Mailbag: 'Melo, Bosh snubbed in my midseason awards? Let me explain
Some readers were upset that Carmelo Anthony was behind Paul Pierce on lists
Kobe Bryant, LeBron James will go back and forth in MVP race this season
As the Raptors struggle to top .500, Chris Bosh gets left off the All-NBA team
There were a lot of good questions following my ever-controversial views of who belonged on the All-NBA teams and deserved other midseason awards -- so many responses that I rescued a lot of them from the spam for this special mailbag. (I'll be answering more mail as usual on Friday, so please keep the questions coming.)
No surprise to find the most mail was generated by the placement of Carmelo Anthony behind Paul Pierce on my MVP and All-NBA lists.
(All stats are through Jan. 24 unless otherwise noted.)
Paul Pierce ahead of Carmelo Anthony for MVP and All-NBA? You need to have your head examined. Pierce plays on a stacked Boston team with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo (who is actually emerging as Boston's best player) and is averaging a paltry 18.8 ppg. Anthony is playing on a good Denver team and is second in the league in scoring. How on earth can you have Anthony on the All-NBA third team?
Here is how I see it, for better or for worse: For 11 months now, Pierce has been leading the Celtics (with the help of Allen and Rondo, to be sure) without Garnett, who has either been sidelined by knee injuries or working his way back from them. Throughout this time, the Celtics have maintained their place as No. 2 in the East, which is no small achievement. Pierce -- not without help, of course, but he has been the driving force -- has kept the Celtics in championship position, and he has done so as a playmaker, defender and big-time scorer.
I've long viewed Anthony as his generation's version of Pierce: a star who entered the league as a scorer and who has been learning year by year to do the other things that win games and, eventually, the championship. Anthony is having a tremendous season, but I really do not think I am denigrating him by ranking him behind Pierce. If they were racing on the track, then Anthony would be running behind the shoulder of Pierce as a team leader and winner, and that is not a bad place for Anthony to be at age 25.
No Carmelo Anthony in the top five of MVP voting? Also, we see how good the Celtics are when Kevin Garnett doesn't play this season -- barely .500. So how does Paul Pierce get into the top five when he's not even the MVP of his own team? One other thing: To not even mention Chris Bosh in your All-NBA teams is nuts. I know the record is not there, but to not give him a sniff is crazy!
Even when Garnett has been available this season, he hasn't been playing to the level of his first year and a half in Boston. This has been Pierce's team since last February, and he has kept it playing at a high level without Garnett and without injured Marquis Daniels, who was supposed to be Pierce's backup. It's not like Pierce's stand is coming out of nowhere: He was MVP of the 2008 Finals and last year he drove the undermanned Celtics to the No. 2 seed and a 3-2 playoff lead over the (eventual finalist) Magic before Boston's legs gave out.
My response is that maybe too many people are taking Pierce for granted. From my point of view, the Celtics have been overachieving since Garnett's troubles. Pierce's leadership defies stats and deserves recognition, especially in a league that is criticized (fairly) as being obsessed with individual numbers at the expense of playing for the team.
Where would the Nuggets stand today if Chauncey Billups was routinely sidelined by injuries, and diminished when he was in the lineup? Would Anthony find ways other than scoring to keep his team playing at a high level? Maybe Anthony would; I'm not saying he wouldn't. What I am saying is that Pierce has done exactly that for Boston: He has kept the Celtics solidly in the No. 2 spot and in position to challenge for a championship if Garnett does regain his influence.
As for Bosh, I'll deal him with a bit later ...
How can you not list 'Melo in the MVP race? And All-NBA third team? You're stuck in the NBA of three years ago with Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan and Paul Pierce on your MVP list.
At the time I did these rankings, the Mavericks were No. 2 in the West and had been for some time. Nowitzki looks like he is approaching his level of a few years ago, when he led Dallas to the Finals and was MVP the following season. That's why I rated him on the first team based on his high level of play and his influence on the team.
Duncan is having another terrific year -- 19.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 blocks -- and the new-look Spurs have been improving around him. There is no need to apologize for naming Duncan to an All-NBA second team.
Everything I've written about Anthony ever since he's been in the league has shown respect for his talent and progression. As a one-dimensional scorer he led the Nuggets into the playoffs his rookie year, and ever since he has been steadily improving his other skills while growing up (sometimes painfully) in full public view. I believe he can become a championship player, just as Pierce did. But I don't think it is fair to rate Pierce behind Anthony, not quite yet.
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