New York, NY (Sports Network) - It seems to be a foregone conclusion that
either LeBron James or Kevin Durant will take home the Most Valuable Player
James, of course, has the luxury of playing with another superstar in Dwyane
Wade and a seven-time All-Star in Chris Bosh.
Durant's supporting cast includes two-time All-Star Russell Westbrook, and
James Harden, who will likely win the Sixth Man of the Year Award this season.
My pick for MVP doesn't have a number two guy quite like James and Durant
have, plus his team has played without one of its star players for more than
half the season.
Enough suspense. I'm talking about Tony Parker, who, like his team the San
Antonio Spurs, doesn't get his just due. Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson, who was
a two-time MVP winner, thinks Parker should be in the discussion.
"Tony Parker is playing on an MVP-type level. He's just having his way," said
Johnson, after Parker put up 25 points and seven assists in the Spurs' 114-105
road win against the Thunder on March 16.
Parker's best game of the season, however, came in the previous meeting
against the Thunder on Feb. 4, when he completely destroyed fellow All-Star
Westbrook, lighting him up for 42 points. The Spurs' point guard was also
flawless running the offense, as he had nine assists and no turnovers. Parker
has done a great job this season finding a balance between scoring and
creating shots for his teammates, averaging 19.1 points and a career-high 7.6
assists per game.
Both of his longtime teammates, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, realize he's
taken his game to another level and how valuable he's been to the Spurs'
success this season.
"It's been 10 years, and he's had some amazing games, some amazing streaks,"
said Ginobili. "But he owns the team now; he really owns it." "He's been the
guy for us all year long and he's controlling the game," said Duncan. "He's
making the right passes and making the shot when he has to. He's been
There's no disputing the great numbers both James (26.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 6.4 apg,
53-percent FG%) and Durant (27.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.4 apg, 51-percent FG%) have
put up, and that Parker's (19.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 7.6 apg, 48-percent FG%) pale
in comparison to them, but the fact remains that the Spurs have a better
winning percentage than the Heat and Thunder.
And in weighing Parker's MVP credentials, I think you have to consider the
fact that Ginobili has played a much lesser role this season and Duncan is no
longer in the prime of his career.
Not only has Ginobili missed 29 games, but he's averaging just 12.7 points and
23.7 minutes per game, which are the lowest totals since his rookie season,
while Duncan is putting up 15 ppg while playing only 28.5 minutes. The
Thunder, meanwhile, have had no significant injuries to their top players,
while the Heat have been without Wade for 11 games. If you look beyond the
normal numbers, I think you can make the case for Parker to take home the MVP
* The Thunder, Spurs and Lakers are the favorites to come out of the Western
Conference, but don't underestimate the Memphis Grizzlies. They snapped the
Heat's 17-game home winning streak in convincing fashion on Friday, adding to
their impressive list of road wins lately. The Grizzlies knocked off the
Thunder earlier this month and beat the Lakers in late March. Keep in mind,
that last season without the injured Rudy Gay, Memphis knocked off the Spurs
in the first round and gave the Thunder all they could handle before losing in
seven games. The Grizzlies will not only have Gay this year for the playoffs,
but additional bulk up front with Marreese Speights, who has been a key
contributor since being acquired from Philadelphia after Zach Randolph went
down with a knee injury just four games into the season.
* Derek Fisher was a major defensive liability for the Lakers, yet they've
been a nightmare at the defensive end since his departure and the arrival of
In the 43 games the Lakers played prior to the trade-deadline deals, Los
Angeles was one of the top defensive teams in the league, giving up just over
95 points-per-game. In the 14 games since the trades, they've been downright
awful, allowing 101.8 ppg, including a season-high 125 points in Saturday's
loss in Phoenix.
With the playoffs looming later this month, head coach Mike Brown better
figure things out quickly if he wants to see his team make a deep run.
* I wouldn't be surprised if the Minnesota Timberwolves try to get the month
of April deleted from the calendar. That's because Saturday's loss in New
Orleans' was their 21st straight in April dating back to 2009.
The Wolves season actually started to go down the tubes in March when they
lost rookie point guard Ricky Rubio to a torn ACL. Since his injury, Minnesota
is just 4-12 and has fallen out of the Western Conference playoff picture.
* Back to the Lakers for a moment. When is Mike Brown going to stop giving
backup point guard Steve Blake (23 mpg) significant minutes? To say Blake is
awful is an understatement. He can't defend. He doesn't create shots for
teammates, and he's strictly a spot-up jump shooter who is shooting 37-percent
from the floor this season and has gone to the foul line only 22 times.
When Ramon Sessions is on the bench, Brown should mainly use Matt Barnes and
Devin Ebanks, since Kobe Bryant doesn't need to play with a traditional point
guard because of his own playmaking skills.
The Sports Network