Road to Redemption: LaCruz Named 2023 All-Star Game MVP
- By Jron Magcale, Day 120, 2023
LOS ANGELES - "I ain't finished yet." LaCruz said after receiving the All-Star game MVP honor, the Fireballs point god drops 39 points, 9 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block and helped the West All-Stars defeats the East All-Stars 191-186. This is a full year after being snubbed last season despite finishing the 2022 campaign with 26.1 ppg, 9.5 apg, 5 rpg, 1.5 spg and 0.7 bpg while shooting 47% FG, 37% 3FG, 80% FT and being named in the All-JBL 2nd Team. The Fireballs franchise player has been on a tear ever since, he has pushed himself over the limit to the point that he injured himself during an offseason workout. This season, LaCruz got his juice back starting off the season strong he receives the 2nd highest votes in the West All-Stars and a spot in the starting lineup.
"Of course, I would like to thank God for everything, my family, the entire Fireballs organization, the city of Los Angeles and our fans, greatest fans a team could ever have. All my family overseas in the Philippines, Subic Bay represent! My fam in Brooklyn, Crooklyn stay up! This award is sweet, to my coaches and teammates thank you for believing in me, always. Lety's carry over this momentum and get it! Let's go!" LaCruz said after being awarded by Commissioner Jason Forte of the All-Star MVP trophy.
LaCruz has been a front-runner for the MVP award all season with massive numbers 31.5 ppg (leads league), 9 apg (10th in the league), 5.8 rpg, 1.1 spg and 0.7 bpg. He is also shooting efficiently with 51% FG, 40% 3FG and 82% FT. His advanced stats are even more impressive as his 25 PER is good for 5th in the league, #2 in EWA next only to last season's MVP Kelvin Hawes, #1 in OWS with 7.5 and #3 in WS with 9.0. His numbers suggests that he may very well win the MVP but not so fast as the Fireballs is still on a battle for a playoff spot and seems like they will be the whole duration of the season. With a completely new look squad from a season ago, the Fireballs is now sitting at 29-28 and 9th in the West behind only Kansas City Knights who is also sporting a new look. With his All-Star MVP hardware, he may very well be the MVP of the league in the 1st half of it. But the mission is still not finished, it will be a very difficult run for the Fireballs who stands at #4 in SOS in the league. Basically LaCruz has been the only one making the Fireballs relevant and afloat right now, if the award is based on a player's value for a team, LaCruz takes it unanimously. But there are several factors for it and while LaCruz is having a legendary 2023 campaign, he still needs to carry the team to make the playoffs and from there do well.
"The goal has always been the same, playoffs is still within reach, the individual accolades are great and at the end of the day that is a reward for busting my ass all season long. But the mission has always been the playoffs. We have pretty different team from last season, a lot of new adjustments, a lot of familiarity but guys like Dev (Carroll) and Reg (Coleman) along with the rest of the boys makes it easier for me to lead. We are playing as a unit and that is important, long ass season, I tell you but you have to always keep on grindin'." LaCruz said in the post-game presser.
The West also received great performances by Kelvin Hawes and Andre Phifer who both notched 29 points. The East has a balanced attack as 4 players scored 20 or more points and 9 players scored in double figures. Jason Cheaney lead the East with 32 points, Followed by Alonzo Weaver's 27 points, Taquan Slattery and Darius Barry both scored 25 points as well. It was a great show for the fans and it was a good break for the league, a once-a-year event where rivals becomes teammates and put on a show for the fans in attendance.
BOX SCORE: http://jblfl.com/allstargame?year=2023
The Fireballs will resume their mission on Day 121 as they will host the Lightning (23-34) then travel to Minneapolis to face the Blizzard (21-38) on Day 123.