The Catalan or the Australian? The ACC or the Euroleague? The injury and the nagging injury. The rookie and the rookie.
There have been some incredible rookies this year. Kenneth Faried is one of my favorites, and not just because I dig his Muslim upbringing, his jacked torso, or his braided tresses flowing in the mile high air. He played hard and tough, and came on late in the year for a Denver team that’s competing for a playoff birth.
There are many others: Klay Thompson’s play as the Warriors ironically try and tank; Iman Shumpert’s exhausting defense; Marshoon Brooks’ polished mid-range game; Isaiah Thomas playing so well for Sac-Town, Tyreke is forced into a role he can barely accept. The list goes on with Kawhi Leonard playing important minutes for a championship contender and Chandler Parsons adding to the Rockets’—now lost—playoff hopes. Or perhaps you favored Tristan Thompson and Brandon Knight. There were plenty of rookies to talk about over the 66 game sprint of a regular season.
In the end, it’s always been about Irving and Rubio. The Australian Dukie lost his mother at the age of 4 and promised his father he’d go back to Duke over the summers and finish his undergraduate degree in 5 years. Ricky’s mom cuts his steak for him in meetings with general managers, but Ricky also survived the rigors of professional play when most people are ditching school to smoke pot in the park.
With Ricky Rubio starting for the Minnesota Timberwolves, they finished 18-13. That means they’ve ben 8-26 without him, but largely with blossoming small forward superstar, Kevin Love. Forget about his sub 36% shooting, and his occasional turnover and, instead, picture the passing, cutting, laughing Timberwolves team that snapped photos of each other when they fell asleep on the team flights and lit up a surprisingly tough ticket at the Target Center. Ricky Rubo is the future of ‘Wolves’ basketball, and it’s an exciting—if tenuous—future. He’s not the Rookie of the Year.
Kyrie Irving has played in just 6 more games than Rubio. He’s battled his own injury issues (a concussion and a jinky shoulder), but his numbers—21.91 PER through 46 games—and his ability to get Cleveland to the brink of playoff contention before the all-star break, all mean he is the Rookie of the Year. The long-suffering Cavaliers fans finally stopped talking about LeBron and envisioned a bright future without Witness posters. We were all witnesses to Irving’s tranformative virtues for a franchise in dire need of them. That’s really why he’s the 2012 Rookie of the Year.