LeBron wins NBA MVP

760748.png

LeBron wins NBA MVP

MIAMIHeat forward LeBron James is the NBA's MVP for a third time, putting him alongside some of the game's all-time greats.

A person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press that James will be announced Saturday as this year's winner of the league's top individual honor, and that he'll be formally presented with the trophy by Commissioner David Stern on Sunday afternoon before Miami hosts Indiana in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league has not announced the results.

James is winning the award for the third time in four seasons. Only seven other playersKareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Moses Malonehave at least three MVP trophies.

James said last week that while another MVP award "would be amazing and would be humbling," it's not what drives him. In his ninth season, James still has not won an NBA title and it's clear that, although he wanted to reclaim the MVP trophy, winning a championship is far and away his top basketball priority.

"What I'm all about is team and ever since I was a kid, I was always taught it's team first," James told the AP on Friday. "My first time playing basketball, we went undefeated and won a championship and Frank Walker Sr. gave everyone on the team a MVP trophy. Right then and there, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to see my teammates reap the benefits as well."

Abdul-Jabbar won the MVP six times, Jordan and Russell five times each, Chamberlain four times. After this weekend, they'll be the only players with more than James.

"I think he's probably as committed as he's ever been in his career," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said this week, asked to summarize James' season. "And he's always been committed. ... We all respond to his energy on the court."

James averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assistsmaking him only the fourth player with those totals in at least two different seasons, according to STATS LLC, joining Oscar Robertson (five times), John Havlicek (twice) and Bird (twice).

Add James' 53 percent shooting and 1.9 steals per game into the mix, and the club gets even more exclusive. Only Jordan had a season with numbers exceeding what James did this season in those categories1988-89, when he averaged 32.5 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and 2.9 steals on 54 percent shooting.

And Jordan wasn't even the MVP that year, the trophy going to Johnson instead.

"I think LeBron is an MVP candidate every year," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said last month. "It's just who he is. He only does everything. So I don't know what more you can ask from him.

"LeBron, to me, is the favorite every year," Rivers added. "The years he doesn't win it, it'll usually be because people are just tired of voting for him. Statistically, if you go all-around game, I don't know how you don't vote for him every year."

The MVP votes will be revealed Saturday. Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant was thought to be James' top competition for the MVP, after winning the NBA scoring title for a third straight season. Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs also had seasons that generated some MVP buzz.

James' teammates also lobbied for him to be defensive player of the year this season, noting that probably no one else in the league routinely plays four positions on offense while sometimes being asked to guard anyone from a point guard to a center on defense. James was fourth in that balloting.

"LeBron has been unbelievable," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said before the playoffs. "He's done it at both ends, every night, offensively and defensively."

Last season's MVP, Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, appeared in only 39 of 66 regular-season games this season because of a variety of injuries. His season ended in Game 1 of the Bulls' first-round playoff series against Philadelphia, when he tore a knee ligament.

Many in the Heat organization thought James should have won the award a year ago as well, when he dealt with constant fallout from "The Decision" to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers as a free agent and sign with Miami, where he, Wade and Chris Bosh formed a "Big Three" that has been celebrated at home and reviled in just about every other NBA arena.

James has said he played more out of anger and to silence criticism than anything else last season. So this season, his mindset changed, with him trying to revert to old ways, first as a superstar-in-waiting at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, then during his seven seasons with the Cavaliers.

It apparently worked.

"I wanted to get back to who I was as a person," James said.

It's the first time that the Heat will be hosting an MVP celebration.

Shaquille O'Neal won his only MVP award before coming to Miami, and James won the 2009 and 2010 trophies with the Cavalierscollecting 225 of a possible 244 first-place votes in those seasons.

The NBA MVP trophy is named for Maurice Podoloff, the league's first commissioner. Heat assistant coach Bob McAdoo won the award once, for the Buffalo Braves in 1975.

Cubs not worrying about a thing after split with Marlins: 'We're right there'

Cubs not worrying about a thing after split with Marlins: 'We're right there'

MIAMI – Jon Jay walked into a quiet clubhouse late Sunday morning, turned right and headed directly toward the sound system in one corner of the room, plugging his phone into the sound system and playing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”

The Cubs outfielder whistled as he changed into his work clothes at Marlins Park, singing along to the lyrics with Anthony Rizzo a few lockers over: “Don’t worry, about a thing, ‘cause every little thing gonna be all right.” 

