I promised Donald T. Sterling I’d get him into a column a few weeks back but had to defer it to deal with the Lakers’ difficulties, which have, of course, subsided.
Happily, it looks as if we can take a vacation from their angst for one morning, anyway.
So because there are so many deserving people who aren’t covered by the standard awards -- and because I’m not above squeezing an extra column out of this -- I proudly present my first ... Iconoclast Awards, Part II!
Least valuable player -- Vince Carter, Toronto. Considered the best all-around player in the game after he dominated the ’01 All-Star weekend in Oakland, he has dropped off the world, taking the Raptors with him. On the plus side, he never changed. He didn’t understand a star’s obligations when he was on top and doesn’t understand what he has lost now.
All-comers -- 1. Eddy Curry, Chicago. He really is Baby Shaq, at least on offense. 2. Kenyon Martin, New Jersey. They thought he’d be a shot blocker. Instead, he’s a scorer who blocks the occasional shot. 3. Jamal Crawford, Chicago. Who knew he could play? Oh, Jerry Krause. That’s one for Sleuth. 4. Ron Artest, Indiana. Almost worth the aggravation. 5. Corey Maggette, Clippers. He’ll make someone a good player.
Pearl-in-oyster award -- 1. Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix. Suns got him at No. 9, after Mike Dunleavy Jr., Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Dajuan Wagner and Chris Wilcox. 2. Zach Randolph, Portland. General Manager Bob Whitsitt is getting barbecued for his part in foisting his little outlaws on a peaceable community, but Trader Bob can still pick ‘em, as his No. 20 draft pick in ’02 is beginning to show. 3. Gordan Giricek, Orlando. Originally a second-round pick by the Dallas Mavericks, he was traded twice before coming over from Croatia and a third time during his rookie season (with Drew Gooden) to Orlando, where he played as well as Mike Miller. 4. Nene Hilario, Denver. Might have been the Knicks’ big man for 10 seasons. Instead, they traded him for Antonio McDyess ... who just underwent more knee surgery and may miss the start of next season.
All-overrated -- Antoine Walker, Boston. He’s everything wrong with the modern over-indulged player in one huge, athletic, uncoachable package. He’s so far gone, he’s actually amused by suggestions that he occasionally penetrate the three-point line. Took 7.5 threes a game while making 32%, making him the only one of the top nine launchers who made fewer than 35%. (The No. 10 man was teammate Paul Pierce, who made 30%.)
Asked why he takes so many threes, Walker once said, “Because there are no fours.”
Honorable mention -- Tim Thomas, Milwaukee. Two seasons after giving him $67 million, the Bucks moved Glenn Robinson to open a starting job for Thomas. How could they have known that on a team where everyone shoots the ball as soon as he gets it, he’d be the one who couldn’t even average 12 shots?
Derrick Coleman all-retired-without-telling-anyone -- 1. Elden Campbell, Seattle. First nodded off here, may as well have been cryogenically preserved this season. 2. Marcus Camby, Denver. He can’t understand what a big-timer like himself is doing there. 3. Eddie Robinson, Chicago. Signed a big contract two seasons ago, which is about the last time he made two shots in a row.
Comeback of the year from all-retired -- Coleman, Philadelphia. Now that he has lost almost everything, he starts playing again.
Anthony Mason high-maintenance award -- 1. Ricky Davis, Cleveland. Eclipsed his breakout with his antics. 2. Anthony Mason, Milwaukee. Just on general principles, like voting for Michael Jordan as MVP in the ‘90s.
Crummy coach of the year -- George Karl, Milwaukee. Achieved a rare double, trashing America’s standing as a basketball power and further dismantling the Bucks without discovering what the problem was. On the plus side, he rediscovered his humility, stopped telling others how to run their teams and even started wearing ties, perhaps on the theory that his casual dress kept him from being considered for the North Carolina job.
Honorable mention -- Isiah Thomas, Indiana. Young teams are supposed to chase their tails around, but even before the Pacers’ playoff flop, they were too dizzy.
Dennis Rodman all-incorrigible -- Artest. Missed 12 games during 10 suspensions. Keeps vowing to stay out of trouble but seems to think this is the NFL and he’s Jack Tatum.
Honorable mention -- Whitsitt. Trader Bob has a problem with chemistry but outdid himself while claiming to try to reform his Jail Blazers, signing Ruben Patterson, who had just been sentenced to 15 days in jail after entering a modified guilty plea to attempted rape.
David Stern we’ve-seen-these-cycles-before award -- Stern, for continuing to insist the East will rise again, as it tanks ever further, taking his Finals with it.
Martha Burk rightful-piece-of-the-pie award -- The WNBA Players Assn., which almost got the WNBA shut down, overlooking that there are no profits and, thus, no pie.
Pat Riley we-may-be-taking-ourselves-a-tad-too-seriously award -- Jim O’Brien, Boston, who told ESPN’s Michelle Tafoya he saw something encouraging in his players, but when asked what it was, said he couldn’t tell her.
Vin Baker there-goes-our-cap-space-for-years award -- Vin Baker, Boston. A disaster in Seattle, he and the remaining four seasons and $56 million on his contract were traded back to his native New England for Kenny Anderson, whose contract was almost up. Not that the Celtics are upset, but the union was wary that they were urging Baker to seek treatment for an alcohol problem as a precursor to alleging breach of contract.
Michael Jordan rebuilding award -- Jordan, Washington. After all that stuff about coming back to help the Wizards, insiders say he’s gone unless Abe Pollin, the co-owner who didn’t bring him in, gives him a totally free hand. Otherwise, Jordan will resurface in Charlotte and Doug Collins will leave too.
All-scapegoat -- 1. Alvin Gentry, Clippers. It was him or you know who. 2. Lenny Wilkens, Toronto. It was him or Vince. 3. Pete Babcock, Atlanta. Fellow general managers liked his off-season moves so much, they predicted the Hawks would be the most improved team. When the Hawks weren’t, he got offed.
Donald T. Sterling crummy executive of the year -- Sterling. He was already in a class by himself, but this was his masterpiece. He had a young, exciting team that fans loved, which had just made him $15 million -- so he killed it.
Loretta Summers Heisler you think you know everything award, for my worst call -- Mark Heisler (again). Aside from the garden-variety ones everyone missed on (the Lakers would win the West, Jay Williams couldn’t miss), I wrote the Lakers had enough help for Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, which was what the Lakers thought, but didn’t turn out to be true.
Of course, as Donald always tells me, there’s always next season.