Heat’s Spoel­stra a can­di­date for NBA coach of year.

James John­son, Tyler John­son, White­side miss cut for ac­co­lades

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Ira Win­der­man Staff writer

MI­AMI— Erik Spoel­stra has emerged as last-man stand­ing when it comes to the Mi­ami Heat’s hopes for an NBA 2016-17 in­di­vid­ual award, a fi­nal­ist to join Pat Ri­ley as the only other Coach of the Year in the fran­chise’s 29 sea­sons.

On a night the Heat’s Has­san White­side, James John­son and Tyler John­son did not make the cut among the three fi­nal­ists for the league’s an­nual awards, Spoel­stra sur­vived the cut for Coach of the Year, along with Hous­ton Rock­ets coach Mike D’An­toni and San An­to­nio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

The only time the Heat had a Coach of the Year was Ri­ley in 1997, a sea­son the Heat went 61-21 and lost in the Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nals. The Hea twent 41-41 this sea­son and missed the play­offs by a tiebreaker, but staged a sec­ond-half rally hereto­fore un­seen in the NBA in ral­ly­ing from 11-30 at mid­sea­son.

Spoel­stra ear­lier this month was named co-re­cip­i­ent along with D’An­toni of the in­au­gu­ral Michael H. Gold­berg NBCA Coach of the Year Award, ded­i­cated in mem­ory of Michael H. Gold­berg, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Bas­ket­ball Coaches As­so­ci­a­tion for more than 30 years who died in Jan­uary of at age 73.

Un­like the NBA’s Coach of the Year award, which is de­cided by a media panel, the NBCA award was voted upon by the

league’s 30 coaches.

The win­ners of the NBA’s an­nual hon­ors will be re­vealed on the same night for the first time dur­ing the in­au­gu­ral NBA Awards on TNT, which will be hosted by Drake at 9 p.m. on June 26 at Bas­ket­ball City in New York.

In the­most an­tic­i­pated of the award races, the three fi­nal­ists for Most Valu­able Player are Ok­la­homa City Thun­der guard Rus­sell West­brook, Hous­ton Rock­ets guard James Har­den and San An­to­nio Spurs for­ward Kawhi Leonard, with LeBron James de­nied a spot among the fi­nal­ists.

Bal­lot­ing for the NBA’s awards was com­pleted be­fore the start of the play­offs, through polling of 100 media mem­bers, with the same panel uti­lized for each award.

The Heat have not had a win­ner of a ma­jor NBA award since James was named Most Valu­able Player for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive sea­son in 2013, the only Heat player to be voted MVP.

The only other win­ners of ma­jor awards in the Heat’s 29 sea­sons were Alonzo Mourn­ing as De­fen­sive Player of the Year in 1999 and 2000, Ri­ley as Coach of the Year in 1997, Ri­ley as Ex­ec­u­tive of the Year in 2011, Rony Seikaly as Most Im­proved Player in 1990 and Ike Austin as Most Im­proved Player in1997.

The Heat have never had a win­ner of the Sixth Man Award or a Rookie of the Year.

White­side was by­passed as a fi­nal­ist for De­fen­sive Player of the Year, with Leonard, Utah Jazz cen­ter Rudy Gobert and War­riors for­ward Dray­mond Green the three fi­nal­ists.

White­side’s cre­den­tials for the De­fen­sive Player Award in­clud­ing av­er­ag­ing a league-lead­ing 14.1 re­bounds, as well as 2.09 blocks.

He be­came just the fourth player since 2000-01 to av­er­age at least 14 re­bounds and two blocks, join­ing DeAn­dre Jor­dan (2014-15), Dwight Howard (’11-12, ‘10-11 and ‘07-08) and Ben Wal­lace (’02-03).

James John­son was by­passed as a fi­nal­ist for Most Im­proved Player, with Gobert, Den­ver Nuggets cen­ter Nikola Jo­kic and Mil­wau­kee Bucks for­ward Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo the three fi­nal­ists.

James John­son’s cre­den­tials for Most Im­proved Player in­cluded set­ting sin­gle-ca­reer highs in points, re­bounds, as­sists, steals, blocks, field goals made, 3-point­ers and free throws made. When fac­tor­ing in points, re­bounds and as­sists per-game av­er­ages from2015-16 to this past sea­son, no player upped that com­bined to­tal more than John­son.

Tyler John­son was by­passed as a fi­nal­ist for the Sixth Man Award, with Rock­ets guard Eric Gor­don, War­riors for­ward An­dre Iguo­dala and Rock­ets guard Lou Wil­liams the three fi­nal­ists.

Tyler John­son av­er­aged 13.7 points, the sec­ond-high­est av­er­age in the NBA by a player with no starts. He to­taled 1,002 points, 293 re­bounds and 233 as­sists while James John­son to­taled 884 points, 341 re­bounds and 248 as­sists off the bench, mak­ing them the only two play­ers in the league to score at least 600 points, grab 250 re­bounds and dish out 200 as­sists off the bench.

A long­shot, Heat for­ward Rodney McGruder did not make the cut in bal­lot­ing for Rookie of the Year, with the three fi­nal­ist Bucks guard Mal­colm Brog­don, Philadel­phia 76ers cen­ter Joel Em­biid and 76ers for­ward Dario Saric.

Heat play­ers still could fig­ure in the an­nounce­ments of the All-De­fen­sive and All-Rookie teams, which also will be an­nounced at the awards show. No Heat player made any of the three All-NBA teams thatwere an­nounced Thurs­day.

The NBA’s award show also will in­clude cat­e­gories voted upon by fans. A blocked shot by White­side is one of three nom­i­nated by the NBA for Block of the Year, with fan bal­lot­ing on­go­ing at nba.com/ NBA Awards/vote. That vot­ing con­tin­ues through June 22.

White­side is the lone Heat player nom­i­nated in the awards open to fan bal­lot­ing, with the other cat­e­gories for As­sist of the Year, Dunk of the Year, Game Win­ner of the Year and Per­for­mance of the Year.

There also is a fan vote for Best Style, with for­mer Heat guard Dwyane Wade nom­i­nated in that cat­e­gory for his unique fash­ion sense.

AP FILE

Mi­ami Heat coach Erik Spoel­stra (above), Hous­ton Rock­ets coach Mike D’An­toni and San An­to­nio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich are the three fi­nal­ist for NBA Coach of the Year.

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