Inquirer Daily News

Stretching the Field: NBA awards show, Oscars style

By Shawn Clarke, NBA Contributing Editor

(Sports Network) - With the 85th Academy Awards set for Sunday, Feb. 24, the timing was appropriate to associate the Oscars with the NBA.

While there is an abundance of categories, following is a list of the more applicable pertaining to the league:

BEST ACTOR (Leading Role) - There are many to choose from in this category, so LeBron James of the Miami Heat takes the cake. Third in the NBA with 27.2 ppg, James has been on a tear recently and the All-Star has led the Heat to the top of the Eastern Conference. James' streak of 30-plus points may be over, but that won't stop him from pursuing another championship. Others receiving votes: Kevin Durant, Tony Parker, James Harden and Carmelo Anthony.

BEST ACTOR (Supporting Role) - As previously stated above, there are many options to go with here. The seemingly obvious choice is Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Playing in the shadows of three-time scoring champion and current points leader Kevin Durant, Westbrook delivers on a nightly basis and is, perhaps, the main reason for Durant's success. Westbrook gets his teammates the ball and leads the Thunder with 8.1 assists per game. Others receiving votes: Dwyane Wade, Tyson Chandler, David Lee, Monta Ellis, Joe Johnson, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford.

BEST DIRECTOR - Coaches and front office employees deserve more credit than they actually receive. Yes, the players do all the work, but who counts the beans upstairs to make it happen, scribbles down plays during timeouts or puts fans in the seats with promotions, ticket deals, new arenas? Coaches such as Mike Woodson, Vinny Del Negro, Lionel Hollins, Frank Vogel and Erik Spoelstra do their part, too, on the sidelines. Gary Sacks and Gerald Madkins run the show behind the curtain for the Los Angeles Clippers. The same goes for Pat Riley and Nick Arison in Miami. However, Gregg Popovich is the master coach and his players aren't getting any younger. Popovich gets the prize for keeping the San Antonio Spurs, arguably the most dangerous team in the league right now, on track. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have endured their share of bumps and bruises along the way, and they're at full strength right now. Look out, Western Conference, because the Spurs are jingling and jangling. Others receiving votes: Del Negro of the Clippers, OKC's Scott Brooks, the Brookyln Nets' P.J. Carlesimo and Denver's George Karl.

BEST PICTURE - Many storylines, subplots, drama issues, firings and inspiring tales have surfaced during the 2012-13 campaign. The Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers moving along without their top players, the relationship between Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant, the aging Boston Celtics possibly on the decline and the bounce-back effort of San Antonio after a lousy playoff run are some of the hot topics. Others may have been left out, not intentionally, but the Clippers' rise from the ashes wins this category. Hated owner Donald Sterling finally got it right with the team he has assembled, with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford and others forming what has been dubbed "Lob City." Keep an eye out for this squad in the postseason. Others receiving votes: Kyrie Irving's ascension in Cleveland, Amare Stoudemire fitting in with New York, the Nets overtaking Brooklyn and finally getting a piece of the Big Apple budget, and Denver's dominant play.

VISUAL EFFECTS - NBA hoopsters may be pleasing to the eye of the female fan, and nothing stands out than an exciting play from an even more exciting player. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Blake Griffin are just a few who tantalize the crowd with a jaw-dropping play, while some retro uniforms, pre- game ceremonies and sweet shoe deals play their part in keeping the NBA an entertaining product. Nothing is more emphatic and crowd pleasing than a nasty dunk off an alley-oop pass and the Los Angeles Clippers do it best. How sweet is it to see Chris Paul fire up a pass to a soaring Griffin? Griffin and DeAndre Jordan abuse the rim regularly and the fans love it. Others receiving votes: Kyle Korver, Steve Novak and Stephen Curry from 3-point range, sideline antics from coaches, player introductions and All-Star weekend.

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING - Now this is an interesting and hard-to-decipher topic. So, here we go. Knicks swingman Iman Shumpert's flattop fade is simply awesome and reminiscent to the hip-hop group Kid 'n Play. Russell Westbrook or Dwyane Wade sporting those Steve Urkel-like glasses, Kenneth Faried's long, Predator-looking locks and Andrew Bynum's assortment of hairstyles have been well documented. Former Knicks enforcer Anthony Mason had those sharp carvings in his hair, but those days seem to be over. There are others who stand out like a sore thumb, most notably James Harden, who brings home this honor because of that beard. "Fear the Beard" has taken over Space City and it's difficult to imagine Harden without it. Perhaps his scoring touch is derived from the hair follicles on his chin. Others receiving votes: Miami's retro unis and Denver's third jersey, Brooklyn's darkened Barclays Center, Philadelphia guard Nick Young's fohawk.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM - It could get a bit weird here. Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace, more commonly known as Ron Artest, has calmed down in recent years and would have taken this award for at least five years straight. He still gets under the skin of opposing players, but it's not like the days of the brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills a few years back. Dennis Rodman is another character that would be in the running for most animated. Knicks reserve forward Rasheed Wallace is still in the league, surprisingly, and so is his trademark "Ball Don't Lie" response to refs when he's whistled for a foul he doesn't agree with. Lakers center Dwight Howard seems to smile more than he makes free throws, both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the Heat are also charismatic on the court, Miami forward Chris (Birdman) Anderson has more ink in his body than an octopus and Lakers star Kobe Bryant calling out his teammates is nothing new, either. While there is no clear-cut choice for this award, Kings center DeMarcus Cousins earns this distinction for how poorly he gets along with coach Keith Smart. Cousins has been suspended for it, too, and could be a much better player if he just harnesses his talents. Others receiving votes: All the current players mentioned above before Cousins, the soap opera that is 76ers center Andrew Bynum and Chicago Bulls enigmatic big man Joakim Noah, who also qualifies for the Makeup and Hairstyling award.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM - They may not speak the English language with ease, but these guys understand basketball. It is played world-wide, so if you're from Argentina, Russia, Belgium, Brazil or Spain, the chances of walking into a local YMCA and joining a pick-up game wouldn't be an issue. Nene, Leandro Barbosa, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao represent Brazil quite well, while Pau and Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon and Ricky Rubio are arguably the top Spanish players. Rubio and his band of foreigners in Minnesota are the clear-cut winners in this department. Guard J.J. Barea is from Puerto Rico, where the sun is hot and the ball is always bouncing, center Nikola Pekovic is representing Yugoslavia with pride, forward Mickael Gelabale is from Guadeloupe, and both Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved have carried their skills over from Russia. The influx of foreigners hasn't helped the Wolves, however, as they sit 12th in the West. Others receiving votes: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Dirk Nowitzki, Al Horford, Andrea Bargnani, Goran Dragic and Serge Ibaka.

02/22 14:48:39 ET