Who Wins This Year's Micheal Ray Awards?

NBA award season is a snore. When was the last time you sat around the corner bar and argued over who was 'Executive of the Year' or 'The Most Improved Player?' You don't because no one cares. It's boring. Even the MVP is less a competition than a coronation. There have been only 23 different MVPs in the 58-year history of the league, and the choices are almost always big men with big stats. Allen Iverson is in fact the only player under 6 feet 6 inches who has won the award since 1964.

Personally, I have shunned NBA award season ever since they discontinued the 'Comeback Player of the Year' trophy because the winner was always Micheal Ray Richardson, coming back from various episodes of chemical dependency. Seeing who would win 'Comeback Player' was like seeing which cat had nine lives. It was fun. Discontinuing it was a slap in the face to Micheal Ray and just another example of the NBA putting image over the real dramas played out on and off the court. Therefore I present the First Annual 'Micheal Rays' for accomplishments fans actually discuss. (All awards will be mailed to players on request.)

So without further ado, the Micheal Ray for...
MOHP (most over-hyped player): Tracy MCGRADY, Orlando Magic. McGrady is the 2003-2004 scoring champ but his team has been the league's top loser from start to finish. People forget that the Magic, with the additions of Juwan Howard and Tyronn Lue, were a chic pre-season prediction to go deep in the playoffs. Instead McGrady and company got their top-tier coach, Doc Rivers, fired after ten games and played defense like the Dallas Mavericks on morphine. How GM John Gabriel has a job after trading Ben Wallace and Mike Miller for Drew Gooden and Grant Hill's medical bills is beyond me. But the buck truly needs to stop with McGrady. Sleepy eyed and contemptuous, he seemed quick all year to demand a trade, threaten retirement, and call out his teammates, while injured on the bench, for not 'showing up to play.' It was everyone's fault but his. For someone who was supposed to be the "Next Jordan", it's hard to imagine him in practice driving his 'supporting cast' to raise their game. MJ made the playoffs with Granville Waiters in the post. Unless T-Mac wants to be the 21st century version of World B. Free he needs a diva-ectomy.

MDR (most delicious rant): Rasheed WALLACE, Portland Trailblazers/Detroit Pistons. In a wild, free-ranging interview with the Portland Oregonian, Wallace expressed his view that the league is basically a sweat-shop with fluffier towels. "I ain't no dumb-ass n----- out here. I'm not like a whole bunch of these young boys out here who get caught up and captivated into the league," Wallace, said. "No. I see behind the lines. I see behind the false screens. I know what this business is all about." Wallace then took a shot at NBA commissioner David Stern and his $8 million contract. "I know the commissioner of this league makes more than three-quarters of the players in this league."

He then articulated in no uncertain terms that the league banks on drafting the young and the ignorant to keep the league afloat. "In my opinion, they just want to draft n----- who are dumb and dumber -- straight out of high school. That's why they're drafting all these high school cats, because they come into the league and they don't know no better. They don't know no better, and they don't know the real business, and they don't see behind the charade. ...They look at black athletes like we're dumb-ass n------. It's as if we're just going to shut up, sign for the money and do what they tell us." Love or hate Wallace, in a time when sound bites seem to require pre-approval by Nike and Microsoft, it gave us something to talk about.

MIHSF (most improved high school fool): Kwame BROWN, Washington Wizards. This award goes to the player who really never should have bypassed college but is making the best of a bad situation. I thought in pre-season that Eddy Curry would be a lock for this award, but seeing the 300 pound center average 6 rebounds a game with less offensive boards than the dewy soft Keith Van Horn, is just sad. Brown is posting 11 points and 7.5 boards a night, but more importantly, he has stopped playing like he expects Michael Jordan to leap out of the shadows and slap him upside the head. The Wizards would be insane not to re-sign Brown, which no one in DC would have said before the season. Kwame is no 'Boy Genius', but he's learning.

LFE (least frightened European): Andrei KIRILENKO, Utah Jazz. Even the most elite players from Europe fear physical contact like Dick Cheney fears a salad. The great Dirk Nowitzki would shoot a fallaway if he were being guarded by Earl Boykins. But Kirilenko, an impossibly bony amalgam, of pointy femurs, knees, and a Drew Barrymore-esque chin, would elbow his mother in the chops to get a rebound. The 6 feet 9-inch 200-pound Kirilenko averages 2 steals and an amazing 2.8 blocks, more than Shaq, Yao, and Duncan. He changes the game because he plays in the dirt.

MIM (most improved malcontent) or DPTB (don't pass the bong): Damon STOUDAMIRE, Portland Trailblazers. Choosing this award was truly difficult. Lamar Odom has reinvented himself averaging 17 points and 10 boards and 4 assists for the Miami Heat. Bonzi Wells is finding new life in Memphis. Ricky Davis, somehow, is a positive force in Boston. But Stoudamire came within a whisper of flushing a promising career down the drain. Last year, the former Rookie of the Year 'Mighty Mouse' shot 37% and averaged 6.2 points and 3.5 assists. This year he has cleaned up and lifted his game to 13.4 points and 6 assists. In addition Damon has shown steady leadership and a flair for the dramatic at the end of close games.

LF (Latino flava): Carlos ARROYO, Utah JAZZ. Arroyo, only the fifth player from Puerto Rico ever to play in the NBA, was an easy choice. The undrafted point guard, who played in Spain and lived for several years on a diet of 10-day contracts, has become an impact player, averaging 13 points and 5 assists per. But Arroyo has answered a far greater challenge by stepping into the uncomfortably tight shorts of the retired John Stockton. Not only is Arroyo handling the pressure, but has added guts and flair to a Utah team people were pegging for last place.

MPWC (most player-whupped coach): Jeff BZDELIK, Denver Nuggets. This award goes to that pitiable coach who has lost all control of his club, and whose fate rests in the hands of whether his team's best player voices support. In a sane NBA, Bzdelik should be a leading coach of the year candidate. Denver has gone from 17 wins to 40 plus and is battling for a playoff spot. But the whispers are that even if Denver makes a playoff run, Bzdelik is gone. He has been roundly criticized for not protecting rookie sensation Carmelo Anthony from the press or jealous teammates. In the 2004 NBA, you better handle your superstar with extreme care or update that resume.

LPWC (least player-whupped coach): Hubie BROWN, Memphis GRIZZLIES. Who would have guessed that the NBA coach with the most 'upside' would be septuagenarian Hubie? Probably the same people betting that Jason Williams would be an NBA quality point guard, James Posey could be the Number 1 option on a playoff team, and pro players would gladly take less than 30 minutes per game for the sake of winning.

CMF (crazy mo-fo): Manu GINOBLI, San Antonio Spurs. This goes to the player who makes you turn your head to the TV screen when he's on the court. Manu is the first player since Magic who will hit you in the face from any position on the court with a no look pass if your hands aren't up. He is also the player I personally would most like to play with, on any NBA team. It seems that the Spurs, riding a nine game winning streak into the playoffs, agree.

AYDY (aint you dead yet?): Horace GRANT, LA Lakers. Grant is the kind of player who comes onto the court and you wonder if it's an outtake from Night of the Living Dead. Grant should share this award with the Lakers trainers for their brilliant use of taxidermy to get Horace ready for game time. When he straps on those goggles, all we can say is 'Aint You Dead Yet?'

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