Derrick Rose is the NBA MVP.
The youngest ever.
And the vote wasn’t even close.
Rose received 113 first place votes (out of a possible 123) and a total of 1,182 point from a panel of media voters. Orlando’s Dwight Howard (643 points) finished second, Miami’s LeBron James (522) was third, the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (428) finished fourth and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (190) was fifth.
You can check out his numbers if you want. And yes, I will admit, there are players who scored more and/or played more efficiently. That doesn’t mean Rose didn’t deserve the award. Bulls fans know what Rose did this season. And they know that his impact went well beyond what the statistics can measure.
Rose’s intangibles were well-described by ESPN’s Bill Simmons, who wrote that he would remember Rose this season as someone who:
“A. Worked his butt off to get better last summer. B. Bought into everything his new coach was selling, led by example and never undermined his coach publicly or privately. C. Was a phenomenal teammate who kept a fringe contender afloat for two months when they were crushed by injuries, then kept them humming as they evolved into a semi-juggernaut. D. Played harder from night to night than anyone else. E. Was the only elite player on a good team who had to make every offensive decision in crunch time because his team didn’t have another perimeter player who could create a shot.”
I’d like to highlight the “Bought into everything his new coach was selling, led by example and never undermined his coach publicly or privately” part of what Simmons wrote.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau — who also happens to be the NBA Coach of the Year — was a guest on 670 The Score today. Thibs talked about his goal of establishing a new basktball culture in Chicago and how Rose “sold” that culture to his teammates through an absolute dedication and loyalty to his coach’s ideals.
That’s important. Crucial, really.
Can the same be said of other potential MVP candidates?
Dwight Howard led the NBA with 18 technical fouls this season. His 16th technical earned him a one-game suspension and he served another one-gamer after his 18th tech. His careless temper cost him two full regular season games.
That sets a pretty poor example for his teammates. Don’t you think?
What’s more, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy — while publically stumping for Howard’s MVP candidacy — openly questioned his leadership ability:
“I think where the understanding’s got to be is, when you want to be a leader, how you project yourself is not just about what you think is best for you. It’s how it affects your teammates and everyone else. That’s sort of a fine line with Dwight. Dwight can be loose and a little goofy at times and it is hard to say it’s affecting his play because you just look at what he’s done this year, but it affects his teammates. It affects their preparation and it affects their play.”
Additionally, there have been times when Howard was somewhat dismissive of his coach’s criticism. In April, after Van Gundy gave his team the business for losing to the lowly Raptors, Dwight said: “I don’t want to say I don’t care what Stan says, but sometimes he is very passionate and he says things that we might not like.”
Howard didn’t want to say he doesn’t care what Stan says. But.
Then there was that time Howard “ripped” his teammates to the press.
Now let’s talk about LeBron.
Back in November, after an overtime home loss to the Utah Jazz in which the Heat coughed up a 22-point lead, James made the following statements:
“For myself, 44 minutes is too much. I think Coach Spo knows that. Forty minutes for D-Wade is too much. We have to have as much energy as we can to finish games out.”
“Jerry Sloan is one of the best coaches we have in our league. He kind of figured out what we wanted to do.”
“Coach Spo” obviously refers to Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. Not surprisingly, belittling Spoelstra while giving high praise to Sloan set of a firestorm of rumors about Spoelstra’s future as coach of the Heat.
Later that month, James bumped into Spoelstra on his way to the bench during a timeout. Awkwardness ensued until both men basically said it was a non-issue.
Shortly after Bumpgate, ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported a shootaround in which Spoelstra told James that he had to get more serious. The source said Spoelstra called James out in front of the entire team, telling him, “I can’t tell when you’re serious.”
Don’t get me wrong. These things don’t make LeBron evil incarnate. But, combined with the intense media scrutiny the Heat were under this season, they can contribute to an air of discontent and unrest.
Later in the season, Dwyane Wade questioned his crunch-time role and then Chris Bosh complained about his lack of offensive touches. And, of course, there was that time Spoelstra claimed that players were crying in the locker room after a home loss to the Bulls.
Amidst all that, there were various times throughout the season when it genuinely wasn’t clear what was most important to LeBron. Basketball? Birthday cakes? Cartoons? Soccer teams? And I haven’t even mentioned his poorly timed “karma” tweet or his Twitter battle with Boobie Gibson.
None of this has anything to do with The Decision, by the way, so don’t bother going there. These are things that happened during the NBA season and well after James took his talents to South Beach. LeBron’s loyalty to his coach and level of dedication to basketball were, at the very least, in question from time to time.
Again, these things factor into a team’s culture, and none of them benefit a team environment. Quite the opposite. They are the kinds of things that degrade a culture. They do not help a team win games.
In fact, I would argue they contribute to losing them.
That takes nothing away from the immese talent and in-game greatness of Dwight and LeBron. As many people have already pointed out, their quantifiable contributions to winning games is above reproach. And I’m not suggesting that they are bad people or locker room cancers, or that they never contributed to team chemistry in postive ways. Only that, at times, their behavior (and the media reaction to their behavior) could have (and probably did) serve as distractions from team goals.
In contrast to Howard and James, Rose hasn’t been involved in a single controversy. Never questioned his coach. Never criticized his teammates. There was never a time — not once — when it seemed as if Rose’s focus was on anything other than winning basketball games. Every single night, Rose came out with the same level of focus and intensity. His attitude embodied the culture Thibodeau was creating. It served as the foundation for it.
Additionally, there have been countless times this season in which Rose’s teammates praised his work ethic and admitted it inspires them to work harder on their own games. I have searched extensively and failed to find an example of, for instance, Heat players noting how hard LeBron worked to further develop his skills last summer and how it motivated them to spend more time practicing or watching tape.
You can’t measure these intangibles with PER. Nor is it apparent in plus-minus numbers or any other advanced metrics that have been devised. Rose set a flawless example of devotion to a single cause — winning basketball games — and that in turn set the tone for every player on the Bulls. The starters. The reserves. The guys swinging towels at the end of the bench.
Yes, Thibodeau was a big part of that.
It helped that the team has a lot of high-character men on the roster.
But make no mistake: Rose bought into the system, sold the system and lived the system. He did it in every practice. In every game. He did it both on the court and off. He personified the ravenous nature of a team bent on winning every night. That, as much as anything else, is why the Bulls finished the season with a league-best record of 62-20.
No, Rose was not the most efficient player in the league, nor was he the best shooter or the most skilled. But, night in, night out, his unwavering focus made him the most valuable over 82 games.
Derrick Rose is the NBA MVP.
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