To the Winner Goes the MVP
Tonight the Los Angeles Lakers face the New Orleans Hornets in what could possibly be a Western Conference Finals preview. In addition, this game could help determine home court advantage in the western conference in the playoffs as the Lakers are two games behind the Hornets for first place in the conference. But the most important part of this game for me, and perhaps for a lot of undecided MVP voters, is that this game could determine whether Chris Paul or Kobe Bryant win the MVP award.
A few weeks ago, I wrote that I expected that when Pau Gasol went down with a sprained ankle, the chances of the Lakers getting the top seed in the west and Kobe winning his first regular season MVP award went down with him. But then a funny thing happened, the Lakers proceeded to go 5-4 without Gasol, including wins over Dallas and Utah.
But unfortunately for Kobe, during this stretch the Hornets were able to get to the top of the western conference standings and a lot of people that didn't want Kobe to win his first MVP award were giving the perfect alternative candidate in Chris Paul.
Now don't get me wrong. I love Chris Paul. He is an amazing player and he's having an amazing year. Trust me, I know since he's led my fantasy basketball team all season long and I wouldn't be in first place without him. He's undoubtedly my fantasy mvp, but in the real world, he still doesn't deserve it.
If you're going to vote for the best player on the best team, then your vote should go for Kevin Garnett, not Chris Paul. The Boston Celtics are clearly the best team in basketball right now and the odds on favorite to win the championship. One of the factors that makes them so potent is their amazing defense and from all accounts that defensive effort starts with Garnett. His intensity makes all his teammates play a little harder. Unfortunately for KG, he missed a few games earlier in the season and the Celtics didn't stop winning so he somehow dropped out of the MVP race. Plus he already has one from his days in Minnesota.
Also, Paul has a lot more help in getting that best record in the west than Kobe did. Paul has one other current all-star on his team in David West and one former all-star in Peja Stojakovic and they have played for the team all season long. While Pau Gasol is a former all-star, he did not start the season with the Lakers and he missed nine games after joining them. As for Lamar Odom, he is too inconsistent to ever be an all-star. You might say that playing with Paul has made West an all-star. I would respond by asking you to look at how badly Smush Parker and Kwame Brown have fared since they left the Lakers to see how playing alongside Kobe Bryant improved their games while they were in LA.
In addition MVP voters shouldn't forget that Kobe has been playing the last few months with a pinkie on his shooting hand that requires surgery and blows up like a balloon every time it gets hit. Kobe clearly deserves some credit for showing such heart. Finally, it's just time that one of the greatest players that has ever been in this league gets a little more recognition. It would be a shame if Kobe retired and finished a hall of fame career without winning a single MVP.
So it shouldn't matter whether the Hornets or the Lakers win tonight, Kobe deserves the MVP award. Unfortunately I have a feeling that most of the voters won't see it that way and they'll decide who gets their vote based on this one game. In the end it doesn't matter that much because I hope Kobe wants a championship more than an individual award. After all, even if he can't win the regular season MVP, if he leads his team to championship glory, he can still win the NBA Finals MVP and that in itself should be enough individual recognition.