That’s what the Cubs keep telling themselves, because most of them have World Series rings and the National League Central is such a bad division.

“The biggest thing is to keep the floaties on until we get this thing right,” manager Joe Maddon said before a 4-2 loss left the Cubs treading water again at 38-37. “We’re solvent. We’re right there. We’re right next to first place.”

The Cubs will leave this tropical environment and jump into the deep end on Monday night for the start of a four-game showdown against the Washington Nationals in the nation’s capital.

Miami sunk the Cubs in the first inning when Addison Russell made a costly error on the routine groundball Miami leadoff guy Ichiro Suzuki chopped to shortstop, a mistake that helped create three unearned runs. Martin Prado drilled Mike Montgomery’s first-pitch fastball off the left-center field wall for a two-out double and a 3-0 lead. Montgomery (1-4, 2.03 ERA) lasted six innings and retired the last 10 batters he faced.

“Keep The Floaties On” sounds like an idea for Maddon’s next T-shirt. The 2017 Cubs haven’t been more than four games over .500 or two games under .500 at any point this season. The 2016 Cubs didn’t lose their 37th game until July 19 and spent 180 days in first place.

“That’s what was so special about it,” Rizzo said. “We boat-raced from Game 1 to Game 7 with a couple bumps in the road, but this is baseball. It’s not going to be all smooth-sailing every day. You got to work through things.”

As MLB addresses long game times, why Mark Buehrle’s zippy pace is worth highlighting

As MLB addresses long game times, why Mark Buehrle’s zippy pace is worth highlighting

Sometime in the future, near or far, Major League Baseball will probably begin using a pitch clock to penalize sluggish hitters and pitchers.

The sport without a clock will, someday, have a clock. ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian offered that as one of his predictions for what baseball could look like 20 years from now, which would be one of Rob Manfred’s signature reforms as commissioner. 

This kind of change wouldn’t be necessary, though, if more pitchers were like Mark Buehrle. 

“Buehrle was hyper,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “He wanted to go, go, go.”

No pitcher since 2007 — when Pitch F/X began calculating “pace” — worked faster than Buehrle, who averaged 16.7 seconds between pitches. Only 56 qualified pitchers since 2007 can be considered to work “fast,” i.e. with an average time between pitches of 20 seconds or fewer (it’s a list that includes fellow former White Sox left-handers John Danks and Chris Sale). And that’s only 12 percent of the 473 qualified pitchers in the last decade.

Buehrle’s 99-minute complete game against the Seattle Mariners in 2005 still is the only nine-inning contest to be completed in fewer than 100 minutes since 1984. There was that memorable 1:53 duel with Mark Mulder and the Oakland A’s in 2003, and both Buehrle’s perfect game and no hitter lasted 2:03. 

Of course, Buehrle didn’t just work quick, he pitched well while zipping through innings. Buehrle finished his career with a 3.81 ERA, made four All-Star teams and threw at least 200 innings every year from 2001-2014. He had a .572 career winning percentage, too, so Cooper knew about Buehrle would give the White Sox a chance to win in about six out of every 10 starts.

“But you also know it’s going to be about two hours and 10 minutes, too,” Cooper added. 

A given game’s length isn’t all about the pace of the pitcher, of course. Batters can slow things down by stepping out of the box and calling for time, and games can feel like a slog with replay delays and mid-inning pitching changes. 

Still, how quickly a pitcher works usually dictates the pace of a game and how long it takes to be completed. Cooper wondered why hitters didn’t step out more against Buehrle to disrupt his rhythm, but perhaps the answer is that everyone on the field gets caught up in the quick pace set by the pitcher. 

“Everybody tells me they were so happy when I pitched for a quick game, but every time I was on the bench in between my starts, it was a 3, 3 1/2 hour game and it wasn't very much fun,” Buehrle said. “I think some of these games do get too long. Pitchers take their time, hitters get out of the box. I don't get all that but that's just the way I worked. I just grabbed the ball and went.”

Maybe adding a pitch clock with penalties affecting the count will force pitchers and hitters to find a quicker rhythm. That was one of the hallmarks of Buehrle’s career, and those snappy starts are one of the reasons why No. 56 was such a popular player on 35th and Shields. 

Former manager Ozzie Guillen, in summing up Buehrle's mentality, also offered some free advice for fixing baseball's pace-of-play problem: “Just throw the ball, get people out and have fun.”