NBA

Houston Rockets star James Harden wins first career NBA MVP award

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James Harden has been named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player – beating the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

The Houston Rockets guard picked up the league’s most prestigious prize for the first time, a year after finishing runner-up to Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook.

His impressive 2017-18 season saw him notch up an average of 30.4 points per game as he helped guide the Rockets to a franchise record of 65 wins.

Accepting the accolade at the NBA Awards ceremony in California with his mother by his side, Harden said: “Huge shout out to the NBA. NBA and all the legends that paved the way for me to be able to play this game like I do and like I love.

“Sixth Man of the Year to MVP. Shout out to all the youngers that got a dream. Go chase that dream.”

Former winners of the award include Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant – as well as four-time victor James.

The Cleveland Cavaliers player missed out on a fifth MVP trophy following a season in which he played all 82 games for the first time in his career, averaging 27.5 points and career-highs of 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds.

Other winners at the awards included Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers, who was named Rookie of the Year, and Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo, who won the Most Improved Player honour.

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NBA Awards Show to hand out individual honours as James Harden and others in contention

Jay Asser 25/06/2018
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James Harden with Drake at the 2017 awards show.

The 2017-18 NBA season will finally be wrapped up on Monday night with the league’s second annual awards show.

You may have forgotten or completely moved on from this past season, but the individual awards still have to be handed out, including the MVP.

It doesn’t really make sense to wait more than two months after the end of the regular season to name the award winners, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Ahead of tonight’s show – which will be hosted by comedian and actor Anthony Anderson, while including performances by Travis Scott and others – let’s take a look at the nominees and who’s likely to walk away with the hardware in each of the six main categories.

Keep in mind these awards were voted on by the media before the playoffs, so the postseason has no impact on these honours, which are strictly for the regular season.

MVP

Finalists: James Harden (Houston Rockets), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

There’s hardly any suspense over the most important award, with Harden the clear frontrunner after a mesmerising campaign in which he led the league in scoring (30.4) as the best player on the best regular-season team.

After finishing as the runner-up in 2015 to Stephen Curry and last year to Russell Westbrook, it’s finally time for Harden to get his due.

Defensive Player of the Year

Finalists: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

It’s a trio of big men up for the award, which is a bit of a departure from previous years when versatile, perimeter-oriented defenders Draymond Green and Kawhi Leonard were the winners.

Davis and Embiid are elite shot-blockers in their own right, but Gobert’s impact on Utah’s defence can’t be ignored as the Jazz allowed just 97.5 points per 100 possessions after his return from a knee injury midway through the season.

Rookie of the Year

Finalists: Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz), Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)

In a loaded rookie class, Mitchell and Tatum were good enough to earn the award in most other years.

Simmons may not be a conventional ‘rookie’ because he sat out all of last season with an injury, but the 76ers phenom still qualifies and as such, is deserving of the award for leading a team that made a 22-win improvement.

Sixth Man of the Year

Finalists: Lou Williams (Los Angeles Clippers), Fred VanVleet (Toronto Raptors), Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets)

You can make a case Williams should have made the Western Conference All-Star team, so his case for Sixth Man is pretty airtight.

No bench player has ever finished with the scoring and assists average Williams managed in his career year as he put up 22.6 points and 5.3 helpers.

Most Improved Player

Finalists: Clint Capela (Houston Rockets), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Spencer Dinwiddie (Brooklyn Nets)

It’s hard to go from average to good in the NBA, but it’s even harder to make that next leap and go from good to great. And that’s exactly what Oladipo did this season by turning into a bona fide All-Star.

In his first year with Indiana, the guard raised his scoring average from 15.9 points to 23.1, while also having career highs in rebounds (5.2), assists (4.3), steals (2.4), field goal percentage (47.7) and 3-point percentage (37.1).

Coach of the Year

Finalists: Dwane Casey (Toronto Raptors), Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics), Quin Snyder (Utah Jazz)

It’s going to be even more awkward for the Raptors if Casey claims the award, considering they fired him after a 59-win season in which they topped the Eastern Conference.

But as well as the Raptors did, Boston finished with just four fewer wins despite Brad Stevens having to deal with the loss of two All-Stars and a young roster. The playoffs just cemented his case, even if they had no impact on the voting.

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NBA

LeBron James' son Bronny Jr nearly throws down dunk in front of cheering dad

Jay Asser 25/06/2018
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LeBron James with his sons Bronny Jr (l) and Bryce (r).

LeBron James remains the best player in the world, but we may only be a few years away from seeing his son take the NBA by storm.

If you haven’t heard, Bronny Jr is a pretty good basketball player in his own right and at the age of 13, he’s already doing things that are getting his dad hyped– like nearly throwing down his first dunk in a game.

Playing in the Balling on the Beach AAU Tournament in Miami on Sunday, Bronny Jr stole a pass, raced up the court and took flight for a dunk attempt that was just off the mark. He didn’t stick the landing, but you didn’t need to squint too hard for Bronny Jr to look like LeBron.

The play got dad out of his seat and busting out some dance moves and it’s not inconceivable LeBron could be celebrating similar plays by his son as a teammate down the road.

Bronny Jr is only entering eighth grade, but he’s already received scholarship offers from top-tier programmes like Duke and Kentucky, according to ESPN.

His development may be so important to LeBron and the family that it could potentially play a factor in James’ free agency decision this summer.

There have already been rumours that LeBron has scouted out high schools in the Los Angeles area, where Bronny Jr could be exposed to better competition than he’s so far faced living in Ohio.

James has also stated that sharing the court with his son would be “the greatest achievement of my life”.

In footage released by James’ multimedia platform UNINTERRUPETED earlier this month, LeBron said: “You want to ask me, ‘What was the greatest achievement in my life?’ If I’m on the same court as my son in the NBA. That would be No1 in my lifetime as an NBA player.

“I’ve thought about it because my son is about to be 14, and he might be able to get in there a little early.”

Bronny Jr could reach the league earlier than usual because the NBA are reportedly considering doing away with the one-and-done rule, which requires prospects to wait at least one year after high school before entering the draft. If the change comes, it may take effect as early as 2021, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

Bronny Jr is set to graduate high school in the summer of 2023, which means there’s a chance we could see father and son playing together as soon as five years from now.

What a sight that would be.

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