Monthly Archives: April 2011
Yes, the end is upon us. One of the more dramatic and entertaining NBA seasons in recent memory has almost reached its conclusion.
In a year where superstars made a resounding comeback and the Spurs beat everyone again, there were only a few players who could make a case for having the hallowed moniker of “MVP” bestowed upon them.
Here is my list of who I believe should win, starting with the unheralded German whose contributions never seem to be fully appreciated.
1. Dirk Nowitzki – It’s hard to underestimate the impact that Nowitzki has had on the Dallas Mavericks franchise, but for whatever reason he is often overlooked. One only needs to look at the fact that Dallas has done nothing but win with him.
Since Nowitzki’s arrival, the Mavs have won at least 50 games in 10 straight seasons – a feat matched only by their division rival San Antonio Spurs, who have won at least 50 in 11 straight years.
Nowitzki’s finest season may have been this one.
After Caron Butler, the team’s second-best scorer, went down with a season-ending injury on New Years’ Day, things were looking grim for the Mavs. While they were 25-8 and one of the best teams in the league, they had no true number two option to help with the scoring when Nowitzki got double teamed.
All Nowitzki did was attack with the devastating consistency he is known for. His season averages of 23.0 points and 7.0 rebounds are nearly identical to his career averages of 23.0 and 8.4. And without a legitimate second scorer, Nowitzki has made sure the Mavericks haven’t missed a step.
At 53-25, Dallas is looking to make some noise in the playoffs and finally win that elusive ring for their German king.
2. Derrick Rose – While Nowitzki should win the MVP, Rose almost certainly will. The improvement from his sophomore season to his third season in the league has been ridiculous – he has gone from rising star to superstar.
His averages of 25.1 points and 7.9 assists are superb and his Chicago Bulls, who were picked to be mediocre in the preseason, are the top team in the Eastern Conference.
The only thing that prevents me from saying Rose is the real MVP is the fact that his team could easily make the playoffs without him because they are so stellar defensively. I have no doubt he will win more than one MVP award before his career is over.
3. LeBron James – The King essentially ended his MVP candidacy once he took his talents to South Beach, because no one would admit him a winner with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as teammates. But that doesn’t mean LeBron isn’t deserving.
He is nothing but a stat-sheet stuffer – 26.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.0 assists. No one even comes close to across-the-board numbers like that. The Miami Heat are in the playoffs, and LeBron is the biggest reason why.
4. Dwight Howard – There is undoubtedly a dearth of talent in the big man pool in the NBA. But Dwight Howard, the specimen whose physical tools often seem unfair, is the premier center in the league and no one is even close.
Howard takes a good Orlando Magic team and makes them great, he gives them the defensive presence that they need to go deep in the playoffs, and his emerging offensive talents have allowed him to average 23.1 points per game while shooting a shade under 60 percent. He also pulls down 14.1 boards a game and rejects 2.4 shots, so his size and strength make an impact each and every night.
5. Kobe Bryant – There seems to be no clear choice outside the top four, but an MVP list without Kobe simply seems incomplete. And it’s not like he’s having a bad year – he’s just not having a dominant one.
Kobe’s still averaging 25.1 points per game and frankly his leadership skills have helped take his team to another level this year. Remember: the Lakers have won two straight championships, so they probably need extra motivation to get the mettle needed to win a third.
Kobe’s leadership has helped this, and his legendary career is still going strong.
Also considered – Kevin Durant, Amare Stoudemire, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo
This is pretty sick. Not the dunk of the year, but a bright spot for a team that is 23-55 and took a 124-92 shellacking in this very game.
I remember sitting at home last year and watching Stephen Strasburg’s MLB debut. I saw the future of a struggling but hopeful franchise, a franchise that needed a star more than anything. Watching that game was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life – Strasburg gave me something to cheer about with regards to the Nationals for the first time since their inaugural season in 2005. Then, after a wildly successful rookie campaign, Strasburg went under the knife in order to receive the dreaded Tommy John surgery. It ended his 2011 season before it even began, and it put the Washington Nationals back at square one.
Fast forward to today. Nats GM Mike Rizzo couldn’t have seen this coming seven months ago. The Nationals’ most viable option on the pitching staff as of right now is not Stephen Strasburg; it’s not even John Lannan, the 2005 11th round draft pick who was expected to kick start the new franchise. (This is how much they seem to care about poor John.) No, the ace of the Washington Nationals’ 2011 pitching rotation is 37-year old Livan Hernandez.
Now, I love Livan. He’s been with the team since the beginning, posting a 15-10 record in the team’s first season and providing numerous memories. He’s a great hitting pitcher, and he has some nasty pitches when he’s on his game. Heck, the guy was World Series MVP in 1997 for the Marlins. But to settle on a journeyman pitcher like Hernandez is a step backwards for a Nationals franchise that has otherwise been making all of the right moves.
Hernandez can still pitch. He can still get strikeouts. He can still give you solid bunts and the occasional single. But to consider him an opening day starter just baffles me. He’s 37 and not getting any younger, and his performance against the Marlins tonight was a perfect example of the struggles that can befall an aging pitcher. Hernandez was solid for four innings and his teammates even spotted him a 4-0 lead, but he couldn’t keep it going as the Marlins blasted him for 4 runs.
Hernandez was credited with a no-decision in the 7-4 loss (don’t even get me started on the losing pitcher, Chad Gaudin, he of the sparkling 13.50 ERA), but his inability to keep his composure into the fifth inning showed that fatigue and loss of control forced him into bad pitches. After the game Hernandez said that he simply “threw too many balls,” which is the typical problem of a pitcher whose arm has begun to fail him.
I have nothing against Livan. He’s a great pitcher. But I do have qualms about how he is used, and how he simply isn’t the pitcher he used to be. Put the first few months of 2010 behind you, Nationals, that’s not the real Livan Hernandez. You’re seeing him now, and while he’s still serviceable, you need to get someone else.