NBA awards: Harden takes home MVP

Houston Rockets point guard James Harden claimed the first Most Valuable Player Award of his career at Monday night’s NBA Awards show in Santa Monica, Calif.Harden beat out four-time MVP LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis for the honor, which he had finished a runner-up for last season to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook and in 2015 to the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry.Harden is the third player in Rockets history to be named MVP, joining Moses Malone, who won it twice (1979, ’82), and Hakeem Olajuwon (1994).Harden was accompanied by his mother, Monja Willis, in accepting the award from NBA commissioner Adam Silver.”I’m not getting emotional, I’m not doing all that, but she’s my backbone,” Harden said. “Good times, bad times. … We only get one life and I’m happy she’s my mom. I wouldn’t have it any other way, for real.”Harden, 28, led the league in scoring last season when he averaged 30.4 points per game. He added 8.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game in leading the Rockets to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, where they fell to the eventual champion Warriors in Game 7 of the conference finals.”Sixth Man of the Year to MVP,” said Harden, who claimed the former honor in 2012 as a member of the Thunder. “Shout out to all the youngins’ man that got a dream and the vision out there to go take it. Go chase that dream. I’ll see you all next year.”–Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year after the former No. 1 overall pick helped the team break its five-year playoff drought.Simmons beat out Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum.”I’d like to thank my family, to start off with,” Simmons said. “My family, friends, you know I wouldn’t be here without them, and my teammates of course and my great coach (Brett Brown), and the city of Philadelphia for really embracing me.”Simmons was taken with the top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, but a broken foot sidelined him for the 2016-17 season.The 6-foot-10 guard averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals over 81 games last season.Simmons, who turns 22 next month, helped the 76ers advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they lost to the Celtics in a five-game series. He averaged 16.3 points, 9.4 boards, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals in the playoffs.–Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is the NBA’s Most Improved Player after a stellar first season in Indiana that ended in a playoff showdown with LeBron James and the Cavaliers.Oladipo beat out fellow finalists Clint Capela of the Rockets and Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets.”Shout out to the Pacers organization for believing in me,” said Oladipo, who was dealt to Indiana last offseason in the deal that sent Paul George to the Thunder. “It’s only the beginning for us.”Oladipo, 26, averaged a career-high 23.1 points with 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals to earn his first career All-Star selection, as well as a spot on the All-NBA third team and the All-Defensive first team.In the playoffs, Oladipo averaged 22.7 points, 8.3 boards, 6.0 assists and 2.4 steals, but it wasn’t enough to send the Pacers onto the conference semifinals, as they lost to the Cavaliers in seven games.–Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award, beating out Anthony Davis of the Pelicans and Joel Embiid of the 76ers.Gobert, who turns 26 on Tuesday, missed 26 games during the regular season with multiple injuries, but still anchored a Jazz defense that posted the second-best defensive rating (101.6) in the NBA last season.The Frenchman averaged 13.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 56 games to earn his second straight NBA All-Defensive first-team selection. Gobert led the league in blocks in 2016-17 with 2.6 per game.

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