Spoelstra finalist for award
James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, Whiteside miss cut for accolades
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.
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.