Wednesday, March 26, 2008

To Queen Of Hornets, MVP Flies To Paul’s Nest


On Friday, just before the second day action of college ball, me and Sam decided to play a little one-on-one game. So we pushed each other hard all those minutes on the concrete, both trying to win this fight. Anyway, after the 1-on-1 (no one won ‘cos we eventually didn’t count baskets), we did some HORSE duels. It felt good. To got some shots up and crazy throw-ups at the rim. Then we argued about the MVP candidates... I knew I wasn’t going to convince him that ‘my favorite’ is going to win. His dude is Manu Ginobili (Sam’s such a homer). While it’s true that he’s got a career season of his own (and if I had a vote, I’d put Manu on my list), this race is a 3-headed final. LeBron, Kobe & CP3.

If New Orleans earns the first berth in the West, the trophy goes to Paul. If LAL earn the first berth, the trophy goes to Bryant. However, sorry Kobe, Paul’s my man.

I'm saying Chris Paul is the next dominant guard. The 22-year-old point is doing a pretty good impression of an MVP. Hornets weren't even projected to make the playoffs in the ultracompetitive West, but they have the conference's best record, and Paul dominates the action like few of greats did. If he catches a good night, he can easily throw on you a stat line like this: 42 points, 9 assists, 8 steals and 5 boards. This guy has everything: heart, talent, knowledge.

It's his craft to help his teammates maximize their potential. All players, not just the young ones. For example, he revived the career of Peja Stojakovic, made an All-Star (David West) or created the most prolific alley-oop duo in the league - his lobs for Tyson Chandler are yummy. His Hornets are really that dangerous.

They can win against the elite. There’s one big reason why. Hornets' recently acquired swingman Bonzi Wells only knows five of the team's plays, according to coach Byron Scott. But Scott called them over and over as he destroyed Houston with a series of post-ups and the occasional jumper, even throwing in a rare 3 at the end to cap off his evening.

*I don't know the plays,* said Wells. *I just know CP. That's it. You get him the ball and let him direct traffic.*

Between Wells, Morris ‘Mo-Pete’ Peterson, rookie Julian ‘JuJu’ Wright, Jannero Pargo and the return of Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen - whom Scott said still is working his way into the mix after a two-year suspension - the story for Hornets right now is that the cavalry has come to the rescue. No more any weak bench. This guys can play.

After seeing a strong starting five undermined by the bench for much of the season, the second unit has become a plus, taking a lot of the pressure off the starters, especially Paul and West. And that, in turn, is why Hornets have at least a puncher's chance of overcoming a brutal late schedule to claim the top seed in the West.

This group of men has achieved something even more fascinating than being No. 1. Sellouts in their arena are now a common habit. That's borderline miraculous for a place that was emptier than ‘A Party For People Over 95 Years Old’ for much of the first half of the season - and makes it seem increasingly likely the team will meet the attendance targets in its revised lease with the city. They saved basketball in New Orleans.

Last weekend I read Mike Monroe’s column about MVP candidates and I liked his work/information. Here’s his case:

*
What seems fair at this point in the season is to examine the four leading candidates /LBJ, KB, CP & KG/ as empirically as possible. For this, the tried-and-true Larry Bird rankings always are most helpful.

Long before nearly every NBA fan owned a computer, Bird, a three-time MVP (1984, 1985, 1986) during his Hall of Fame career with Celtics, put together a formula he believed accurately quantified a player's true value. He shared it with some sports writers, who quickly dubbed it the Larry Bird Formula and applied it to what may have been the first basketball fantasy league.

It was simple and genius: Add a player's points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, then subtract missed shots, missed field goals, personal fouls and turnovers. Divide by number of games played and compare the per-game averages.

The highest average, Bird argued, was probably the MVP.

The fact he typically had the highest mark was no coincidence.

Later, Bird agreed to eliminate fouls from the equation since some fouls - given to prevent easy baskets, for example, or to stop the clock late - were good stats, rather than bad.

Here is how this year's presumed Final MVP Four stack up in Bird numbers as teams approach their final dozen regular-season games:

•LeBron James: 64 games, 1,975 points, 521 rebounds, 473 assists, 117 steals, 67 blocks; 734 missed shots, 191 missed free throws, 218 turnovers. Bird Points/Game: 31.4.

