samedi 19 mai 2007

Does the NBA reward losers?

Here it is: Dirk Nowitzky has been rewarded with the Most Valuable Player Award (or so-called "Maurice Podoloff Trophy") after the Mavericks' awesome season.
Well, awesome regular season (67-15), since the postseason ended in a flop. last year's postseason! I don't know which one was worst: losing the final against an Eastern team after winning the first two games, or losing 4-2 against the eighth seed. In both cases, Dirk "MVP" Nowitzki was pretty much non-existent. Well, he did show some moments of greatness, like this year in game 3 or 4 where he scored pretty much every point of his team in a final rush; but except from that game, he didn't play as an MVP would.

This leads to my point: Dirk is a loser, and a big one at that! He might be good in the regular season, but when the playoffs arrive, he is not there. When the difficult times come, he is not there. Who was the great defender that shut out Nowitzki in last year's final? Udonis Haslem? James Posey? Antoine Walker? Let me laugh! Ok, Dirk is a big guy that shoots well. That's great! But maybe he developped his shot because he was not physical enough to use is size; because, he is still not physical enough for a guy this size.

Now that I have ranted against Nowitzki, I am going to wonder why Kobe didn't get the trophy. The standard argument goes like this: "MVP means most valuable to your team. The Lakers sucked this year. So Kobe does not deserve the title." Well, excuse-me, but the argument sucks!
Why? First, the MVP is not supposed to reward a team, but a player. Isn't the championship supposed to reward the best team? And then, how can you compare the Lakers to the Mavs? I mean, come on, the Lakers' point guard is Smush Parker whereas the Mavs' is Jason Terry. Do I have to go through all the other match-ups? No, I don't need to. My point is that you cannot compare records. So you have to try to assess the impact of a player and compare it the the impact of another
player. I am not really sure that the NBA does that. Otherwise, they would never have voted for Dick. I am pretty certain that if the MAvs had built around Kobe instead of Dirk, by now they would be multiple NBA champions. Why? Because Kobe is a perennial winner! He just hates losing and he is a leader. Moreover, Kobe is versatile: he is not just the best scorer year after year (even though what he dis this year was
just awesome!), he is also a great defender. I don't know if we can say the same for Dirk.
A last consideration: at the beginning of his career, noone would have imagined that Dirk would be as good as he is today. However, as cunning as choosing Dirk was back then, I am not sure that building a franchise around him was such a great idea. Only time will tell whether I am wrong. I stick to my point for now: Dirk is a good player, but not a great one and he will never be!

Back to the MVP selection: I am starting to question the way the NBA chooses its MVP. Do they only look at the records? Well, in that case, the MVP contest is pretty much limited to 2 or 3 players but it is quite unfair. For instance, put the Lakers in the East, and they have at least the same record as the Cavaliers. If you only look at the records, Lebron James is not going to have one anytime soon whereas he has been quite valuable to his team the past few years!
If the MVP award goes to a good player and a good team, at least, we should find the said team either winning the championship or going into the finals. Well, if you look at the past years, the last time the team of the MVP went on to win the championship was the 2002-2003 San Antonio Spurs when Tim Duncan was MVP. Then, in 2000-2001, Allen Iverson was MVP and his Sixers lost to the Lakers in the NBA final. The year before, O'Neal was the MVP as the Lakers were winning their first championship of the 3-peat.
It turns out that, indeed, the MVP sometimes goes to a future NBA champion. But not for the past 4 years where the winner's team never even made it to the NBA finals (Kevin Garnett, Nash twice, and Nowitzki).
So maybe it's time for the NBA to start reconsidering the way it gives the MVP since it neither always reward the best team nor the best player.

Next year, if Kobe crosses the 100 points mark, he will get the award.
Maybe. If the Lakers have an higher than average winning percentage.
We will see.

Until next time, have fun with the soon-to-be Pistons-Spurs NBA final.

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