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As most teams hit the midway mark in their season this week, TSNs Jack Armstrong offers his thoughts on some of the players who have stood out to me in the first half. Ales Hemsky Stars Jersey . Here are his mid-season NBA awards.  MVP: (KEVIN DURANT-Thunder) - Has been sensational this season and more importantly, the most consistent player in the league. Considering that his team has been without star guard Russell Westbrook and with the free agent departure of sharpshooter Kevin Martin, hes had to carry the majority of the load to not only keep his team afloat but more importantly, at an elite level. Hes delivered on every level. Sure, LeBron James is the best all-around player in the game today yet hes had stretches where he seems to have it on cruise control. Durant brings it for you all the time and for that, I give it to him at the midpoint. ROOKIE: (MICHAEL CARTER WILLIAMS-Sixers) - Simply put, brilliant. His team has been abysmal without him and yet have a decent (considering theyre in tank mode) 12-18 record when he plays. This guy is a better player than he was in college at Syracuse, much like Russell Westbrook at UCLA. He impacts the game on so many fronts its ridiculous. I love watching him play and if I cant catch his game, I make sure I check the boxscores from his games to see his eye-popping stats. I shook my head when they traded Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans on draft night but now I completely understand why they did. Theyve got a major impact guy to run their team for years to come. Special talent. COACH: (JEFF HORNACEK-Suns) - Could have gone with Terry Stotts of the Trail Blazers or Frank Vogel of the Pacers here but who figured the Suns would be this good this year? No one. They were one of the teams in the discussion as being in full tank mode yet a funny thing happened on the way to the lottery. This team plays really hard. Wonderful decision to team the two point guards together (Dragic and Bledsoe). They play with energy and a purpose. Outstanding role definition and they share the ball. To me, the coaching has been a major factor bringing it all together nicely. The injury to Eric Bledsoe is a major blow and Im not sure if they can hold on to a playoff spot but at this point, youve got to give major props to Hornacek and his staff for a job well done. DEFENCE: (ROY HIBBERT-Pacers) - All he does every night is block and alter shots and make you think twice and a third time about bringing your game into the lane. On top of that, he rebounds and is a physical force in the paint. The Pacers are the leagues best defensive team and a huge reason is the fact that they have outstanding rim protection and it all starts with this man. Offensively, hes become a much more polished player as well. He said his goal was to be the top defender in the league and in my book, hes it. MOST IMPROVED: (LANCE STEPHENSON-Pacers) - This second round pick has continued to get better and better. He had a lot of rough edges to his game and his personality coming out of Cincinnati but to his credit, hes slowly but surely emerged as a significant part of the attack of the leagues top team. He can score, rebound, pass and guard for you. Plays with great passion and intensity and has slowed his game down and now plays at a controlled speed with a purpose. Will get a nice raise this off-season. Well earned and well deserved. RAPTORS MVP: (KYLE LOWRY) - No doubt about this pick. Hes been a constant with his leadership, defence and clutch play. Has major league competitive spirit in his personality and zero back-down as well. Give him credit, hes in the best shape of his career (I love guys in their contract year, its amazing how it happens like this so often) and it shows in his game. His ability to get in the lane and create for teammates has grown nicely along with his consistency with the 3-point shot which makes him a greater force in the screen-and-roll game. Ultimately, you watch this team this year and his personality and will to win and pay the price has made this an enjoyable first half of the season for Raptors fans. Yes, there have been plenty of bumps in the road but when you think of Lowry, hes been a major bright spot. Good for him, hes paid the price and gives it to you consistently. Mike Modano Jersey . The Earthquakes (6-9-7) were coming off a 5-0 loss at home last Saturday to FC Dallas. Even with the draw, the Sounders (13-7-3) climbed back into a tie for both the Western Conference and overall top spot in MLS. Seattle, West co-leader Real Salt Lake and East leader Sporting Kansas City all have 42 points. Jiri Hudler Stars Jersey . The 18-year-old Januzaj has made his breakthrough at United this season, including scoring twice in a 2-1 win over Sunderland before the recent international break. His performances have sparked a debate about where his international future lies.Canadian skier Jean-Philippe Auclair was remembered Wednesday as a freestyle pioneer who helped revolutionize the sport in its formative years before shifting to filmmaking and a focus on the more extreme side of the slopes, influencing a generation of athletes with his creativity and vision in the process.He was a creator, said former Canadian Freestyle Skiing Association CEO Peter Judge. He saw the world in a different way.The bodies of Auclair and fellow pro skier Carl Andreas Fransson were spotted by helicopter Tuesday in Argentina during a joint rescue operation by the armed forces and police in neighbouring Chile, The Associated Press reported.They had been missing since an avalanche swept them away while they were hiking in southern Chile. Auclair, a native of Ste-Foy, Que., was 37.Armada Skis, a company based in Costa Mesa, Calif., confirmed to The Canadian Press that one of the missing hikers was Auclair — the firms co-founder — but offered no further comment pending permission from his family.Judge, now Own The Podiums winter sport