And the NBA season awards should go to ...
With less than two weeks remaining in the NBA's regular season, I offer my version of the league's individual awards:
Most valuable player
2010 recipient: LeBron James, Cleveland
In the conversation: Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers; LeBron James, Miami; Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City; Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas
The winner: Derrick Rose, Chicago
My thinking: In his third season, Rose, 22, has risen to the cream of the crop of NBA players. Averaging 24.9 points and 7.8 assists, he has carried Chicago at times as teammates Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah have lost significant time due to injuries.
Coach of the year
2010 recipient: Scotty Brooks, Oklahoma City
In the conversation: Nate McMillan, Portland; Doug Collins, Philadelphia; Gregg Popovich, San Antonio; Rick Carlisle, Dallas
The winner: Tom Thibodeau, Chicago
My thinking: It's a strong list of candidates this season - Rick Adelman of Houston, Monty Williams of New Orleans and Phil Jackson of the Lakers also merit mention. But none are more deserving than Thibodeau, a 20-year NBA assistant who, at 53, finally got his first head coaching assignment this season. Under his watch, the Bulls have improved from 41-41 a year ago to 53-19, the best record in the Eastern Conference this season.
Rookie of the year
2010 recipient: Tyreke Evans, Sacramento
In the conversation: John Wall, Washington; DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento; Landry Fields, New York; Gary Neal, San Antonio
The winner: Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers
My thinking: No. 1 draft pick Wall has been good, but Griffin - who missed his true rookie year with a knee injury in 2009-10 - has been sensational, leading rookies in scoring (22.4) and rebounding (12.0) while shooting .504 from the field.
Defensive player of the year
2010 recipient: Dwight Howard, Orlando
In the conversation: Rajon Rondo, Boston; Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City; Javale McGee, Washington; Josh Smith, Atlanta
The winner: Dwight Howard, Orlando
My thinking: Howard won the award the last two years, and I wish there was someone else to reach up and grab it. Ibaka and McGee are comers, and Rondo is a terrific defender, but Howard's intimidating presence as a shot-blocker remains the overriding factor.
Most improved player
2010 recipient: Aaron Brooks, Houston
In the conversation: Kevin Love, Minnesota; Dorell Wright, Golden State; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City; Paul Millsap, Utah
The winner: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland
My thinking: Perhaps this qualifies as a provincial pick. But a beefed-up Aldridge has become an inside/outside threat this season, and his improved numbers (22.2 points from 17.9 in 2009-10, 8.7 rebounds from 8.0 in 2009-10) have made him Portland's go-to guy and one of the league's top 15 players.
2010 recipient: Jamal Crawford, Atlanta
In the conversation: Lamar Odom, L.A. Lakers; Jamal Crawford, Atlanta; Jason Terry, Dallas; Louis Williams, Philadelphia; James Harden, Oklahoma City
The winner: Glenn Davis, Boston
My thinking: Odom could wind up being eligible for this award, having started fewer than half of the Lakers' games. Does anyone, though, really consider this member of the U.S. national team a reserve?
Executive of the year
2010 recipient: John Hammond, Milwaukee
In the conversation: Rich Cho, Portland; Donnie Walsh, New York; Kevin O'Connor, Utah; John Paxson/Gar Forman, Chicago
The winner: Pat Riley, Miami
My thinking: Cho extended coach Nate McMillan and added Wesley Matthews and Gerald Wallace since taking over in July. Chicago's management team added Carlos Boozer (though he was a booby prize after failing on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade) and a half-dozen other free agents, including Kyle Korver.
Riley pulled off an all-time coup by convincing James, Wade and Chris Bosh to not only sign together but to accept less than maximum money to sign another free agent, Mike Miller. Sure, the Heat won't win 70 regular-season games, but they're on the short list of title contenders. And if you're talking franchise stability, James (age 26), Wade (29) and Bosh (27) are a good place to start.
First team: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City; LeBron James, Miami; Dwight Howard, Orlando; Derrick Rose, Chicago; Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers
Second team: Amare Stoudemire, New York; Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas; Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers; Dwyane Wade, Miami; Chris Paul, New Orleans
Third team: Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers; Kevin Love, Minnesota; LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland; Deron Williams, New Jersey; Steve Nash, Phoenix
All-overpaid team: Rashard Lewis, Washington, $20.5 million; Gilbert Arenas, Orlando, $17.73 million; Vince Carter, Phoenix, $17.3 million; Peja Stojakovic, Dallas, $15.6 million; Baron Davis, Cleveland, $13.05 million
All-bargain team: Landry Fields, New York, $473,604; Jodie Meeks, Philadelphia, $762,195; Marcus Thornton, Sacramento, $762,195; Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City, $1.2 million; Ty Lawson, Denver, $1.55 million