Here's the forecast (cont.)
Posted: Thursday January 25, 2007 1:18PM; Updated: Tuesday April 24, 2007 6:18PM
4. Endless discourse about what constitutes an MVP, and one of the closest votes ever.
There are three MVP candidates right now, and there will be three when voters start handing in their ballots in a few months: Nash, Nowitzki and Bryant. Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Gilbert Arenas will steal a few votes here and there, but none of them will win.
Anyway, is an MVP a player who makes everybody better? (Nash.) Is an MVP a player who is the most talented? (Bryant.) Is an MVP the best player on the best team? (That will probably be Nowitzki.) And it's not even that simple.
If the prediction above is correct, Bryant will have lifted a team thought to be inferior to the next level. Nowitzki is not a distributor and ball-handler a la Nash and even Bryant, but doesn't his shotmaking prowess make his teammates better? Since Nash won the last two seasons, why wouldn't he three-peat considering that he is clearly playing at a higher level than he ever has? Or will voters be disinclined to give it to him again?
Further, is it a popularity contest, which could put Bryant at a disadvantage even though he has obviously remade his game to be more selfless?
Let the questions begin. Right now, I have no answers and can't wait to see how it all turns out.
5. A successful All-Star extravaganza will present the commissioner with one of the major dilemmas of his 24-year tenure.
Yeah, like players, coaches, team execs, significant others, fans, dance teams and hangers-on of every stripe aren't going to have a good time in Las Vegas in mid-February. And everyone is going to come away thinking, Damn, why can't we do this few-days-in-the-neon-desert-thing every year?
Well, it can easily be arranged. A franchise in Vegas could happen tomorrow if Stern gave the green light. But he is on record with years -- nay, decades -- of opposition to playing regular-season games in the shadow of gambling, even if (as would be the case) NBA games are off the books.
His opposition has been wavering, though -- witness the feathered-and-plumed presence of showgirls on the arm of Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman at the NBA's "Europe Live" tour in October. No less an authority than hizzoner himself said, "We're in very serious negotiations. We'll get it done this year."
I read that quote, by the way, in Robin Leach's column, "Luxe Life," in a publication called Vegas Pop (clearly, there's a sentence I never thought I'd be writing -- I read that quote in Robin Leach's column ...). We all have to change; perhaps that will be the case with Stern.
The best quote from the Leach column -- another sentence I never thought I'd be writing -- comes from ESPN analyst and former UNLV player Greg Anthony, who wants in on any ownership group.
"All the players in the league can't wait to come here," Anthony told the nasal-toned erstwhile host of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. "They love our city. However, during the season they won't be distracted by everything Vegas has to offer."
Greg ... stop ... you're killing me.
Actually, the best line in the Leach column comes from the man himself, who writes, "Everybody from Kobe Bryant and Yao Ming to LeBron James and Trey Parker will be rocking in Vegas in just 23 days time ..." Robin was trying to make a basketball point, but confused the creator of South Park with the Spurs' point guard.
Jack McCallum is the author of "Seven Seconds or Less: My Season on the Bench with the Runnin' and Gunnin' Phoenix Suns," a behind-the-scenes account of the Suns' 2005-06 season. Click here to order a copy.