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Honoring some notable seasons -- for better or worse

Posted: Tuesday April 8, 2008 1:19PM; Updated: Tuesday April 8, 2008 1:38PM
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Stephon Marbury had an eventul year for a player who appeared in only 24 games.
Stephon Marbury had an eventul year for a player who appeared in only 24 games.
Nick Laham/SI

Awards season is just around the corner. Before you get bogged down in the same old MVP debates or how Doc Rivers did a better job coaching than Byron Scott, let's honor those for whom there won't be any hardware, but who have made a lasting impact on the 2007-08 season.

Least valuable player

Stephon Marbury, Knicks

Consider all that the point guard accomplished in the last year:

• Conducted an often incoherent interview on live TV in New York City interrupted by his taking a call on his cell phone.

• Defended Michael Vick in calling dogfighting a "sport" while bemoaning the lack of criticism for people who "shoot deer or shoot other animals."

• Testified at the Isiah Thomas sexual harassment trial to having sex with a Knicks intern in the back of his truck outside of a strip club.

• Waxed about the lure of playing in Italy when his contract expires.

• Left the team after being told on a flight to Phoenix that he was going to lose his starting role. (Teammates reportedly voted not to let Marbury play in his first game after rejoining the team, but Thomas used him for 34 minutes off the bench in that Nov. 14 contest against the Clippers.)

• Threatened to blackmail Isiah into starting him on that same flight, reportedly telling teammates, "I've got so much on Isiah and he knows it. He thinks he can [get] me. But I'll [get] him first. You have no idea what I know."

• Opted for season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankle, a procedure the team said Marbury had "chosen to have."

• Ripped Thomas after the team hired Donnie Walsh as team president, saying Isiah never understood New York.

• Oh, and in the 24 games he played: 13.9 points, 4.7 assists, 0.9 steals -- all career lows.

Has any player done more damage to his reputation or his team without getting arrested or starring in an arena-wide brawl? Who says movie stars are the only ones who can entertain for $20 million?

Best rookie you haven't heard enough about

Thaddeus Young, Sixers

Fantasy hoops analysts and rotisserie players -- focused as they are on gaining any statistical edge they can -- often spot trends before their more traditional media brethren do. Take SI.com's Matt Satten, who spotted the rise of Young soon after he cracked the Sixers' starting lineup in February. The 19-year-old forward from Georgia Tech is shooting 53.9 percent from the field, and he's been a big reason for Philadelphia's second-half surge. Per 48 minutes, he's averaging 18.5 points and 9.9 rebounds. Taken in total, those numbers rank right in line with the likes of Kevin Durant and Al Horford.

Sigmund Freud award

Gilbert Arenas, Wizards

Arenas, in word and action, has made it clear that he's anything but textbook. In one moment he says he will opt out of his contract this summer in order to sign a maximum deal with Washington; the next he says he'd be willing to take a pay cut to keep the Wizards' core together.

In a magazine interview, Arenas claims he's building a replica of the famed Playboy Mansion grotto in his backyard. In a blog entry, he details how the Washington medical staff's unwillingness to clear him to play in late March prompted him to think about driving his car into a lake and possibly allowing himself to drown. (Arenas later clarified the blog entry, saying, "I'm a sane person, I wouldn't do that to myself.") Then, when finally cleared to return last week after missing 66 games following knee surgery, he does so without informing anyone on the coaching staff of his plans to play until emerging from the Wizards' locker room halfway through the first quarter of a game against Milwaukee.

While Arenas makes for fascinating copy, he doesn't always make for a predictable locker room. And there isn't a coach alive who doesn't prize predictability. Of course, there also isn't a coach alive who can sell tickets like Arenas, a lesson the Wizards, who are 36-31 this season without the three-time All-Star point guard, should remember this summer.

Worst coaching performance

Pat Riley, Heat

The Heat boss doesn't deserve this because of the scouting trips made during college tournaments; the season was already lost, so why shouldn't the man who could end up making the No. 1 pick in the draft get a firsthand look at the possibilities? Nor does he deserve this for the 13 wins alone, which injuries and age helped make possible. No, Riley deserves this honor because he allowed his team to do what Riley does almost as well as winning: quit when the going gets tough.

With his team floundering under the weight of the salary-cap hell in which it placed itself to win the 2006 title, Riley dropped ballast in trading Shaquille O'Neal. When Shawn Marion wasn't able to get the Heat moving in any direction, Riley then dropped anchor on the season, shutting down Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and, eventually, Marion, all in a naked effort to acquire more Ping Pong balls for the draft lottery. Lucky for Heat fans, they still get to pay an average of $59 a game so Riley can dream of a brighter future. Lottery history tends to frown on tanking this blatant. Hopefully karma plays true to form.

Most tiresome debate

Chris Paul vs. Deron Williams

So much of the ink spilled and words exchanged about any sport involve debating which player is better or which championship club would beat another one. It sells publications and draws viewers; it's fun. But it's also pointless, like trying to decide which young point guard is the NBA's best: Paul or Williams.

Both have their teams contending in the Western Conference. Both direct their teams like 10-year veterans instead of the third-year pros they are. And both will be All-Stars for years to come. Can't we all agree that they are both great? That any team would be lucky to have either player? In other words, must Bear vs. Shark have a winner? Both get the job done. Let's leave it at that.

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