I did not have an official vote for the NBA’s most valuable player award this season, but I did have one in a straw poll conducted by a national outlet that I cannot name in the interest of anonymity. Okay, it was ESPN and I voted for Joel Embiid of the Sixers.
He didn’t win. Instead, it was Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, who took home the award on Monday, per ESPN, and has now won the award in back-to-back years. He became just the 13th player in league history to go back-to-back.
While I thought Embiid was the MVP because of his two-way dominance and how he kept the Sixers afloat during the Ben Simmons saga, it’s not hard to see why Jokic ended up the winner. He had a monster season averaging 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Jokic was the sixth player in NBA history to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks in a season. And he was the first player ever to record at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists.
That distinction caught the attention of many, as it singled Jokic out as having a historic season and also showed his widespread impact on the Nuggets. It wasn’t just the numbers, either. The fact Denver went 48-34 without Jamal Murray for the entire year and only had Michael Porter Jr. for nine games is a remarkable feat for Jokic. They lost their second and third best players due to injury and were still 14 games above .500.
Murray was an especially big loss. He was a key figure on the 2019-20 Nuggets team which made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals before losing to the eventual champion L.A. Lakers.
Based on the reaction of some on social media, you would think Embiid got robbed of the award, that Jokic wasn’t deserving. Though I would have voted for Embiid, that’s far from the case. This is a matter of two great players having exceptional seasons and not a whole lot separating them.
Embiid won the scoring title, shot a higher percentage from three and blocked more shots. Jokic, meanwhile, grabbed more rebounds, had more assists and steals. While Embiid has long been an elite defender, Jokic has made significant strides on that end of the floor, to the point some advanced metrics suggest he too is among the better rim-protectors in the league.
Embiid’s case may have been hurt by him simply having more help, at least in the eyes of the voters. The Simmons situation was a disaster, but Tobias Harris was available all season, Tyrese Maxey emerged in their backcourt and they acquired James Harden at the trade deadline. If the Nuggets had instead traded for a player like Harden, maybe that would have tipped the scale towards Embiid.
The irony of this debate, which has become one of the more contentious NBA debates on Twitter in recent months, is that most would probably argue neither Jokic or Embiid is the best player in the league. That nod would likely go to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who like Jokic now also has two MVP awards. He’s also the reigning Finals MVP and is the only one of the three with a ring.
One thing seems certain and that is this MVP race between Jokic and Embiid (with Antetokounmpo in third) is going to go down as one of the closer and more memorable in recent years. Maybe it will stand the test of time in that regard. The fact Philly sports fans never seem to forget a slight probably helps the cause there.
But regardless of that, Jokic is the official MVP and whether you would have voted for him or not, he’s deserving of the award.
FIU Baseball Head Coach Mervyl Melendez to Step Down at Conclusion of 2022 Season
MIAMI – FIU baseball head coach Mervyl Melendez announced Wednesday that he is stepping down following the conclusion of the 2022 season, following this weekend’s series vs. Rice.
“During my six years at FIU, I devoted my heart and soul into our student-athletes and this program. I am proud of the upgrades that we have made and the resources we have been able to secure for this program so that we are able to leave this program in better shape than when I arrived,” Melendez said. “I will miss the relationships that have been built. Each of our student-athletes has a bright future ahead of them, and I am proud to have been their coach.”
“I want to thank Coach Melendez for leading the FIU Baseball program the past six years,” FIU Athletics Director Scott Carr said. “Merv is a high-character, servant-leader who cares deeply about everyone, especially the young men that played for him. We wish Merv, Aixa, and the entire Melendez family the best in their future endeavors.”
Melendez was named head coach at FIU in June 2016. His overall record at FIU was 126-154. During his tenure, the Panthers achieved numerous postseason awards, including seven All-C-USA selections, seven Freshman All-Americans and six C-USA All-Freshman honors. Additionally, 14 Panthers have been selected in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
Melendez also led the charge on numerous baseball facility upgrades during his time at FIU, with an indoor batting cage and weight room, artificial turf home bullpen, renovated players’ locker room, lounge and kitchen topping the list.
A national search for the Panthers’ next head baseball coach will begin immediately.
FGCU 7, No.9 Miami 3: Hurricanes Lose Final Midweek Matchup of 2022
A 7-3 loss on Tuesday night finished off the Miami Hurricanes schedule of mid-week games in 2022. The Hurricanes are now 37-15 (18-9 ACC) this season, and will need to have a good weekend against Notre Dame after back-to-back losses in conference series and a three game losing streak.