director, was a coach when Auclair was first starting out with the freestyle development team in the mid-1990s.At the time, the squad was loaded with stars like Jean-Luc Brassard, Stephane Rochon and Dominick Gauthier. The teams depth made it very difficult to crack the elite World Cup roster.Some of the up-and-coming skiers like Auclair later branched out in different directions.By doing that, I think it really accelerated their creative thought processes and doing some of the innovative things that they did that eventually took the sport in a whole different direction, Judge said in a phone interview from Calgary.But as these things go, many of the unintended consequences of something creates something totally different, he added. In this case in many ways it created a reinvention of the sport.Auclair was a strong influence in the burgeoning sport as it gained more mainstream acceptance. He was the first guy to do what (American) Jonny Moseley later made famous in the 98 (Nagano) Games, to do a mute-grab 360, which was a significant departure from the stock foray of jumping at the time, Judge said. Everything was very formula in moguls at the time, in that time period. He actually bent the mould based on that and didnt really ever get credit.Like a true artist, you dont get credit until after youre gone and out of the sport.Longtime friend Jean-Francois Cusson, who partnered with Auclair to start Armada Skis, released a statement Wednesday afternoon, calling Auclair an unbelievable human being.J.P. was by far the most creative calculating perfectionist I ever met in my life, he said. Extreme skiing might be a dangerous sport, but he was meticulous in every aspect of his preparation. Everything! So I always felt like he was untouchable.Nobody came close to touching his talent and his ability to push the boundaries of creativity. The sport has lost a pioneering innovator and is going to miss him, but the great personal memories I have with J.P. will stay with me forever.Auclair moved into different areas like freeskiing, urban skiing and ski development. His Facebook news feed was stocked with incredible photos and videos from his travels.His love for adventure, nature and sport was evident.Big mountain skiing was certainly a large part of his draw and what he wanted to project and convey to people in the sport as well as all the other pieces, ranging from in the early days of competing through to innovating to filmmaking, Judge said. Mike Modano Stars Jersey. Theres so many dimensions to how his love of the sport manifested itself.Auclair appeared in the 2011 film, All.I.Can, which featured the Canadian navigating the twists and turns of a Trail, B.C., neighbourhood while on skis. I was astounded when I saw it, Judge said. Just how much it nailed who J.P. was and what went on in his mind and what his legacy inside of what he gave to the sport.Photographer Felix Rioux was a longtime friend of Auclairs and joined him on many ski trips over the years.I think his goals were to execute his visions of what he thinks skiing should be about or at least how he would like it to be, Rioux said from Montreal. He was always a great skier but hes always been a great visionary, working with the ski companies to design skis, design the clothing.Rioux is the director of the IF3 International Freeski Film Festival, which ran earlier this month in Montreal.Most of the ski videos that youve seen of J.P., well he was directly involved with the concept, directing and sometimes he would even be the guy directing the segment, Rioux said. I think if you look at J.P.s career and everything that surrounds him, thats pretty much what his dream was all about.Auclairs last Facebook post on Friday included a picture of a mountain top and a note about the future.road trip down south with a great crew. back at it with @andreasfransson99 @bjarnesalen and @danielronnback for #apogeeskiing and very much looking forward to the days ahead, he posted.Authorities said Auclair and Fransson arrived in the Aysen region of Chiles Patagonia on Thursday along with two other tourists from Sweden. They had been hiking the 3,600-metre San Lorenzo mountain, and disappeared when a wall of rocks and snow cascaded down, dragging them to a stream in Argentine territory.The two survivors in the group were treated at a local hospital, and police said they provided information to help locate the bodies.Auclairs biography on the Armada website said he had obtained Level One certification in avalanche operations through the Canadian Avalanche Association in 2009. In an interview on the website, Auclair said his approach to his work recently changed after he became a father.Now, I double, triple check and do my homework a lot more thoroughly. The factors that Im not aware of, I want to make sure its dialled before jumping into the unknown.Rioux said Auclairs family members and loved ones were keeping in touch with local officials as they waited for more details on the effort to recover the bodies. The Canadian Freestyle Ski Association said on Twitter it was shocked & deeply saddened by Auclairs sudden death. Slopestyle skier Kaya Turski was one of several athletes to voice their grief on the social media website.I am so sorry to hear about JP Auclairs recent passing. My heart goes out to his family. A true legend...... Rest well, she tweeted.Former alpine star Brian Stemmle also posted a note.I didnt have the chance to meet JP Auclair or Andreas Fransson but I grieve with our entire ski community. #RIP, he said.Judge added that Auclair was a well-respected, unassuming, quiet kind of guy.For someone who had achieved the kinds of things he had achieved, he could have been very bigger than life and ostentatious, he said. And yet he was the most grounded, down to earth, humble guy. Just a real genuine soul, you know.———With files from Canadian Press reporters Peter Ray and Fred Daigle and The Associated Press. 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