MVP? It's a Garnett-Duncan tossup


Pro Basketball

April 13, 2003|By MILTON KENT

With the regular season ending Wednesday, one of the closest Most Valuable Player races in years - likely the narrowest since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar nosed out Bob McAdoo and Dave Cowens in the 1975-76 season - comes to a close, as well.

There really isn't a lot to distinguish among eight candidates who have emerged as favorites for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, who are (alphabetically) the Lakers' Kobe Bryant; San Antonio's Tim Duncan (the reigning MVP); Minnesota's Kevin Garnett; Philadelphia's Allen Iverson; Orlando's Tracy McGrady; Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki; Detroit's Ben Wallace; and Sacramento's Chris Webber.

Each has been the essential part of his team's success, though some would wonder why Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal or New Jersey point guard Jason Kidd, last season's runner-up, aren't on this list, or why Wallace is, given his paltry scoring.

It's simple. O'Neal didn't play in enough games, and with the emergence of Richard Jefferson in the Nets' lineup, Kidd didn't seem as all-important a cog as he did last season. As for Wallace, his singular ability to erase his teammates' defensive mistakes makes him valuable.

But the field has to be winnowed, and a former MVP in Boston, Larry Bird, may have devised the best way.

Bird's way is to take a player's points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks (the actual numbers, not averages) and add them. From the sum, subtract the player's missed field goals, missed free throws, turnovers and personal fouls. Divide that total by games played.

Using that formula, the top three players are, in order, Garnett, McGrady and Duncan - and that seems appropriate. All three have carried their teams through the regular season.

But Garnett has carried the Timberwolves the farthest. He leads the league in double doubles and, at 7 feet, has the ability to guard virtually any player on the floor. If Minnesota is able to grab the No. 4 seed in the West, this writer's vote will go to Garnett, because he would have willed them there.

If the Timberwolves don't get to fourth place and the Spurs end up with the league's best record, then Duncan should win his second straight. McGrady, the likely scoring champ, should finish third.

Here's how some other league honors should be awarded:

All-NBA first team: Garnett, McGrady, Bryant, Duncan and Wallace.

Second team: Nowitzki, Webber, O'Neal, Iverson and Steve Nash of Dallas.

Third team: Jermaine O'Neal of Indiana, Karl Malone of Utah, Paul Pierce of Boston, Stephon Marbury of Phoenix, and Kidd.

Coach of the Year: Eric Musselman of Golden State.

Rookie of the Year: Amare Stoudemire of Phoenix.

Defensive Player of the Year: Wallace.

Sixth Man of the Year: Bobby Jackson of Sacramento.

Most Improved Player: Matt Harpring of Utah.


Their dysfunction notwithstanding, the Portland Trail Blazers will enter the playoffs for the 21st consecutive season, the longest current streak in the NBA, with the Utah Jazz just one season behind. Can you name the franchise that holds the NBA record for the most consecutive visits to the playoffs?

Jordan's option play

Jerry Krause and Michael Jordan didn't see eye-to-eye much during their Chicago tenure, but Krause did Jordan a huge favor in leaving as Bulls general manager last week.

Even if Jordan sticks to his stated plan to go back upstairs in Washington, Krause's departure may give Jordan enough ammunition to put the heat to Wizards owner Abe Pollin to not only give him sweeping control of the basketball operations, but also of the business side of the team next season.

And don't think Jordan isn't aware of that. One day after declaring, as definitively as he can, that he had no interest in replacing Krause in the Bulls' front office, Jordan opened the door to a possible move back to that same old place, his sweet home, Chicago.

"My focus is to go back upstairs," Jordan said. "With things that we thought about and talked about, it works out that way. But if it doesn't, obviously I have options, and Chicago is one of those options, as well. For me, ideally, it's to keep [the Wizards] rolling, to keep this team moving in the right direction. That's what I truly want to happen. Chicago is a second option, a second thought, as well as any other opportunity."

It sounds as if basketball fans will be treated to another summer of "Will Michael or won't Michael," but then, that's never happened before, has it?

Stern's look at seeding

Don't look for the NBA to go the route of the NHL and re-seed teams in the later rounds of the playoffs, as upsets occur.

"I would articulate on behalf of those who have strong views on the other side that the oft-stated No. 1 [objection] is, basically, divisions and conferences would become completely irrelevant," NBA commissioner David Stern said last week.

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