Saturday, April 19, 2008

Lakers ironic season should win Kobe MVP



It's a funny thing about MVP's. Not just in the NBA, but in every sport. Virtually every year, there's more than one guy who deserves the award. But only one can win it. And so the question becomes, Who is the most deserving, and the answer to that question is almost always subjective. A.I. won the MVP in 2001; I think pretty much everyone agreed with that pick. But since then? Tim Duncan won it in 2002; many thought Jason Kidd was flat-out robbed. Duncan won it again in 2003; many felt Kevin Garnett got hosed. Kevin did win in 2004, and most thought it was a pretty easy choice, but at the time, Bill Simmons wrote: "Tim Duncan is the best player in the league. He should always be the MVP if he's healthy. Always. Always. Always." It was a legitimate argument then, and it still is. Tim Duncan is the best all-around big man ever, and he's still in his prime. His team wins the championship every other year. And even when they don't win, they're right there in the mix. For at least the next season and maybe the next two seasons, there's still nobody I'd rather build my team around than Tim Duncan. He's the real MVP. Always is. But I digress.

Anyways, back to my original point (what was it again?) Steve Nash won in 2005, but Shaq had a very strong case himself. In 2006 Nash won again, but Kobe and LeBron could've won just as easily. Last year, Dirk got the honor for being the best player on the best team - but Nash's numbers were pretty much identical to the previous season, and he won 61 games himself. Needless to say, this isn't an exact science. And usually, there is no clear-cut winner or consensus "right" choice.

Whatever. This year, there are three prime candidates for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy: Chris Paul, Kobe, and KG. I think LeBron, supernatural phenomenon that he is, fell out of the race when Cleveland struggled down the stretch and sort of limped to 45 wins in a very weak Eastern Conference. That's not gonna cut it. So sorry.

Kevin, though, led the Celtics to 66-wins, third-best in franchise history. That's a 42-game turnaround from the previous year, an NBA record. He's the best defensive player in the league - like a basketball version of Brian Urlacher with the amount of ground he covers - and along with Kobe and A.I. the most intense and competitive player in the sport. And his entire essence has spread to the rest of his team, who played every game of the regular season like it was Game 7 of the Finals. The Celtics were a historically good defensive team this year - they held opponents to only 41.9 percent shooting, and Garnett was at the center of it.

But the Celtics went 9-2 without him this season - I understand that his personality had such an impact on the culture of the team that even when he wasn't in the lineup, his impact was still felt on the court. But still. Neither Kobe nor Paul could have missed 11 games and seen their teams go 9-2. For those reasons, I can't give it to him. He deserves it, but I don't think he's the most deserving, so in my book, he doesn't deserve to win, if you follow me.

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It has been said that this season Chris Paul submitted the best year in the history of the point guard position, or at least the best non-Magic years. Don't know about any of that. What I do know is that Paul has the ball in his hands as much as any player I've ever seen, and that he's as responsible for manufacturing points as anyone I've ever seen. I know that he's as good at setting up his teammates in positions to score as you can possibly be, and that he can get anywhere he wants to on the floor at any time. You can't run a team any better than Chris Paul ran the Hornets this season. I watched him his rookie year and was absolutely shocked at how in control he was of his club for such a young player, and he's only gotten better. On top of that, he's probably the best defensive point guard in the league.

Most importantly, though, he took a team that would probably win 20 games without him to 56 wins, the second highest victory total in the most competitive year for a conference ever.

But I still can't give him the MVP.

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I don't know what to say about me and Kobe. Five years ago, I found myself defending him all the time. Now, it's like I've put so much thought into him over the years that I don't have much to say about him, and I definitely don't want to write about him. Or maybe it's that if I do have a lot to say about him, only if I got started, I might never stop. The guy is complicated like that. He drives you crazy.

Thus, I'll keep it short, simple, and to the point: I think Kobe deserves the MVP because he played the most impressive all-around basketball of his career in leading his team to the best record in the best conference in basketball history. He's was the best all-around player in the league when he played with Shaq, but couldn't win it then because he was only the second most important player on his own team, obviously. Then Shaq left, and he was still the most complete player, but he didn't have the team success to go with his individual prowess. This year, he did.

Nobody expected Kobe to even be on the Lakers at this point in the season. Yet here he stands, still on the Lakers, with homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, the favorite to win the Western Conference. This year has been about Kobe and the Lakers more than anything else, and the only way for the MVP award to reflect that is for Bean to win it.

I mean, it just feels like Kobe's year this year, doesn't it? As Snoop from The Wire once said, "It's just his time, that's all."

1 comment:

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