FGCU got out to a quick start on Tuesday, with Brian Ellis hitting a lead off home run on the fourth pitch of the game to give the Eagles the lead almost immediately. Miami did respond to tie the game in the bottom of the inning though. Back-to-back singles from CJ Kayfus and Yohandy Morales, and a one-out hit-by-pitch, loaded the bases for Miami. With two outs, Dominic Pitelli was hit by a pitch to tie the game, but a groundout meant the Hurricanes stranded the bases loaded.
The third inning was similar to the first inning, with FGCU scoring a run to take the lead in the top of the inning before Miami tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Two singles put a runner in scoring position for FGCU with two outs, and Alejandro Rodriguez hit an RBI-single to make the score 2-1. Fortunately for Miami, Jacob Burke hit a 440 foot solo home run to tie the game in the bottom of the inning.
In the bottom of the fifth inning Miami took their first lead of the game. Zach Levenson hit a one-out single and advanced to second on a walk from Dorian Gonzalez. FGCU got the second out of the inning, but a clutch two-out RBI-single from Ariel Garcia put Miami ahead 3-2.
The Hurricanes got within six outs of a victory, but a four-run top of the eighth inning gave FGCU the win. Alejandro Figueredo led off the inning with a game-tying solo home run, and two straight batters reached afterwards to give the Eagles the chance to take the lead. Harrison Povey took advantage, hitting an RBI-double to give FGCU their first lead in the game since the top of the third inning. A walk loaded the bases after the double, and a balk scored the third run of the inning before a sac-fly scored the final run and made the score 6-3.
A Joe Kinker solo home run scored the final run of the game in the top of the ninth inning, and in the bottom of the inning the Hurricanes left two men on base after a strikeout ended the game. In total, Miami stranded 12 runners on base in Tuesday’s game while allowing 15 hits from FGCU to go along with three home runs.
The loss makes the path to the Hurricanes finishing the season as a Top 8 seed, and a Super-regional host in the NCAA Tournament, considerably more difficult. Miami will likely need a strong weekend against Notre Dame and an appearance in the semi-finals, and possibly even the championship game, of next week’s ACC Tournament to return to the top eight.
First pitch of the Hurricanes series against Notre Dame is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Thursday night. Miami remains in first place in the ACC heading into the weekend, but multiple teams remain in contention to win the conference, including Notre Dame.
Winning Pitcher: Tyler Tipton (4-3, 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K)
Losing Pitcher: Gage Ziehl (1-2, 0.0 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 K)
No. 9 Miami Falls in Midweek Finale
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The ninth-ranked University of Miami baseball team dropped its final midweek game of the year, falling to the FGCU Eagles, 7-3, Tuesday evening at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.
“We just didn’t play well,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said. “I thought the guys were in a good state of mind going into the game. I felt like everybody had good body language and was positive, moving forward from the weekend series. I told them the game of baseball is about as close to life as it can throw at you. There’s so much adversity that you have to deal with. We didn’t do anything to help us win in any phase. Overall, just a disappointing game.”
The Hurricanes (37-15, 18-9 ACC) held a 3-2 lead after the seventh inning, but the Eagles (32-20, 15-12 ASUN) rallied for four runs in the eighth.
FGCU third baseman Alejandro Figueredo launched a game-tying solo shot to spark the Eagles late.
Three batters later, right fielder Harrison Povey put the visitors in front for good with an RBI double.
The Eagles tacked on two more tallies in the inning, capitalizing on a balk and a sacrifice fly.
FGCU punctuated its late offensive outburst in the ninth behind a Joe Kinker solo blast.
“We got to be able to handle it,” DiMare said. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have a big, big opportunity this weekend to put ourselves back on track to what we want to be doing.”
Miami had its chances early in the contest, but the Eagles kept the Hurricanes in check.
The Canes loaded the bases with no outs in the opening inning, but only mounted one run.
Then, with two down in the fourth, Miami put three runners on, but couldn’t cash in.
“We didn’t take advantage of them,” DiMare said. “We have to make sure we don’t try and do too much and give good at-bats. You can look at many things in this game and we just didn’t execute in all phases.”
Miami starter Jake Garland earned a no-decision, tossing six solid innings. The right-hander surrendered two earned runs, firing 54 of his 77 pitches for strikes.
Freshman reliever Gage Ziehl (1-2) was tagged with the loss, while FGCU right-hander Tyler Tipton (4-3) picked up the win, following 5 1/3 innings of one-run baseball out of the bullpen.
With the loss, the Hurricanes finished the year 9-3 in midweek games.
Miami wraps up its regular season slate with a three-game set against No. 14 Notre Dame. The series opener is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Mark Light Field.
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