Leblog James’ 2011-2012 Mid-Season Awards.

With the lockout-shortened NBA season officially at its halfway point, here are my picks for the league’s top NBA performers.

 

Most Improved Player:  Jeremy Lin.  Linsanity has been the second best story in sports this year and I only say that because I’m a New York Giants fan.   Yes, Lin’s sample size is relatively small, but both he and the Knicks were starting from scratch.   As a completely unknown player, with no Melo or Amar’e, Lin put an entire franchise on his back and put up All-Star numbers in their absences.   Lin has taken a team that was once 8-15 and has them talking about making the playoffs again.

Honorable Mention: Andrew Bynum.

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard.  When D-12’s career is over, his defensive capabilities will be compared to Olajuwon and other great defensive big men.  Amidst all the trade rumors and distractions, Howard has still put in the dirty work that has distinguished him as the best center in the association.  The Magic are in the top 10 in field goal percentage allowed (43.2 %,) his blocks are down but he still swats 2.12 shots a game (5th in the NBA,) while leading the league in rebounding (15.3 – a career high.)

Honorable Mention: Andre Igudoala.

 

Coach of the Year: Gregg Poppovich.   Manu Ginobili goes down with an injury and Poppovich still has the Spurs as the #2 team in the Western Conference.   Tim Duncan is a shadow of the player he once was, yet Popps continues to win with players like Danny Green and Gary Neal playing significant minute.   The Spurs have seen resurgence due to a new talented, young, core with players like Kawhi Leonard, Thiago Splitter and Dejaun Blair, as well as Tony Parker spearheading the attack and playing like an MVP candidate. Gregg Poppovich is the best coach in the NBA and is proving it once again this year.

Honorable Mention: Doug Collins

 

Sixth Man Award: James Harden.   Fear the beard.  With perennial All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant at the helm, Harden is still putting All-Star like numbers while leading an Oklahoma City bench that’s without Eric Maynor.  OKC is the best team in the Western Conference and the bench is thriving due to Harden’s ability to distribute, score and to get to the foul line.  Harden could and would start for the majority of teams in the NBA, but the bench role seems to fit him perfectly.

Honorable Mention:  Lou Williams.

Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving.   Proving to be the class of the 2012 draft, Kyrie Irving is playing like a seasoned vet and future all-star.  He’s a complete point guard, who can shoot, penetrate/create, pass and defend.  His combination of efficient shooting (48.5 %,) scoring (18.3 ppg) and passing has given Cleveland hope in the post-Lebron era.   The Cavs are currently 13-19 on the year and are poised to have more wins than they had all of last year (19) in a shortened season – a lot of that can be attributed to Irving.  Cleveland has found their floor general and with a few more pieces added, could be poised for another playoff run.

Honorable Mention: Ricky Rubio.

Most Valuable Player:  Lebron James.  Lebron is the best player on the league’s best team.   There is only so much he can do in the regular season to silence his critics, but what  he’s done so far is nothing short of amazing.  Despite being criticized unlike anyone in sports, he is having a career year.   While posting incredibly gaudy numbers – 27.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 6.8 apg, 54.8 % fgp and 39.3% 3pfg, he is the anchor of a defense that reminds me of the Chicago Bulls in the late 90’s.  Additionally, he had people questioning whether or not Dwayne Wade was necessary during the Heat’s 8-1 stretch with him out.  Anything less than a MVP and a NBA title for Lebron and the Heat will be a huge disappointment.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Durant.

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Jeremy Evans in the Dunk Contest.

Much to my delight and due to Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert dropping out, the world will finally be introduced to Utah Jazz second year man Jeremy Evans.  As a die-hard Utah Jazz fan, I have seen the brilliance of Evans (although in insultingly small doses) over the past two seasons.  Dare I say that Jeremy Evans has as much bounce as any player in the league (yes that includes Lebron and Blake Griffin.)  He is an absolute athletic freak!  Jeremy’s field goal percentage is off the charts because all the kid does is DUNK – Whether it be on a lob, a break, drive through the lane or straight over the defender, he elevates and detonates on a regular basis.

I doubt that Evans will actually win the dunk competition, because over the years it has increasingly become a popularity contest.  However, mark my words; the world will know who Jeremy Evans is by the end of the night.  I know it’s wishful thinking, but I hope that Jeremy Evan’s new found popularity will transfer into more minutes on the floor.   I’m really hoping that he is creative, but that is what it’s going to take for him to be successful.   Otherwise, I see him getting the same treatment Demar Derozan received a year ago.

