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LeBron wins NBA MVP

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LeBron wins NBA MVP

MIAMIHeat forward LeBron James is the NBA's MVP for a third time, putting him alongside some of the game's all-time greats.

A person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press that James will be announced Saturday as this year's winner of the league's top individual honor, and that he'll be formally presented with the trophy by Commissioner David Stern on Sunday afternoon before Miami hosts Indiana in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league has not announced the results.

James is winning the award for the third time in four seasons. Only seven other playersKareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Moses Malonehave at least three MVP trophies.

James said last week that while another MVP award "would be amazing and would be humbling," it's not what drives him. In his ninth season, James still has not won an NBA title and it's clear that, although he wanted to reclaim the MVP trophy, winning a championship is far and away his top basketball priority.

"What I'm all about is team and ever since I was a kid, I was always taught it's team first," James told the AP on Friday. "My first time playing basketball, we went undefeated and won a championship and Frank Walker Sr. gave everyone on the team a MVP trophy. Right then and there, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to see my teammates reap the benefits as well."

Abdul-Jabbar won the MVP six times, Jordan and Russell five times each, Chamberlain four times. After this weekend, they'll be the only players with more than James.

"I think he's probably as committed as he's ever been in his career," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said this week, asked to summarize James' season. "And he's always been committed. ... We all respond to his energy on the court."

James averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assistsmaking him only the fourth player with those totals in at least two different seasons, according to STATS LLC, joining Oscar Robertson (five times), John Havlicek (twice) and Bird (twice).

Add James' 53 percent shooting and 1.9 steals per game into the mix, and the club gets even more exclusive. Only Jordan had a season with numbers exceeding what James did this season in those categories1988-89, when he averaged 32.5 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and 2.9 steals on 54 percent shooting.

And Jordan wasn't even the MVP that year, the trophy going to Johnson instead.

"I think LeBron is an MVP candidate every year," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said last month. "It's just who he is. He only does everything. So I don't know what more you can ask from him.

"LeBron, to me, is the favorite every year," Rivers added. "The years he doesn't win it, it'll usually be because people are just tired of voting for him. Statistically, if you go all-around game, I don't know how you don't vote for him every year."

The MVP votes will be revealed Saturday. Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant was thought to be James' top competition for the MVP, after winning the NBA scoring title for a third straight season. Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs also had seasons that generated some MVP buzz.

James' teammates also lobbied for him to be defensive player of the year this season, noting that probably no one else in the league routinely plays four positions on offense while sometimes being asked to guard anyone from a point guard to a center on defense. James was fourth in that balloting.

"LeBron has been unbelievable," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said before the playoffs. "He's done it at both ends, every night, offensively and defensively."

Last season's MVP, Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, appeared in only 39 of 66 regular-season games this season because of a variety of injuries. His season ended in Game 1 of the Bulls' first-round playoff series against Philadelphia, when he tore a knee ligament.

Many in the Heat organization thought James should have won the award a year ago as well, when he dealt with constant fallout from "The Decision" to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers as a free agent and sign with Miami, where he, Wade and Chris Bosh formed a "Big Three" that has been celebrated at home and reviled in just about every other NBA arena.

James has said he played more out of anger and to silence criticism than anything else last season. So this season, his mindset changed, with him trying to revert to old ways, first as a superstar-in-waiting at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, then during his seven seasons with the Cavaliers.

It apparently worked.

"I wanted to get back to who I was as a person," James said.

It's the first time that the Heat will be hosting an MVP celebration.

Shaquille O'Neal won his only MVP award before coming to Miami, and James won the 2009 and 2010 trophies with the Cavalierscollecting 225 of a possible 244 first-place votes in those seasons.

The NBA MVP trophy is named for Maurice Podoloff, the league's first commissioner. Heat assistant coach Bob McAdoo won the award once, for the Buffalo Braves in 1975.

How all 13 Blackhawks performed at 2019 IIHF World Championship

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AP

How all 13 Blackhawks performed at 2019 IIHF World Championship

The Blackhawks had 13 players represent the organization at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia. Here's how each of them performed, sorted by country:

Canada (Final ranking: Silver medal)

— Dylan Strome ... In his first career IIHF World Championship, Strome had five points (one goal, four assists) in 10 games. He also had a plus-1 rating, 12 shots on goal and averaged 11:59 of ice time. Strome ranked fifth among all centers with a faceoff win percentage of 63.3.

Czech Republic (Final ranking: 4th)

— Dominik Kubalik ... Kubalik, whose rights were acquired by the Blackhawks from Los Angeles in January, finished eighth among all skaters in scoring with 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 10 games and his plus-10 rating was tied for fourth overall. He also recorded 28 shots on goal and averaged 13:55 of ice time.

Denmark (Final ranking: 11th)

— Mathias From ... From, who was drafted in the fifth round (No. 143rd overall) in 2016, was pointless in four games. He was a minus-1 rating, had one shot on goal and averaged 5:02 of ice time.

Finland (Final ranking: Gold medal)

— Henri Jokiharju ... Jokiharju compiled three points — all assists — in 10 games. He also had a plus-1 rating, 13 shots on goal and averaged 11:44 of ice time. He and Kaapo Kakko became the seventh and eighth players in IIHF history to win gold at the Under-18s, World Junior and World Championship in their career. They also became the first players since Jonathan Toews (2007) to win the World Junior and World Championship in the same year.

