Another MVP for James might not be so far-fetched after all
December 4, 2010 Leave a comment
CLEVELAND — It probably was only a matter of time.
As enthusiastic as The Race committee is about scouting out new MVP prospects, especially early in each season, and as skeptical as certain members were about the ganged-up, shared-load approach being deployed by the Miami Heat this season, it figures that there would be no keeping down LeBron James for long.
Reigning two-time winners of the Maurice Podoloff trophy have a way of asserting themselves.
James makes his first appearance this week in the list of 10 for 2010-11 on the strength of his performance at Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday — he pretty much punked the house on a night when he was supposed to be rattled and ill at ease — and on Miami’s three consecutive victories.
The big question about James heading into this season as a potential three-time MVP winner was, would he have “too much” help? Would the presence of two fellow All-Stars water down his candidacy, requiring less of him and therefore rendering his contributions less impressive than in his one-man-band days with the Cavaliers?
The committee isn’t prepared to say that it has a definitive answer quite yet, but the way James has played lately — the way he can and ought to play more often — and the Heat’s results suggest he can be MVP-worthy again.
Certainly, Bob McAdoo thinks so. The lanky Hall of Famer and Miami assistant coach can speak with authority on the topic from a couple of angles. He’s inside the Heat experience, of course, and McAdoo also is a past MVP winner. He earned it in 1974-75 during his years as the Buffalo Braves’ best player, leading the league in scoring (34.5 ppg) and minutes per game (43.2) while finishing fourth in rebounds per game (14.1). Later, though, McAdoo spent four seasons with the Lakers as a role player, a terrific offensive option off the bench on two of L.A.’s title teams of the 1980s.
So he has seen it both ways, from the inside out.
“If you thnk about it, we could put three MVPs out on the floor at one time, which was probably something that hadn’t been done in the NBA,” McAdoo said Thursday at The Q. He was talking about himself, about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (who had won six MVPs by the time McAdoo got to L.A.) and about Magic Johnson, who would win the first of his three trophies in 1986-87, shortly after McAdoo’s departure.
“Our main concern at this time was just winning the championship. But that [MVP consideration] comes with winning. You’ve got to win big, which we did my four years there. That’s what Magic did out there with the talent he had.”
That’s what McAdoo did, on a smaller scale, when he was the straw that stirred Buffalo’s drink. In 1972-73, his rookie season, the Braves (who became the Clippers) won 21 games. In his MVP year, they won 49. Said McAdoo: “That showed a big improvement, so that helped my situation as an MVP.”
Miami winning big from its current 12-8 perch — say, 48-14 the rest of the way — could get James back into position for a third straight MVP. Especially if he’s seen as the Heat’s No. 1 option and its initiator of offense, even if Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh often end up finishing.
“Yeah, he’s got two guys who are used to having the ball, too,” McAdoo said. “He’s toned it down. But he’ll pick his spots when he goes on a rampage.”
The Miami assistant, a Pat Riley favorite, then had a glimmer of James’ 38-point, eight-assist night in the emotional return to his old arena. “I’m thinking the fans might spur him on,” McAdoo said an hour before tipoff, “and just the memories of being in Cleveland.”
Here are this week’s MVP leaders:
Some reader feedback suggesting that Howard is more of a bystander to the Magic’s success than a catalyst for it got nowhere with the committee. Not after Orlando went 4-0 and its center kept racking up double-doubles, staying out of foul trouble and anchoring the middle. His 12 rebounds vs. Chicago were five more than the Bulls’ starters.
Incredible consistency, along with gaudy numbers, accounts for this jump. When the Jazz point guard logged 24 points, 16 assists and no turnovers against Indiana, it was only the 23rd time in NBA history anyone has topped 20 and 15 with zero giveaways. And it was the second time Williams has done it.
An MVP candidate can score just 10 points and still improve his standing if the drop in production has no ill effect on his team’s outcome. He’s fresh off his 12th Player of the Week award, too. The Race wants to see how its Nos. 2 and 3 fare on the same floor Friday night.
Paul is consistent, too, but slips behind his rival, Williams, in The Race due to the Hornets’ 2-2 week and performances that were more steady than spectacular. Not that there’s anything wrong with steady.
Having asked pretty much everything of Rose so far this season, the Bulls now will be asking him to incorporate their $80 million offseason purchase, Carlos Boozer, into the team’s attack. Rose also had an MVP comment this week, saying he would pass on watching LeBron James’ return to Cleveland because he had Season 2 of Dexter waiting.
The mind games have revved up in L.A. again, with Bryant allegedly throttling back to let (force?) teammates to get into the flow of games … unless he’s hoisting up scores of shots (33 vs. Indiana en route to 41 points). Regardless, the results (0-4) were not good.
MVP candidates love them those triple-OT opportunities. Against New Jersey, 21 of Westbrook’s 38 points came after regulation, including all 13 of the Thunder’s points in the third overtime. Also getting 15 points and nine assists, he became only the sixth player in the last 20 years to have a game of at least 35 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.
Leading scorer on the team with the best record — for a lot of readers, that merits automatic consideration in The Race. Even after a 5-of-15 shooting night in a loss to the Clippers.
Using one particular standard for MVP-ness, Gasol wouldn’t have slid this far or maybe at all. And that one is, how does a team do when a star guy struggles? After all, what demonstrates value more than that? Gasol has been ground down covering for injured L.A. center Andrew Bynum and the team lost four straight. No coincidence.
Maybe it was the white uniform and the gym that had been home to so many of his highlight moments. James looked and played like the MVP winner of old in his return to Cleveland, grabbing the Cavs and The Q by the scruff of their necks with 38 points Thursday in Miami’s third consecutive victory.