The Washington Post

Jokic named MVP for second consecutiv­e year


Triumphing in a race that spawned months of debate among media members and fans, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic won his second straight NBA MVP award, according to a person with knowledge of the news.

The 27-year-old Serbian, whose selection last year made him the first center to win the award since Shaquille O’neal in 2000, joined Lebron James, Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokoun­mpo as the only active players to win back-toback MVP awards. Jokic also became the fifth center in league history to be the MVP in consecutiv­e years, alongside Hall of Famers Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlai­n, Kareem Abdul-jabbar and Moses Malone.

Joel Embiid and Antetokoun­mpo were the other finalists. ESPN first reported the news of Jokic’s honor.

Jokic’s season was marked by perseveran­ce and incredible statistica­l production; he led the injury-ravaged Nuggets in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. With guard Jamal Murray sidelined since April 2021 with an ACL injury and forward Michael Porter Jr. limited to nine games, Jokic averaged a career-high 27.1 points to go with 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists while guiding Denver to 48 wins.

Jokic’s rare do-everything role, in which he functions as a point guard on offense and a center on defense, positioned the four-time all-star to lead the NBA in several advanced metrics, including Player Efficiency Rating, Win Shares, Real Plus Minus and Value Above Replacemen­t Player. His 32.8 PER was the highest ever recorded.

Despite that impressive résumé, Jokic’s candidacy drew scrutiny because the Nuggets were the Western Conference’s sixth playoff seed, with fewer wins than Embiid’s Philadelph­ia 76ers and Antetokoun­mpo’s Milwaukee Bucks.

Embiid, 28, won his first scoring title by averaging 30.6 points per game, and he carried the 76ers through Ben Simmons’s monthslong holdout. Philadelph­ia won 51 games for its third 50-win season in the past five years.

Antetokoun­mpo, 27, led Milwaukee to 51 wins and the Eastern Conference’s third seed, drawing praise for the Bucks’ late-season head-to-head victories over Embiid’s 76ers and Kevin Durant’s Brooklyn Nets.

Denver was eliminated in five games in the first round of the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors. Philadelph­ia and Milwaukee have advanced to the second round.

WARRIORS: Coach Steve Kerr tested positive for the coronaviru­s and entered the NBA’S health and safety protocols ahead of Game 4 of Golden State’s second-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown, who was hired as head coach of the Sacramento Kings earlier in the day and is set to assume his new job after the postseason, will replace Kerr.

Brown previously served as an interim coach during the 2017 playoffs when Kerr was sidelined with complicati­ons from back surgery.

Kerr, who has coached the Warriors to three championsh­ips during his eight-year tenure, will be sidelined indefinite­ly. To return to the bench, he must return two consecutiv­e negative tests that are sampled at least 24 hours apart.

Game 5 is set for Wednesday in Memphis. Game 6, if necessary, will be in San Francisco on Friday.

Health experts warned that rising case counts could impact the ongoing NBA playoffs. Although the league has avoided any widespread coronaviru­s outbreaks in recent weeks, several players — including Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George, Chicago Bulls guard Zach Lavine and Grizzlies center Steven Adams — have tested positive in the past month.

— Ben Golliver SUNS: Monty Williams won the NBA coach of the year award after leading Phoenix to a franchise-record 64 wins during the regular season.

The Suns were the NBA’S best team by far during the regular season, finishing with eight more

victories than any other team. The 50-year-old Williams has been Phoenix’s coach for three seasons, and the team has improved in each of them.

Williams joins Cotton Fitzsimmon­s (1988-89) and Mike D’antoni (2004-05) as Suns coaches who have won the award.

The runner-up to the New York Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau last season, Williams was the runaway winner this time. He received 81 of 100 first-place votes from a global panel of sportswrit­ers and broadcaste­rs, finishing with 458 points.

The Grizzlies’ Taylor Jenkins was second with 17 first-place votes and 270 points. The Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra and Boston Celtics’ Ime Udoka each received a first-place vote as well.

Phoenix won a franchise-record 18 consecutiv­e games from Oct. 30 to Dec. 2, including a 16-0 record in November. That was tied for the second-most wins in a month without a loss in NBA history, trailing the Atlanta Hawks’ 17-0 record in January 2015.

Williams led the Suns to the NBA Finals last season, where they lost to the Bucks in six games. Phoenix is tied 2-2 with the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals.

KINGS: Sacramento officially announced the hiring of Brown as its new head coach with hopes he can end the longest playoff drought in NBA history.

The Kings fired interim coach Alvin Gentry after a season during which they set a league record by missing the playoffs for a 16th straight year.

“Mike has consistent­ly demonstrat­ed his ability to lead winning teams throughout his long and successful coaching career,” General Manager Monte Mcnair said in a statement. “He has worked with some of the best players in the NBA and is one of the league’s premier defensive minds. I am excited to bring his extensive experience to Sacramento.”

Brown previously had two stints as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, whom he guided to the NBA Finals in 2007. He also coached the Los Angeles Lakers from 2011 to 2012.

The Kings went 30-52 this past season under Luke Walton and Gentry, their worst finish since the 2017-18 season.

MISC.: Adreian Payne, a former Michigan State standout and NBA player, died in a shooting in Florida. He was 31.

Payne played in 107 NBA games, averaging 4.0 points and 2.9 rebounds, over four seasons with the Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolv­es and Orlando Magic.

He played profession­ally earlier this year for Juventus in Lithuania. He also played in Turkey, France, Greece and China.

A native of Dayton, Ohio, Payne started in 94 of 138 games over four seasons for Coach Tom Izzo at Michigan State. He averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds as a senior during the 2013-14 season.

“I’m in shock at the tragic news,” Izzo said in a statement. “Our prayers are with his family, teammates and loved ones. Adreian was loved by his teammates and coaches, who respected his developmen­t as a player and a person.”

 ?? DAVID Zalubowski/associated Press ?? Nikola Jokic’s do-everything role for the Nuggets helped him lead the NBA in several advanced metrics.
DAVID Zalubowski/associated Press Nikola Jokic’s do-everything role for the Nuggets helped him lead the NBA in several advanced metrics.

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