Hats off to both Matt Harpring and Utah Jazz nation, as they’re pleading is a huge reason as to why he is competing.  The #letjeremydunk campaign on Facebook and Twitter definitely paid off.   My money is still on Paul George though.

On a side note, shout out to both Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors for their respective performance in the Rising Stars game last night.  Both had great outings and represented the Jazz well.  The future is bright with both of those kids.  Also, the Jazz were snubbed in the All-Star Game, both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson were eligible candidates and one of them should have been lacing up to play on Sunday.

Here’s a Jeremy Evans mix that should give you all a preview of what to expect tonight.  I do apologize for the corny editing and sound.

Here’s a mix of Jeremy at the Impact Summer league during the NBA lockout.  Check out some of these put backs!  This kid is a monster!

New Music: Dean Risko Trouble EP + Video

I met Dean Risko a few years ago through some mutual friends and became instantly impressed by him as a person.  He’s intelligent, quick-witted and genuinely one of the nicest guys I have ever come in contact with.   The Johannesburg, South Africa born, Salt Lake City, Utah raised and now Echo Park, Los Angeles residing has released his “Trouble” EP.  Throughout the three songs, Dean weaves together soulful, quasi electro-pop melodies with clever and on point lyricism.  The result is like Motown Records being involved in a head on crash with Def Jam.

One thing that has always resonated with me about Dean is his undeniable hunger for the masses to hear and enjoy his music.   His talent resides in his balance.  Dean is able to stabilize the sing-songy flow without making it sound corny (I’m looking at you Flo-rida, Nelly and Drake) while staying on topic and remaining captivating.

If I had to compare Dean to other artists, it would be a blend of Andre 3000 (circa The Love Below), Justin Timberlake and Mike Posner (only with a better persona and emcee skills).  Plus, he has fantastic taste in production which only helps to elevate his music (the whole EP has a jazzy, electro bounce feel to it)- making it that much more commercially viable.

The first two songs off the Trouble EP were produced by Wesley Thompson (twitter.com/wesismore), another good friend of mine, and a production genius in the making.  I was talking to Wes the other day at a Wale show and he was explaining to me how they spent the better part of a year perfecting this project.  This type of meticulous dedication and hard work has certainly paid off.

Dean’s best attribute is that he has found his own style and voice – an accomplishment 99% of musicians never achieve.  His songwriting is top notch and he has the “it” factor in regards to being able to create a hit song.  Trouble is filled with stories of love, heartbreak, and the roller coaster that is relationships and the chase of that desired woman.  With his aforementioned hunger to succeed and an incredible EP under his belt, it’s only a matter of time until Dean Risko makes that happen.

I’m proud to be able to call Dean my friend; few things make me happier than seeing my friends succeed.

Here is the video for Dean’s lead single “Trouble.”

You can download the Trouble EP at http://deanrisko.bandcamp.com/

Follow Dean Risko on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/#!/DeanRisko

Dean Risko on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/DeanRisko

The Airplane Theory – Help Yourself, First.

A few years ago, I went through a complete life remodeling.  I was in the middle of a divorce with my wife and throughout the breakup, had lost the majority of my possessions.  I was in my last semester of college and was working for the family business while desperately looking for employment in my line of study.   Due to the economy being in the toilet and my lack of experience, I wasn’t having any success.  My emotions were running the gamut from fear and anxiety to depression and self-loathing.   I wasn’t sleeping more than a few hours a night and was becoming increasingly less healthy.  I couldn’t focus on any particular thing and was constantly feeling overwhelmed due to the myriad of emotions and trials I was facing.  I was stuck and had nothing in regards to an exit strategy.

This was of course, until I met my best friend (who has been my girlfriend of over two years), and she shared with me a premise that changed my life.  We call it “The Airplane Theory.”

Now, most of us have been on an airplane.  Before the flight takes off, there is usually a short instructional movie or a presentation given by the flight attendants that explains basic airplane protocol, acceptable behavior and what to do in the event of an emergency.  One of the topics covered in the presentation is what to do if there is a change in cabin pressure – an oxygen mask will drop from the overhead panel.   It is always encouraged to make sure to secure your own mask before trying to help anyone else with there’s.  This same practice is applicable in life.

As a human being it is nearly impossible to help others when your own life is in disorder.  If this is the case, it is imperative to take the necessary time to get yourself healthy and well.  This is not a selfish act; in fact, it’s the best thing that you can do for yourself.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with allowing yourself to become stable once again.  A problem in our society these days is that we spread ourselves too thin and don’t allow for the necessary time to completely recover.  It is important to love and care for yourself and to remember that regardless of everything else, you have to put yourself first.