Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Michael Cooper Award

So, I will get back to theological and gospel-related topics soon, but I thought this would be fun.

I know that we already have too many awards in sports (and too many awards in life in general). Despite this, I want to start a new NBA Award (and this could probably be transferable to other team sports):
The Michael Cooper Award.
During his tenure with the Lakers in the 1980s, Michael Cooper was a vital part of 5 championship teams. He was never an All-Star. He certainly didn't make the Hall of Fame. He was the ideal role player. While he never averaged more than 11.9 points per game, he is celebrated by Lakers fans for being a defensive stopping (Larry Bird said that he was the best defender he ever faced), a player who could knock down a clutch shot, and the team player who would do whatever it took to help his team win.
The Michael Cooper Award goes to players who have never been, and will never be, All-Stars. Still, they do all the small things to help their teams be successful.
Note: I admit that there are other historical players who exhibited these characteristics just as much as Michael Cooper, but it is my award and I get to choose whose name is bears. I also considered Robert Horry, Rick Fox, and Derek Fisher. Again you may say, "Those are all former Lakers." Once again, my award.

For the 2012 NBA Season, here are the six players who earn a Michael Cooper Award:
Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks. This was the easiest choice. He doesn't care if he scores, but he can clean up inside. He plays defense, rebounds, blocks shots, and is an underrated facilitator on offense. Last year in the playoffs he really proved his worth by being an indispensable part of the Mavs' championship run. This year on the Knicks he has been a steadying influence and has stifled Dwight Howard each time they have faced the Magic. The Knicks will probably squeak into the playoffs and lose in the first round, but I would still take Chandler on my team any day of the week.

2. Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies. I can finally appreciate Allen, now that he is no longer a Celtic. In those Boston-L.A. battles he gave Kobe Bryant fits. Now he is a vital part of a Memphis team that no one wants to play in the first round. He is a great perimeter defender and an unselfish offensive player. He can't really knock down shots, but he can slash to the hoop and use his athleticism. He regularly causes turnovers for the opposition and gets Memphis going on their lethal fast-break.

3. Nicolas Batum, Portland Trailblazers. It is not impossible that Nic will one day make an All-Star team, but it is unlikely. At the same time, he can play defense against almost anyone with his athleticism and his long arms. Also, he can get hot from the 3-point line and he runs the floor well on the fast-break. This is not just an olive branch to my Blazer fan friends. Batum is a solid player.

4. J.J. Redick, Orlando Magic. I have been so impressed with how humble and patient Redick has been as a pro. He starred in all of college basketball when he played for Duke. He has had to take a reduced role in the NBA and he has improved each year. He is not a stellar defensive player because he lacks the athleticism to do so, but this has never stopped him from competing with all he has. He is an excellent 3-point shooter and an underrated facilitator. And it is good to see an unselfish player in Orlando.

5. Aaron Afflalo, Denver Nuggets. I may be biased because he went to UCLA, but I absolutely love what he brings to the Nuggets. Like Tony Allen, he plays great perimeter defense. Unlike Tony Allen, he can also hit the open 3 and his overall offensive game is improving. He's not a primary option at the shooting guard, but he is a solid role player. Unfortunately he is under the radar because Denver has been crippled by injuries this season and they will probably miss the playoffs.

Sixth Man
6. C.J. Watson, Chicago Bulls. Watson is the best back-up point guard in the game. This season he has had to pick up a lot of slack while D-Rose has recovered from his injuries. Even when Rose has been healthy, Thibodeau has often has Watson next to him in the backcourt as they close out games. And without Rose, Watson had led the Bulls to victories over the Heat and the Celtics (just to name a couple). The Bulls have thrived under him as a floor general and he has knocked down some big shots. He has shown great poise by stepping up in clutch situations and coming through. He will be a key part of the Bulls' attempt to get past the Heat in the postseason.

 Quick side-note: I think a reverse to this award could also be given. It could be called the Steve Francis Award or the Stephan Marbury Award (amazingly, these two were actually both on the Knicks for a spell; thank you, Isaiah Thomas). It would be reserved for players who do make All-Star teams but end up hurting their teams with too much shooting and defensive ineptitude. If you have suggestions, send them in.

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