behind Steve Nash, and in 2013-14, he was 341 points behind Kevin Durant.
“I never came into this league to be MVP or to be a champion,” James said. “I’ve always just wanted to get better and better every single day, and those things will take care of itself. But some things is just out of my hand and some things you can’t control. But it pissed me off.”
James took aim at the undefined criteria for the award, which leaves voting up for interpretation. The NBA’s annual awards are voted by a global panel of 100 media members from across print and broadcast journalism, plus a single fan vote.
“I don’t know how much we are really watching the game,” James wondered aloud about the panel.
“I’m not going to sit up here and talk about what the criteria should be or what it is. It’s changed over the years since I’ve gotten into the league,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the best player on the best team. Sometimes it’s the guy with the best season statistically. Sometimes … I mean, you don’t know. You don’t know. But you know, Giannis had a hell of a season; I can definitely say that.”
Antetokounmpo, 25, won his second straight MVP, doing so in similar fashion to James’ first two MVPs: His team led the league in regular-season wins but flamed out in the playoffs.
Antetokounmpo also was named Defensive Player of the Year this season, joining Jordan (1987-88) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1993-94) as the only players to win that award and MVP in the same year.
James finished second to Marc Gasol for Defensive Player of the Year in 2012-13 — the year he won his fourth MVP — and he said it still perplexes him.
“I had a chance to be Defensive Player of the Year and also MVP in the same season,” James said. “And that year [Marc] Gasol was [voted] Defensive Player of the Year, but he made second-team All-Defense, OK. So that doesn’t make sense. It’s like being MVP of the league but you make Second Team All-NBA. That’s when I really started to look at things kind of like differently. I was like, how does that even make any sense?”
Unsurprisingly, James’ teammates took up his case for the award after the game, too.
“He deserves it,” said Anthony Davis. “What he’s been able to do for our team, the things he’s been doing individually, on a consistent basis, night-in, night-out, just it’s not even a question who deserves it.”
The numbers back up Davis’ endorsement. L.A. was a plus-173 in 862 minutes with James on the court without Davis in the regular season. In the 677 minutes L.A. played with Davis on the court without James, the Lakers were a minus-29, according to research from ESPN Stats & Info.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel also advocated for James.
“You guys all know how I feel about it,” he said. “To me, he’s the MVP of the league this year. No disrespect to Giannis. Giannis had a great season. He’s a great player. What LeBron does for our team to me is unparalleled.”
Before finishing his thoughts on the subject, James made it clear his overall focus remains on the Lakers’ team success.
“I mean, I’m fine. Don’t get it twisted,” James said. “I’m perfectly fine. We’re 1-0 in the Western Conference Finals. I’m absolutely fine. So don’t — like I was pissed off at the reaction earlier when I saw it. I’m absolutely great now. I’m going back to my room, drink some wine and sleep very well tonight. Let’s not get it twisted. I’m great. It’s just the voting scale is a little weird to me sometimes.”
Toronto Raptors say they’ll cooperate with NBA investigation of alleged assault by Terence Davis
The team made its first public comment on the case in a statement Friday.
Davis faces several charges after police said he hit his girlfriend in the face during an argument at a Manhattan high-rise on Tuesday.
According to a criminal complaint, the woman’s son was standing next to her when Davis hit her, causing the child to fall.
“Incidents of this kind are addressed and managed by the league through the joint NBA-NBPA policy on domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse,” the Raptors said.
“The Toronto Raptors take these issues very seriously, and we will fully cooperate and support the League in its investigation of this matter as we work to determine the appropriate next steps for our team.”
Davis’ attorney, Greg Esposito, has said his client denies the charges. Davis is free on his own recognizance and his next court date is set for Dec. 11.
Davis, a 23-year-old guard, played college basketball at Mississippi before joining the Raptors as an undrafted free agent before the start of the 2019-20 season. He averaged 7.5 points per game and was named to the league’s All-Rookie Second Team.
Michael Jordan’s race team unveils Bubba Wallace’s new ride
On Friday morning, the 23XI Racing team unveiled the long-anticipated news of its manufacturer and technical partner, Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing.
The Chicago Bulls-esque red, white and black Toyota Camry featured Jordan’s No. 23 on the doors and the 23XI Racing team logo on the hood and quarter panels, hopefully to be replaced by sponsorship before the team makes its NASCAR Cup Series debut in less than four months at 2021 Daytona Speedweeks.
— 23XI Racing (@23XIRacing) October 30, 2020
Lost in the excitement of seeing Michael Jordan’s car with Michael Jordan’s number was the real story, a technical alliance that gives MJ’s team — and its driver — a chance to compete.
Joe Gibbs Racing is the flagship organization of Toyota Racing Development and the team Hamlin has driven for throughout his 16-plus-year Cup Series career. The TRD relationship includes an agreement with JGR that allows 23XI Racing to purchase equipment and share technical information.
“My main goal for 23XI Racing is to be competitive for a championship as soon as possible,” Jordan said in a statement. “Our partnership with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing gives us the equipment, resources and expertise to do it.”
“There’s no doubt that Bubba has outperformed the equipment he’s had, week in and week out,” Hamlin said on “CBS This Morning,” sitting alongside his driver — with both sporting Air Jordan sneakers — as he spoke of Wallace’s four seasons in the Chevys of Richard Petty Motorsports.
Then, referring to Wallace’s 2013-14 seasons in the Truck series driving for Kyle Busch, Hamlin added, “This is a great opportunity for him to return to the Toyota family, a family he was with early in his career, and it’s an exciting partnership for everyone.”
Added Wallace: “I’m still processing it every day. … I’ve just got to make sure I do my part and deliver each and every time out next year.”
Sources — Mike D’Antoni finalizing deal to join Steve Nash’s staff with Brooklyn Nets
Mike D’Antoni and is finalizing a deal to become an assistant coach with the Brooklyn Nets, reuniting him with his former MVP point guard, Nets coach Steve Nash, sources told ESPN.
The Nets are hiring D’Antoni and well-regarded assistant Ime Udoka, who spent seven of the past eight seasons on Gregg Popovich’s staff with the San Antonio Spurs, sources said.
Nash has constructed a strong coaching staff for his first season as a head coach, including associate head coach Jacque Vaughn. The Nets are expected to be among the league’s championship contenders with the return of Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn debut of Kevin Durant.
Udoka spent seven years as an assistant under Popovich with the Spurs, and the 2019-20 season as the top assistant with the Brett Brown and the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s been a candidate for several head coaching jobs in recent years.
For D’Antoni and Nash, this is the third time they’ll be together, including a memorable 2004-08 run with the Phoenix Suns that saw the birth of the Seven Seconds or Less Offense and the emergence of Nash as a Hall of Fame point guard in the system.
D’Antoni coached Nash on the Lakers (2012-2014) for a far less successful stretch after Nash’s body had been eroded by injury.
D’Antoni is one of the most successful and innovative coaches of this generation. He spent the past four years with the Houston Rockets before choosing to walk away without a contract extension at the end of the 2019-20 season.
D’Antoni was 217-102 in his four seasons as Rockets coach, advancing once to the Western Conference finals and three times to the conference semifinals. D’Antoni, a two-time NBA Coach of the Year, led the Rockets to the highest winning percentage in the Western Conference over the past four years (.682), trailing only the Toronto Raptors (.695) in the entire league.
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