MVP Race

I just watched the Dallas-Phoenix thriller for the third time on DVR. Excellent game. I came away with two thoughts.
No. 1 – Steve Nash is unbelievable. If you could draw a picture of a playmaker, it would be him. He is an offensive wizard. I can watch him all day. He is so sound, yet breathtaking.
No. 2 – Steve Nash is not the MVP. The reason: Amare Stoudemire. This dude is equally spectacular. There is no way I can say Steve Nash deserves an MVP award with a player like that on his team, especially when you throw in Shawn Marion. Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t have anyone nearly as good as Stoudemire, or Marion, on his team.
Nash supporters for MVP, be honest. If you took Stoudemire, Marion, Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and any other solid PG in the league, would they make the playoffs? Granted, they may not be No. 2 unless you put another All-Star PG in Nash’s place. But they’d be top eight. They might win the Pacific still. They would be a different type of time, low-post oriented.
Now, would Josh Howard, Erick Dampier, Jason Terry and Devin Harris — along with any other solid power forward, make the playoffs? Would this aforementioned team be better than the Warriors?
I don’t think so.
Nash is the most valuable player on the Suns. But it’s not as big of gap from Nash to Stoudemire as it is from Dirk Nowitzki to Jason Terry. For that, in my mind, he can’t be MVP. Isn’t that the reason Shaq, inexplicably, has only one MVP – because he’s played with All-NBA caliber players such as Anfernee Hardaway, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade?


Warriors’ Next Win?

Fitz and Brooks (Bob Fitzgerald and Rod Brooks) were speculating this after noon on their radio show about when the Warriors next win would come. They certainly have a murderous row of opponents lined up over the next five games:

Tuesday at Jazz
Friday vs. Wizards
Sunday at Lakers
Monday vs. Spurs
Thursday vs. Phoenix

With the old Warriors, this is an 0-5 stretch, at best 1-4. With the new Warriors, it’s hard to tell. Let’s handicap their chances in each game.

Tuesday: You can all but chalk this up as a loss. The Utah is not only a better team than the Warriors, but is great at home. Utah is 25-7 at home entering Tuesday. Only Dallas (31-4), Phoenix (26-7) and Cleveland (26-8) have a better home record. What’s more, Utah has lost four straight, so they’re hungry. They’re also playing for something. If they can snatch the No. 3 seed from San Antonio (three games back), they’ll face the reeling Lakers instead of Houston.

Friday: On paper, this is their best chance to win in the next five games. Washington is a poor road team (11-19) and they will likely be without Caron Butler, one of their Big Three. They play uptempo basketball, which feeds right into the Warriors style of play. On the otherhand, Gilbert might go for 75 just to remind the Warriors what they’re missing.

Sunday: Though the Lakers (22-11) are good at home and the Warriors are bad on the road (8-26), this is another one of their best chances to get a win. The Lakers are struggling, having lost seven of 10. Luke Walton and Lamar Odom are rusty, Kwame looks terrible and Bynum has slammed into the rookie wall. Remember, the Warriors nearly won in LA earlier until Baron got a cramp late. The Warriors have played the Lakers close at Staples the last couple of years, so they should be in it down the stretch.

Monday: The Spurs have lost two straight since their 13-game win streak, but are playing their best basketball of the season. They have new-found depth now that Manu is coming off the bench. Tony Parker is hurting a bit, which should be a field day for Baron and Monta, and Bruce Bowen can’t buy a 3-pointer. The Warriors play the Spurs tough at home, but San Antonio still has slim hopes of snatching the No. 2 seed from Phoenix (four games ahead). So the Spurs have something to play for.

Thursday: The Suns are vulnerable right now, and haven’t been the same since the knock-down-drag-out win over Dallas. Unfortunately for the Warriors, Phoenix only plays four games in 11 days before coming to Oracle on two days rest, so they may have their stuff together by then.

So, with all that said, I say the first win is against Washington. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think they go 3-2 over this five-game stretch (beating Washington, Lakers and San Antonio). What is your prediction?


Monumental Win at Seattle

All special seasons have special moments. Defining moments. If the Warriors do make the playoffs, Saturday’s win at Seattle will be right up there (behind the home win over Dallas and maybe even ahead of the road win at Detroit).
Though it was against a bad team, record-wise, this was the type of win that changes the tenor of the season. If they lose this game, especially after blowing a 14-point win, then they’re the same ol’ Warriors.
Saturday, they had every reason to keep chucking 3-pointers and forget about defense — like they had done so many times this season, and last season, and the season before that. Instead, they remained focused on defense and worked for better, smarter shots.
This win makes them legitimate contenders, formidable contenders. Because this win shows they aren’t going to give it away any more. Even if they don’t make the playoffs, you get the feeling they are going to go down swinging.
That’s real hope, more than that season-ending run they went on after acquiring Baron.
With the way the rest of the Western Conference bottom feeders are sucking, it may just boil down to the team that wants it more. It may wind up being a test of will, not talent.
Saturday’s win showed the Warriors are going to fight. Against the best teams. On the road. From behind.


You’ve Gotta Love J.R.

