As we head into the NBA All-Star Game, I think it's important to look back on the (more than) half season that was.
The PGA Tour Rolls On
Standing at a Eastern Conference dominating 41-9, the Danny Ainge constructed trio has run roughshod all over their opponents thus far. Any questions about their chemistry and ability to play off of one another have been answered emphatically by this start. While durability remains a concern, I think that the Garnett injury happening when it did actually could have been the best thing possible for this team. Aside from galvanizing the remaining cast into winning, the losses they took made the 72-win goal unreachable, so they can focus not on some amazingly tough record, but on becoming the best possible basketball team they can, while tooling up for the postseason.
With all the apparent discord coming out of Sacramento heading into the season, I was looking forward to some Ron Artest shenanigans. At the very least, I was anxiously awaiting a trade to a larger market, so we could get some great soundbites/youtube fodder. But, here I sit in February with nothing. Nothing. C'mon Ron-Ron, pick it up.
Chris Paul, come on down. Not only has he led the New Orleans Hornets out of obscurity, he has solidified himself as the best young point guard on the planet. He has made the Hornets look downright dominant in the West, and stand tied with the Suns for the best record. That said, the second half biggest surprise will be how fast and far this little team that could will fall in the face of the new look Lakers, Suns, and soon-to-be Mavs. Not to mention the defending champs, who a lot of people are counting out, but have the exact same record as they did at this point last year.
The Steve Nash wins proved that you don't HAVE to be an All-Star Starter to be considered a favorite, but historically, it helps. That said, I'll divide the 10 starters up, and describe why they won't be MVP this year (elected starters, injury scratches aside).
Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Yao Ming, Jason Kidd, Dwayne Wade
Look, they've all had great runs, but they're not front runners for a reason. A.I. and Melo, ya'll are the top scoring tandem in the Association, but at 32-20, there have to be more consistent results. Yao Ming can't describe what 'past the first round' even looks like. Jason Kidd is stuck (for now) on a bad team. Dwayne Wade's career is already on the downside, and his team has won 9 games so far this year.
Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard
Tim is a victim of his own success. Much like when Karl Malone won the MVP over Jordan, people are just tired of watching the same person dominate. He isn't flashy or loud, he is just the most consistent, winning candidate. Dwight Howard has been a double-double machine, and could develop into the type of player our current leaders are.
LeBron James, Kevin Garnett
Garnett has had the most impact on his team of the three, transforming the Celtics into a hustling, defense first squad that looks to be able to make a post-season push. Missing games recently has hurt him, but if he can keep his missed games under 15, he could still be a contender. Mr. James has been electric at times, but everything else around him is such a mess it's hard to ignore. His openly pining for Kidd HAS to have ruffled some feathers around him, and as tremendous as he is, I don't think he will be able to drag this team as far as Mr. Garnett or our current MVP pick.
KB24 has developed into a full player this year, continuing his evolution defensively and genuinely making the other players around him better. This year has seen the emergence of Andrew Bynum, and also seen the young guards improve under Kobe's watch. Even his pouting last year has paid off, as he was rewarded with the perfect compliment in the triangle offense in the person of Pau Gasol. If this squad can put together a title run rests alot on Bynum's return and Kobe's finger, but worse case scenario - this is going to be a dangerous squad for at least 3 years. The Mamba has been playing the best basketball ever, and Mr. James said it best:
"I know I got no chance if Kobe Bryant has never won it."
-- Cavs forward LeBron James, on his MVP candidacy this year compared to others.