•Chris Paul: 65 games, 1,401 points, 256 rebounds, 732 assists, 177 steals, 2 blocks; 541 missed shots, 42 missed free throws, 167 turnovers. Bird Points/Game: 27.96.

•Kobe Bryant: 69 games, 1,942 points, 418 rebounds, 365 assists, 133 steals, 34 blocks; 759 missed shots, 100 missed free throws, 230 turnovers. Bird Points/Game: 26.13.

•Kevin Garnett: 59 games, 1,110 points, 561 rebounds, 203 assists, 86 steals, 76 blocks; 390 missed shots, 60 missed free throws, 121 turnovers. Bird Points/Game: 24.83.

By Bird's reckoning, the numbers scream that James be this season's MVP. The fact Cavaliers are fourth in the Eastern Conference weighs against this conclusion unless you believe his teammates are so average Cavs' relatively high standing proves he is more valuable than a player like Garnett, who counts two All-Stars among his teammates.

Voters will have to decide how much weight to assign Bryant's ability to keep Lakers at, or near, the top of the West through roster change and injury; or Paul's rise to his status as the point guard with the biggest impact is primarily responsible for Hornets' stature in the standings.

This season, more than ever, the Bird Formula is more guideline than MVP mandate, but nonetheless useful. Certainly Amare Stoudemire will want to use his lofty Bird average, 27.7 (trust us, we ran the numbers) to reinforce his recent assertion /note: see my p.s. .../ that he deserves MVP consideration, too.

Tim Duncan's Bird average, by the way, is a solid 25.16, helped by his improvement this season at the foul line, where he has made 73.2 percent of his attempts.
*

But I don’t care. Paul’s my MVP. Period. Check out his numbers:

Chris Paul, #3 Guard, New Orleans Hornets

Born: 1985.05.06.
Height: 6-0
Weight: 175
College: Wake Forest
Years Pro: 2

Season G GS MPG FG% 3p% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
07-08 67 67 37,6 0,497 0,376 0,856 0,8 3,1 3,9 11,2 2,7 0,0 2,54 2,30 21,7
Career 209 209 36,7 0,458 0,338 0,840 0,8 3,7 4,5 9,2 2,3 0,0 2,46 2,50 18,2

Seriously, 11,2 to 2,54 assist-to-turnover ratio? Are you kiddin’ me?!?

CHRIS PAUL DESERVES THE MVP TROPHY! VOTE FOR HIM! ALL THE BEST, CHRIS! (Just not versus San Antonio Spurs. If you ever kill us again with a 25-16 line, I guarantee you’ll lose my support, lol.)

Tonite’s games: (I decided this would be my all-blogs feature, I have fun doing bets.)
DET at TOR... (DET win)
CHI at PHI... (PHI win)
MIL at ATL... (ATL win)
NO at CLE... (NO win)
PHX at BOS... (BOS win)
MIA at NY... (---; I have no clue who’s gonna win this game of ages)
IND at NJ... (NJ win)
MIN at HOU... (HOU win)
LAC at SA... (SA win)
MEM at SAC... (SAC win)
WSH at SEA... (WSH win)
CHA at LAL... (LAL win)

p.s.: perhaps the biggest improvement amare stoudemire could make during the upcoming playoffs would be to wear a seat-belt when he's on the bench. in other words: how about shutting your mouth, amare, and opening up your game? (-charley rosen)
p.s.2: in an ideal world, kevin love would remain in college and work on his low-post game, his footwork and his boyz II men beard. in a realistic world, he's bolting for the pros and destined to kick off a holy war on espn.com between me and chad ford. (-bill simmons)
p.s.3: (cavaliers coach mike brown, after loss to bucks) *we got our behinds kicked. i'm glad we don't play those guys 82 times because mo williams may be the all-time greatest player ever, if we did.*
p.s.4: when dirk nowitzki went down and had to be carried off the floor on sunday, mavs owner mark cuban looked like his dog had been run over by a truck. (-jon barry)
p.s.5: i really hate jerry stackhouse.
p.s.6: i told ya, brent is back!
p.s.7: this is a FiCS blog no. 100! happy celebration, guys!

Posted by Foreigner in CS - Mar 26 2008 7:42PM

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