NBA Trash Talk: Volume XV
Before we get down to business, I have a question: what’s up with the vests-under-jerseys trend going round at the moment? I thought that any accessories other than sweatbands and protective equipment (like the shirt Shaq wore to protect his bruised ribs) were illegal, yet this week alone I’ve seen four players wearing undershirts. Have the uniform regulations been relaxed? Answers on a postcard, kids. Failing that, get at me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a message in the comment box at the bottom of the page.
http://www.hoopsvibe.com/b-nba-trash-talk-special-edition-b-i-nba-all-hated-team-i-article-21967.html). The level of feedback I received following the publication of the piece was unprecedented, and those of you who responded were pretty passionate, to say the least. Before I move on to the MVP debate, I’d like to address a comment left by a Trash Talk reader going by the name of GatorFan76:
“I have to admit I don’t understand how Yao Ming got on there, I don’t think he’s really done anything to attract so much hate. I have a feeling it’s probably racial though, since the rest of the guys have actually done SOMETHING to merit such hate i.e. refusing to play for a city, rape allegations, being too cocky etc.”
GatorFan has touched upon something which was in the back of my mind each time I counted a vote for the Houston pivot. Unfortunately, as Kanye once said, “Racism’s still alive; they just be concealing it.” While I’m not accusing all those who voted for him of prejudice (after all, there are very few real centres from which to choose), there’s little doubt in my mind that his race contributed in some way to his being named the most hated centre in the league. I hadn’t meant to tackle any major issues in producing the article, but it nonetheless threw up some interesting questions, which I’ll perhaps tackle in a later edition of Trash Talk.
Anyway, onto the task at hand. Some time ago, I broached basketball’s big question when I asked, “Who’s your MVP?” In Volume XIV (http://cdn1-www.hoopsvibe.com/b-nba-trash-talk-b-i-volume-xiv-i-article-21810.html), I managed to whittle the potential MVP candidates down from a distinguished dozen to the top three: Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal and Steve Nash. Since then, the Big Fundamental has gone down with a bum ankle, effectively taking himself out of the running, which leaves us with just two to consider.
Nash’s second stint in Arizona has seen the team improve massively from the twenty-nine-win embarrassment it was last year. He’s currently averaging a monstrous 11.4 assists a night, along with sixteen points on over fifty percent shooting. Since he made the move from Dallas, the Suns have doubled their win total, and are on course for a sixty-win campaign. Phoenix have been killing teams all season, and just about every man on that roster has had a career year, due in no small part to the pinpoint passing of the 6’3” mop-top Canadian.
However, Steve wasn’t the only new arrival to the roster this year. Quentin Richardson, one of only four guards in the league to average seventeen and six rebounds in ’03-’04, also made the journey to The Grand Canyon State, bringing with him decent athleticism and an often-hot three-point shot. Amaré is growing all the time, Marion is assuming a more active role within the team, and newcomer Jim Jackson is making a great contribution off the bench, all of which is helping the franchise hugely.
Another point (which I won’t be the first to make) is that Steve Nash can’t play a lick of defence. With the exception of his former teammate, Nowitzki, no other player mentioned as a possible winner of the award is anywhere near as poor on the defensive end of the floor.
What of Shaq, then? Well, it’s hard (and potentially dangerous) to argue against anyone that damn powerful. Diesel might be the only player on the planet who simply cannot be held by one man. Hell, it’s rare that a double-team manages to limit his production, and for that reason alone he deserves to be considered. Twenty-three and ten while taking a beating every night (he averages more trips to the charity stripe than anyone in the league) is impressive, but doing it on sixty percent shooting is phenomenal.
However, the debate, for me at least, hinges on one thing only: wins. Check this out:
Mavericks in ’03-’04: 52 wins
Mavericks in ’04-’05: 52 wins, with six games left
Steve Nash has been replaced by Jason Terry, and the franchise is doing marginally better than they were at this point last year. Is J.T. an MVP-calibre player? No. Make of that what you will.
Suns in ’03-’04: 29 wins
Suns in ’04-’05: 57 wins, with six games left
The second coming of Steve heralded a new era for Phoenix fans, but, as previously stated, some of the credit has to go to Q et al. as well.
Lakers in ’03-’04: 56 wins
Lakers in ’04-’05: 34 wins, with six games left
Heat in ’03-’04: 42 wins
Heat in ’04-’05: 56 wins, with four games left
Shaq’s departure from L.A. did more than end a dynasty; it made the Lakers pretty crappy. His arrival in Miami, conversely, took them from being a team which barely broke even to being the hottest (no pun intended) squad in the east. Also worth noting is that Shaq was traded for three of Miami’s key players, while Nash left town as a free agent. Steve’s old team is doing nicely without him, while Shaq’s is flapping like a fish out of water even with Odom, Butler and Grant. That, for me, is the bottom line.
My conclusion: Shaquille O’Neal for MVP.
I’m sure that’ll get tongues wagging, so I invite you all to chip in with your thoughts on the subject. Use the comment box at the bottom of the page or email me (email@example.com) with your opinion on this or anything else going on in the NBA you want to talk about.
So, until next week, keep your eyes on the league as teams scrabble for postseason position. Stakes is high (props if you get the De La Soul reference), and tensions are, too. This is the time of year when things really start to get interesting. Blink and you’ll miss something big.
Take it easy now,