I’ve never been much of an awards guy. It goes against the team-first philosophy that I learned from coach Dean Smith at North Carolina.
I also understand that awards are part of the discussion in the NBA, and they reward players and coaches for their hard work and accomplishments at the end of a long season.
I can’t deny that it meant a lot to me to win the NBA Coach of the Year award last year but I’d trade it for championship ring in a heartbeat.
As a coach, I usually enlisted the help of my assistants to fill out the ballots for the All-Rookie and All-Defensive teams. The media handled everything else.
Now that I’m a member of the media, here are my personal selections for individual honors for the 2013-14 NBA season:
Most Valuable Player
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
It was a two-man race between Durant and LeBron James. I think Durant had a more productive year for his team. LeBron’s the best player in the game, but I just think the karma of the season was more in Durant’s corner. He scored 25 points in 41 consecutive games. That’s impressive. And he did it with efficiency. He didn’t have many games where he went 7-for-21. Plus, he gave me enough headaches to last a lifetime.
Coach of the Year
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
I’d be happy to hand the Red Auerbach trophy to Pop. We’ve been saying the Spurs are old for five years. How do they keep winning? They weren’t beating people by five this year. They were beating people by 15 or 20! When they were winning 19 in a row, I know Pop was miserable because he didn’t want them to lose their edge. He’s an easy choice for me.
Defensive Player of the Year
DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
There are a few good candidates here, but I have to go with Jordan because he led the league in rebounding and was such a dominant rebounder every night. I don’t think many people realize how important rebounding is to a defense. It’s the conclusion of a good defensive play, and Jordan was the closer for L.A.
Sixth Man of the Year
Marco Belinelli, San Antonio Spurs
I’m just amazed that a guy who I thought was flawed and unfundamental is now a leader of San Antonio’s second unit. Throw Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili in there, as well. San Antonio usually gets one of those guys to come in off the bench and kick your butt.
Most Improved Payer
Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns
He really surprised me with his scoring ability. I thought he was a bad-decision, bad-shot basketball player, but he’s a perfect sixth man for the way Phoenix plays. He can get you 40. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe control the game, but when they need a rest, he comes in firing and he’s pretty effective doing it.
Rookie of the Year
I’m going to abstain from this one. Everybody knows I don’t like rookies.
F Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
F LeBron James, Miami
C Joakim Noah, Chicago
G Tony Parker, San Antonio
G Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers
You know my thoughts on Durant and James. Noah never stops hustling on defense and on the glass, plus and he can create for his teammates on offense. Parker deserves more love than he gets. He’s the motor for that team. Paul is a reluctant choice, but he led the league in assists and I couldn’t find a good argument for anyone else.
— Coach Karl