— Kevin Lankinen ... Lankinen was the breakout star of the tournament. The 24-year-old ranked first in goals against average (1.50), second in save percentage (.942) and tied for first in shutouts (2). He was named player of the game in the semifinal contest against Russia with a 32-save shutout then stopped 43 of 44 shots for a save percentage of .978 in the gold medal game against Canada.

Germany (Final ranking: 6th)

— Dominik Kahun ... Kahun was one of Germany's most productive players. He racked up five points (one goal, four assists), ranked second on the team in shots on goal (16) and averaged 19:18 of ice time. He finished with a minus-1 rating in eight games.

Norway (Final ranking: 12th)

— Andreas Martinsen ... Martinsen, who's set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, was tied for the scoring lead on Norway with six points — all assists — in seven games. He had a minus-1 rating, 11 shots on goal and averaged 15:28 of ice time. Coaches voted him one of the three best players on Norway at the end of the tournament.

Russia (Final ranking: Bronze medal)

— Artem Anisimov ... Anisimov recorded six points (four goals, two assists) in 10 games, and tallied one game-winning goal. He also registered 14 shots on goal and averaged 14:25 of ice time. His plus-11 rating was tied for third among all skaters.

Sweden (Final ranking: 5th)

— Erik Gustafsson ... He had four points (two goals, two assists) and a plus-5 rating in eight games. His 25 shots on goal ranked first on Team Sweden and 18:29 average time on ice ranked sixth.

— Marcus Kruger ... Kruger, who's set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, scored two goals — one of which was a game-winner — and added an assist in eight games. He was one of four players on the team that had a negative rating (minus-3). Kruger averaged 10:37 of ice time and ranked 15th among center with a faceoff win percentage of 59.2.

Switzerland (Final ranking: 8th)

— Philipp Kurashev ... Kurashev, who was taken in the fourth round (No. 120 overall) in 2018, accumulated four points (one goal, three assists) in eight games. His plus-4 rating also ranked tied for third on the team. Kurashev registered eight shots on goal and averaged 11:02 of ice time.

United States (Final ranking: 7th)

— Alex DeBrincat ... DeBrincat picked up right where he left off with the Blackhawks. He finished second among all skaters in goals (7) despite playing in eight games, and compiled nine points. Two of his goals were game-winners and three of them came on the power play. His shooting percentage was 43.8.

DeBrincat now has 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 18 career tournament games. 

— Patrick Kane ... After being named tournament MVP in 2018, Kane also didn't skip a beat. He averaged 1.50 points per game with two goals and 10 assists in eight contests, and led his country in shots on goal (28) and forwards in ice time (22:26 per game).

The three-time Stanley Cup champion surpassed U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Johnson for most points (33) in World Championship history. Kane pulled away even further by the end of the tournament, totaling 42 points in 25 career IIHF World Championship games.

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Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

There are 162 baseball games in a season and some days, you’re just not going to have it. On Sunday afternoon, in a 10-2 loss to the Reds, the Cubs just didn’t have it. 

“It’s already in the trash can...” Maddon said. “... so let’s flush it out and move on.” 

Things were bleak from the very first at-bat of the game, when Kyle Schwarber took a 3-2 fastball looking for one of his three strikeouts on the day. Anthony Rizzo was the only starter not to strike out at least once, as the Cubs’ finished with 11. Reds starter Tanner Roark was responsible for 9 of them, his season-high. 

Things weren’t much better on the basepaths or in the field. Besides making two errors, Anthony Rizzo was thrown out at the plate in the 2nd inning and David Bote got doubled-up at first after drawing a walk in the 6th. The Cubs were playing playing their 13th game in 13 days, and it showed.

“I feel really good about how we’ve been playing until today,” Maddon said. “This whole month we’ve been in almost every game except for this one, and maybe the [7-0 loss on May 10th] against Milwaukee. There’s not a whole lot to be upset about, and I’m not. I just want to make sure everyone’s well moving forward.” 

There was a scary moment in the 6th inning, as Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward collided in the right field gap while trying to make a play on a fly ball from Eugenio Suarez. Bryant was slow to get up and eventually had to leave the game. He’s still being evaluated for a head/neck injury, and the Cubs don’t yet know if he’ll go into concussion protocol. For what it's worth, Bryant was cleared to fly with the team. 

“He’s doing okay,” he said. “He’s still under evaluation. We don’t know exactly what we’re doing with this whole thing yet, but we’re trying to talk with the doctors and find out exactly where we’re at.”

“We collided, and I called for the ball,” Heyward added. “We were both going hard to make a play and ran into each other.”

The loss dropped starter Jose Quintana to 4-4 on the season. Quintana went 5.1 innings while allowing six runs on 12 hits with one walk and two strikeouts. Despite relatively weak contact, the Reds hit well all weekend. Their 42 hits over three games was the most for them in a three-game series at Wrigley since 1976, and they finished the weekend with a .404 BABIP. 

“Yeah, I just had to keep pitching, you know?” Quintana said. “Keeping my focus. It was really tough - too many base hits. In some contests that happens. I just try to stay close in the game.” 

The Cubs finished their 7-game homestand at 3-4, and now hit the road for a two-city trip. Up first comes the 35-19 Astros, who are 20-7 at home. This season Houston ranks first in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, and third in home runs. Their closer, Ryan Pressley, has the lowest ERA of all qualified relievers and is fresh off a streak of 40 straight scoreless appearances.

“I’m excited,” Joe Maddon said before Sunday’s game. “Let’s get by today, but I’m excited for the whole week. Look at our schedule - it’s been pretty firm, and it continues to be pretty firm. And that’s the way it should be. I’m looking forward to it.”