NBA Mailbag (cont.)
Now let's move on to some of your questions from the mailbag and Facebook ...
When are people going to accept the inevitable -- that Chris Paul is back on top of the PG mountain? He has become the master of efficiency, and should be right up there with LeBron/Rose in the MVP race.
-- Ben, South Wales
This is the most open-ended MVP race in years. LeBron James is the favorite, but the pack close behind includes Paul, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Deron Williams, Amar'e Stoudemire, Zach Randolph (now that Memphis is back in playoff contention) and Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker (take your pick). He who lifts his team the highest over the remaining two months will be positioned to challenge James' two-year hold on the award.
You're right about Paul, who has adapted his style, improved his shooting to an elite level and maintained leadership of the streaky Hornets even as they were losing 15 of 25 games into early January. Is he the league's best point guard? Every week a different player seems to be winning that race.
Given the Lakers' apparent interest in making a trade, why hasn't CP3's name come up? The Lakers are on his preferred list of destinations, and L.A. could build an interesting package around Shannon Brown and Andrew Bynum. Throw in a couple of first-round picks, and it's at least something to think about for the Hornets.
-- Ian, Plover, Wis.
Paul isn't going to be traded by the NBA. That would raise questions of sabotage of the New Orleans market and preferential treatment for the Lakers, who would not be providing the Hornets with equal value for their franchise star. The Lakers will be looking for a younger star to take over for Bryant, but now is not the time to mess with a formula that has produced two championships. As poorly as they've played against the best opponents so far, I still view them as the team to beat.
Has there ever been a starting lineup with more career All-Star selections than the Celtics this year when Shaq is starting? Combined they have 50 selections, or 10 per player.
-- Michael, Richmond, Va.
I don't see how any other team could have assembled so many, Michael. Shaquille O'Neal is second all time with 15 selections, and Kevin Garnett has 14 -- no two teammates have ever combined for more All-Star games. Then Ray Allen (10) and Paul Pierce (9) separate these Celtics from other celebrated rosters like the 1988-89 Lakers, who had 32 among Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19), Magic Johnson (nine at that time) and James Worthy (four); or the veteran-laden 1987-88 Celtics of Larry Bird (eight), Robert Parish (seven), Artis Gilmore (six), Dennis Johnson (five), Kevin McHale (four), Jim Paxson (two) and Danny Ainge (one).
If anyone can come up with a more accomplished group, please let me know.
Are the Blazers ever going to win a championship? Seven knee surgeries since July, plus Joel Przybilla's and Greg Oden's before that. Our future is down the tube, yet we're not bad enough to have a realistic shot at a really high draft pick to get another franchise player to help LaMarcus Aldridge. Brandon Roy's done; Nicolas Batum plays superb defense but needs to work on his outside shooting, which makes him a third banana at best; the Blazers' training staff specializes in ruining careers; and our owner (Paul Allen) only cares about the bottom line and thus lets accountants run the team. Was '77 our one shining moment?
-- Kyle, Salem, Ore.
Allen historically has been among the NBA's biggest spenders, and I'm sure if a move could be made to bring a champion to Portland then he would ante up, no matter the cost. Everyone knows the Blazers made risky picks -- they stopped risking on character and started risking on health -- which makes it extremely unfair to blame their training staff, which inherited a number of pre-existing conditions.
Let's say Roy, who's on the verge of a comeback after undergoing surgery on both knees less than a month ago, proves to no longer be a franchise star. I wouldn't dismiss the possibility of his becoming a point guard. So I wouldn't say he's all washed up. But I hear you -- if Roy and Oden aren't stars, then who will help Aldridge? Because I agree with your assessment of Batum as a strong complementary piece.
But three-fourths of the NBA faces similar issues because there are so few players capable of leading championship teams. Do you think maybe, in hindsight, you overrated the Blazers' title chances after they drafted Oden?
What was Otis Smith thinking trading Rashard Lewis for Gilbert Arenas? I understand the Vince Carter move; Gilbert is horrible.
-- Andrew, via Facebook
The Orlando GM knew his team couldn't win as it was. I don't believe Arenas is finished physically. He has been trying to fit in, and he hasn't looked good because he doesn't know how to run a system. It's not the hardware; it's the software. Don't judge the trade yet, Andrew. It's too early.
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