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Posted: Friday March 13, 2009 12:29PM; Updated: Friday March 20, 2009 9:16AM
Ian Thomsen Ian Thomsen >

Weekly Countdown (cont.)

4 questions rescued from the spam

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Dwyane Wade's sizzling March has elevated the Heat star into the MVP debate.
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Ian Thomsen will periodically answer questions from users in his mailbag.

4. Make a lifelong fan of a destitute franchise feel better and tell me my Bucks aren't going to abandon me? Is it really inevitable at this point? And how many other teams are about to follow the same path in this grim economy?
-- Justin, Beloit, Wis.

It isn't inevitable. It's hard to imagine the current owner, Sen. Herb Kohl, participating in the movement of the Bucks. Of course, they could be sold and then moved -- but where would they go? A number of franchises may be looking for better markets over the next decade, but those places are growing harder to find. Las Vegas is going to have a team someday. Kansas City has an NBA-ready arena, but the NHL may move in first. Then there are San Jose and Anaheim, which are crowded among other teams.

Franchises seeking better deals at home will threaten to move elsewhere. But first they have to find a better place that will have them.

3. What does Dwyane Wade have to do to convince you that he should be the leading candidate for MVP?
-- Ben L., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

He needs a better team. The Heat are headed for a 45-win season. Every MVP over the last 26 years has won at least 50 games (or else he has been on a pace to win more than 50, as the Utah Jazz were in the shortened 1998 lockout season when Karl Malone was MVP) and the average number of wins for the MVP has been 62 (not including the lockout year, of course).

I agree with this point of view, that a player who leads a team into championship contention is more valuable than a player leading a lesser team. The most difficult and most important accomplishment in the NBA regular season is to position a team for a title run. No doubt Wade is having a terrific season while carrying Miami, but James is right there with him statistically -- in fact, LeBron is the league-leader in the NBA efficiency stat that accounts for points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, with Wade ranked No. 2.

Of course Wade will be on my five-player MVP ballot -- at the moment it would include Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard -- but I can't foresee placing him above James.

2. Obviously, the Lakers will eventually retire Shaq's No. 34 and either No. 8 or 24 (perhaps both?) for Kobe. What about Derek Fisher? He is just as integral a part to these Lakers teams as Kobe and Shaq. When Fisher hangs 'em up, will No. 2 be retired by the Lakers?
-- Simon Sharkey-Gotlieb, Toronto

Excellent question. Fisher has never been close to becoming an All-Star, which is a minimum standard among Lakers retirees Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy.

I disagree with your assertion that he was as important as Kobe and Shaq. But let's say Fisher contributes to one or two more championships with the current Lakers. Think about it this way: If Fisher was a key member of four or five championship teams in Boston, would his number be retired by the Celtics? Maybe. But each team has its own perspective, and being in Hollywood, the Lakers reflect a standard for individual stardom as well as team success. Based on that, I don't think Fisher will be so honored.

1. Do you really think Shaq has a future in the Association past '10? At this point, he is a 65-game-per-season, 25-to-30-minute player, no back-to backs. With a large number of teams in financial trouble and having to tap that NBA credit line to continue business, do you really see anyone exceeding the mid-level exception for a broken-down pivot? I don't. I also don't see his pride allowing him to take that money.
-- Mark, San Antonio

How many players sell tickets? Shaq is among the few real stars who delivers at the box office. If you are a contender, if he fits your style and tempo and if you can sign him to a short-term number that makes sense today and tomorrow (so that his expiration results in cap space, for example) then you must think about him. He isn't going to accept a pay cut on a short-term contract unless he is motivated to play at a high level, so chances are good you'll get a return on your investment.

3 steps to playing in the 2012 Olympics for Great Britain

3. Get a passport. It isn't as hard as it sounds. There are a number of available avenues, but here's the main way in: If you were born in '83 or later, and at least one parent was British, then you have a chance to compete for an Olympic medal at London in three years.

The newly organized Great Britain national team has already recruited NBA names Luol Deng (who may go down as godfather to U.K. hoops if all goes well), Raptors' forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Joel Freeland (a Blazers' first-round pick in '06). Deng's teammate in Chicago, Ben Gordon, says he would like to help GB this summer in the European Championships pending resolution of his contract this summer, when he'll be an NBA free agent.

Team GB won't be invited to play Olympic basketball as the host nation in '12 unless it proves worthy of the honor. "FIBA said we have to show over the next couple of years that we can compete against the best teams in Europe," says Ron Wuotila, performance manager and head of basketball operations for British Basketball. "We've qualified for the European Championships (to be held in September in Poland) for the first time in history, and that will give us an opportunity to show we're not just there for the trip, but that we're going to compete with the very best in Europe."

2. Be a point guard. While GB is looking for help at all positions, a HELP WANTED sign has been placed at the point. The British should have scoring on the wings from Deng and Gordon, and big men Mensah-Bonsu, Freeland, Andy Betts (a Euroleague center for the last decade) and Kieron Achara (an Italian League rookie at Fortitudo Bologna since leaving Duquesne last season) are all 6-10 or taller. "Point guard is the area where we need improved play," says Wuotila. "There's no science behind this statement, but in this country the small, quick athletes are more likely to choose rugby or football (soccer) over basketball."

European clubs often turn to expatriate Americans for leadership at point guard. In recent years former Bucknell point guard J.R. Holden helped launch a wave of naturalized Americans playing elsewhere he helped lead Russia to the '07 European championship.

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