In an unprecedented move, the NBA has given January’s Player of the Month award to six different players.
Joining Houston Rockets MVP candidate James Harden (who gets the nod as Western Conference Player of the Month) is the entire starting five for the Atlanta Hawks, representing the Eastern Conference: Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and Al Horford.
In Adam Silver’s NBA, this move isn’t entirely surprising. The league’s new commissioner — who just hit his one-year mark on the job — is all about grand symbolic gestures.
When 2014 draft hopeful Isaiah Austin, a standout big man from Baylor University, saw his hopes dashed a by tragic diagnosis of Marfan Syndrome, Silver made him a ceremonial pick on draft night, offering him a job in the league so long as he finishes his degree at Baylor.
And there’s also, of course, Silver’s brash lifetime ban of disgraced former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling — the move that announced Silver’s presence to many followers of the league.
The decision to give the Hawks’ front five this award as a collective is, similarly, a sign of Silver’s relatively radical ethos. A celebration of teamwork and selflessness, the gesture could perhaps encourage other lineups throughout the league to skew their games in a direction less concerned with individual achievement, and more concerned with group achievement.
The curious announcement should also turn some more heads to what’s going on in Atlanta. Although they had their 19-game winning streak snapped by Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans this past Monday, the Hawks had a lossless January. And it’s not as if they did it with a creampuff schedule: their victim list through the month included the Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies.
Three of the Hawks’ starters (Teague, Horford, Millsap) were, additionally, selected as reserves for the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
— John Wilmes