A lot of this hot streak has to do with Baron. No doubt. He’s the MVP of the team.
But the way Richardson is playing right now is inspirational — mostly because it’s going unnoticed. His points, assists and rebounds are easy to see. But his intangible contributions are as vital as they are unnoticed.
How hard he’s trying on defense, how hard he’s running the floor, how willing he is to make the extra pass. He’s doing all the little things. Remember, he was the star last season. He was the man. This season, he has, willingly, embraced the role of glorified role player for the sake of winning. He’s on pace to average a career-low in points per game. Yet he’s finding a way to contribute to potentially a playoff season.
For instance, in the first half Sunday, he got caught behind a teammate’s man in the post after a switch, all three times he prevented a basket. He drew a charge on Chris Wilcox. He forced Collison to miss a turnaround badly off the glass. He coaxed Rashard Lewis, who caught the ball from a back-to-the-basket position, into a missing a jump shot.
Not to mention he did a admirable job just shadowing Ray Allen, not allowing him easy looks (it’s only the halftime as I write this, so Allen has time still to go off).
Richardson, last season and the season before, wanted eagerly to be the man on this team. He wanted to be the franchise player for the Warriors. They gave him the money as such, but then they traded for Baron. He didn’t pout that he suddenly wasn’t the man, but celebrated the idea of being a sidekick with a great player like Baron.
Last year, with Baron down, he elevated himself to best player on the team status. Coming into this year, he had some injuries, Monta blew up, they traded for a similar-and-productive player in Stephen Jackson. Richardson has all the motivation necessary to lament and pout. Instead, he has taken a back seat. He has suppressed his game and relished the opportunity to do something special as a group — even though he is not the man.
Richardson has his flaws on the court. He’s no Kobe, and it may look as if the tandem of Stephen Jackson and Monta Ellis makes him expendable. But every good team needs a Jason Richardson.


Jump Shot Happy

I am currentlt witnessing the prime example why the Warriors are a bad road team, why they may not make the playoffs, and why they certainly won’t make any noise if they do make it.
They are addicted to jump shots.
Jason Richardson was 0-for-5. So you know what he does? Takes a pull-up 3-pointer off a curl. Sure, he made it. That’s part of the problem, every now and they (40 percent of the time), they make it, which gives them this false confidence.
They went on a run in the second quarter reclaim the lead, getting up by as much as 10. Baron was on the bench, and the Warriors charged ahead because they got hot from the perimeter.
But what happens when the jumpers aren’t falling. They’re so addicted to the quick fix, the easy way out. This business of chucking doesn’t work when the pressure’s on and the game’s on the line. It definitely doesn’t work as well in the playoffs.
The Warriors are a team of glory seekers. Starting with Baron, seconded by Jason Richardson, they are a collection of players who love to make the big play, hit the big shot. Save for Andris Biedrins, they have a roster full of style-over-substance players.
Where are the money shots and the go-to moves? Where are the high-percentage plays? The most reliable play, other than Baron making something happen, is Monta’s pull-up jumper.
Somehow or another, and it ain’t gonna happen this year, they need to get some kind of ol’ faithful, something high percentage they can always go to — which is where a low-post game usually comes in handy. Whether it’s a play or the reliable move of a few players, they need to develop something they can hang their hat on offensively. As long as its the 3-point shot, they won’t eveer be serious threats.


Schedule Might be the Difference

Two games left vs. San Antonio, Utah and Memphis — one on the road against each team.
Road games against Rockets, Lakers and Kings
Home games against Suns, Mavericks, Wizards.
The Warriors remaining schedule is daunting, to say the least. Maybe too daunting, even with the struggles of the Clippers and Kings. Of their remaining 16 games, including tonight, eight are on the road (I don’t think I need to reiterate the Warriors problems away from Oakland. Of the eight home games, five are against teams that are locks to make the postseason.
If they beat three of those playoff teams at home (assuming they will beat Minnesota twice and Memphis), the Warriors will need to win six of those eight road games (that just sounds impossible) to finish 41-41.
Say the Warriors go 2-6 in their final eight road games (that sounds more like it), they would have to win six of those eight home games (including at least three of the playoff teams) just to finish at 41-41.
Now, finishing at .500 may not be necesssary to claim one of the eight playoff spots. They may get in with 38 wins, the way it looks now. The Warriors can only hope so because 38 wins, with this remaining schedule, is looking really good right now.


Next Generation

The reality is, the next best player in the NBA is some seventh grader in South Carolina. The fact is, Kobe Bryant’s predecessor is an adolescent PSP addict with skis for shoes and a wingspan like a 747.
Doesn’t it seem as if the greatest ones come from nowhere? Who ever heard of Akron before LeBron? Certainly, Wilmington, N.C. wasn’t a destination spot. Who would’ve thought some random kid sitting in a sparse crowd at an Italian League would eventually be the world’s best player.
You would think the “greatest” players in the world would come from New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia. Instead they come from French Lick (Larry Bird) and West Oakland (Bill Russell).
With the way media works these days, the future of basketball will wind up in Faces in the Crowd on the cover of SLAM magazine as a sophomore. He’ll be offered shoe deals, cars and houses, and he’ll have his morality questioned for even thinking about taken them. He’ll be used, lied to, exploited and targeted, all because he can jump out of the gym and shoot from anywhere on the court.
There’s a kid out there who is going to put Kevin Durant to shame, make Greg Oden second rate, belittle O.J. Mayo. Right now, he’s buying a Choco Taco off an ice cream truck near you.