NBA Mailbag (cont.)
Now, on to your questions from the mailbag (and Facebook) ...
So, how am I to take this LaMarcus Aldridge All-Star snub? You put two forwards from losing teams ahead of Aldridge? With Brandon Roy out for most likely the season, L.A. has only managed to average more than 25 points and 10 rebounds in January, and overall he's led his depleted team to four games over .500. So glad that the other two guys (Kevin Love and Blake Griffin) have helped their team succeed.
-- Garett, Gresham, Ore.
You make fair points, Garett. Aldridge has been terrific, especially since Roy has been sidelined. But Love is assembling the best rebounding season (15.6 per game) in 14 years -- serious blue-collar work -- and he's averaging 21.4 points and 2.6 assists to go with it. Griffin is fourth in rebounding (12.9) and 12th in scoring with 3.5 assists (which is No. 2 among NBA power forwards), and his Clippers have gone 12-5 around him lately. Every year, a couple of deserving players are left out, and this year Aldridge is the victim despite all he is doing for his team.
I don't understand the MVP hype for Amar'e Stoudemire. Yes, he's putting up great numbers and, yes, he has the Knicks back in playoff contention. But at the end of the day, his team is barely above .500 in a conference with only five good teams. The idea of placing him above the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams -- to name just a few -- is preposterous. If he were playing for any team other than the Knicks, nobody would be touting him as an MVP candidate.
-- Joel, Kingston, Jamaica
Over the first two months there was no player more valuable than Stoudemire. He was posting huge numbers that were translating into victories for a franchise that hadn't shown life for a number of years, and his leadership was a revelation. But it will be interesting to see how this Knicks story plays out over the second half of the season. If they wind up a game or two above .500, then you'll be right -- he will fade behind the prolific stars who are leading at the highest level.
How can you not include Dirk in a discussion of the MVP race? Yes, I know Caron Butler getting hurt hit the Mavs hard as well, but compare them with Dirk (even on one leg) to without him. Dirk was always way ahead of Amar'e in New York. So the Knicks had the sixth-best record in the pathetic East? The Mavs had the best record in the league.
-- Jason, Columbus, Ohio
This is an open MVP race that is going to be decided over the next three months, and Nowitzki may yet win it. Will he be able to regather his Mavericks after his own injury and the loss of Butler? I'd rate LeBron as the favorite right now, but a strong second half could be decisive for leaders like Nowitzki, Bryant and others.
I am always puzzled by MVP voting, especially this year. Is the MVP most valuable to his team, to the league, to himself? Looking at Miami: While LeBron James clearly does lots for the team, take away LeBron, does Miami fill that gap with different players and still contend because of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade? You probably know where this is going, seeing my hometown as Chicago, but isn't Derrick Rose more worthy of the MVP than James? Without Rose, the Bulls are not even close to the same team (apologies to Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah). And without Rose, the Bulls have no backcourt at all.
-- Loren, Chicago
I try to vote for the player who is most valuable to his team, while taking into account the level of his team's play: The hardest of all things is to win at a championship-contending level. Rose is on the short list of candidates, and his candidacy improves as the Bulls continue to move up. He could be MVP at the end of the year, but I'll be surprised, because this is his third NBA season and he'll be contending against more experienced team leaders down the stretch.
Should the All-Star rosters expand to 15 players per team, as is the case with the typical NBA team roster, in order to give deserving players a chance to get rewarded for their play?
-- Qumar (via Facebook)
I don't think so. I like it being so competitive that some deserving players are left off every year. That competition ultimately gives greater meaning to the race and the game itself.
Plus, there would still be people writing in to complain about this or that player being left off the team. Those arguments make it interesting. I say the more exclusive it is, the better.
It sure seems like you have stated a lot of "ifs" for the Lakers to boldly declare they are rounding into the team to beat. Seems like the Laker-loving media are conveniently ignoring the fact the Lakers are one of the oldest teams in the league.
-- Dave, San Antonio
I didn't hear a lot of the "Laker-loving" talk last June when I was picking the Celtics to beat the Lakers (even after Boston lost center Kendrick Perkins in Game 6). But I've been picking them this year because of all of the matchup problems created by their size.
Can you name me a team that doesn't face a number of "ifs" on its way to the Finals? The league-leading Spurs can win if they stay healthy -- a big if given their history in recent years -- and if their defense continues to improve as it has lately. The Celtics, Heat, Mavs and Magic all must answer important questions over the next three months, with no assurance they'll be answered in a positive way. Assuming all of the contenders are at full strength, the Lakers have to be the favorite -- they've earned the league's third-best record without breaking a sweat.
(Incidentally, they have two old players -- Kobe and Derek Fisher -- and everyone else is in his prime years.)