Ordinarily, the NBA's Player of the Month awards aren't worth talking or writing about, even among people who talk and write about NBA stuff. Oh no—Player X didn't win Western Conference Player of the Month for November, even though his PER was a smidge higher than some other dude's! Winning one probably is a nice little affirmative thrill for whoever gets it, and his fans, but beyond that, it's not something to care about.
And, truth be told, probably nobody ought to care about the NBA naming all five Atlanta Hawks starters—Jeff Teague, Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll—co-winners of the Eastern Conference Player of the Month award for January. Even so, it's worth taking a moment to note that, c'mon, this is stupid.
The Hawks went 17-0 in January; it's the first 17-0 month any NBA team has ever had. That's quite an accomplishment! As we've noted before, the Hawks are a terrifying juggernaut (last night they fended off a desperate Wizards team as easily as an uncle palming the forehead of his flailing prepubescent nephew), and sure, they deserve some recognition for it. But, nobody—not the NBA league office, not the Hawks themselves, not their fans, nobody—believes all five Hawks starters were equally excellent in January.
It's not as though there's some sanctity of the Player of the Month award to be defended, here. But, this faintly reeks of basketball smarm: We're honoring all five, because they play as a teeeeammm. It might remind you of the 2006 All-Star Game, when four Detroit Pistons made the East roster—y'know, because they were magical ego-free basketball unicorns taken by sports moralists to certify every smarmy bromide about Playing The Game The Right Way—and Gilbert Arenas, who was torching the NBA at the time, had to be added as an injury substitute at the last minute. It's why can't you be more like your brother? rendered as a basketball honor.
In any case, using an award explicitly and definitionally meant to honor individual brilliance to head-pat a group of teammates for Playing The Game The Right Way is weird as hell: Whatever else it might do, it also implicitly rebukes the NBA for having a Player of the Month award in the first place. Enough of this celebrating-individual-excellence claptrap, it says: Basketball is a teeeeammm sport! Sure it is! Which is why the best teams get awarded all the time ... with wins. The Hawks' award for the best month in NBA history is an eight-game lead on the rest of the Eastern Conference.
What I am saying here is that LeBron should have been the Player of the Month. He was so good! This sucks.
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