Last week it appeared that Kevin Durant wanted this MVP much more than LeBron James. But with the comments he made to the media, along with the loss against LeBron and Miami on Wednesday night, Durant has given up his lead. It was very noble and admirable of him to address the media and support his point guard the way he did, however now isn’t the time for that. In the midst of a heated MVP race, Durant pretty much denounced himself as the number one scoring option on his own team. Sure that may have been a good move for the team going forward, and was great for the confidence of Russell Westbrook, but there’s no question that it hurt Durant’s MVP stock.
Whether or not that statement holds true on the court is yet to be determined. Durant had a game against Indiana where he scored 44, taking twice as many shots as Westbrook in a winning effort. So it could have just been an empty gesture. Regardless, LeBron reclaims the top spot in this week’s “Race to the MVP” Watch.
In other news, Kobe Bryant has gotten back on track, Kevin Love can’t catch a break, and the Dwight Howard drama is slowly destroying the Magic’s chances at contending for a championship.
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10. DERRICK ROSE â€“ Last week: 29 pts/four ast/six rebs
Last Week: No. 10, maintaining
The reigning MVP made his return against New York on Sunday, which was a good time to return considering the Knicks were the last team he saw before missing 12 straight games. In his return, Rose went 8-for-26 from the field, with only four assists and eight turnovers. He also missed two crucial free throws down the stretch, allowing Carmelo Anthony to show off his clutch gene.
Rose was very rusty in his first game back. If he can recover effectively and get back in the swing of things, it will be in perfect timing for the Bulls, who are trying to finish the season as the league’s best team for the second year in a row. If they are able to accomplish that, there’s no question that Rose will finish with a good amount of votes, despite the fact that he’s only played 35 games for the Bulls so far this season.
9. DWIGHT HOWARD â€“ Last week: 14.0 ppg/15.0 rpg/2.5 bpg
LW: No. 6, Falling
The Dwight Howard drama hasn’t faded away one bit in Orlando. Many felt that after he committed to staying through next season, the air would be clear and the Magic could focus on contending for a championship. Well, that’s exactly the opposite of what’s happened so far. The drama has gotten even worse in Orlando because of the news leaking that Dwight Howard wanted Stan Van Gundy fired. Van Gundy knows it’s true, but Howard continues to deny it to the media. So until something is done about this, it’s hard to imagine the Magic as a legitimate contender in the East.
Dwight recovered form his embarrassing night against the Knicks by having a monster game against Philly, scoring 20 and snagging 22 rebounds in a winning effort. Dwight and Van Gundy are both professionals, so they will both continue to do their respective jobs. However, Van Gundy really seems disgusted with the Magic organization and is almost a lame duck coach at this point. The drama will continue to be the black cloud over the Magic’s season until something is done about this.
8. CHRIS PAUL â€“ Last Week: 15.5 ppg/12.2 apg/4.2 rpg
LW: No. 8, maintaining
Aside from a loss against the Lakers on Wednesday, the Clippers took care of business last week with convincing wins over Dallas and then in back-to-back games against Sacramento. Paul was terrific in each of his four games last week, dishing out double-digit assist three times. In the loss against the Lakers, he was fantastic, scoring 22 and dishing out 16.
It’s pretty clear that Chris Paul has to play well for his team to have a chance to win. He knows that, and he plays like it.
7. TONY PARKER â€“ Last week: 12.0 ppg/4.3 apg/1.6 rpg
LW: No. 9, rising
The Spurs have emerged as the deepest team in the NBA and Tony Parker is benefiting from that. With the support of Danny Green and Gary Neal, he’s been able to stay fresh. He’s averaging a career high 7.6 assists per game this season, and is still averaging 19 points a game. The Spurs had won 11 straight games – even with Parker playing limited minutes – before their loss in Utah on Monday night. The Spurs are playing great basketball as a collective unit. Elevan straight wins means a move up in the ranks for TP.
6. KEVIN LOVE – Last week: 27.0 ppg/10.3 rpg/3.0 apg
LW: No. 5, falling
Kevin Love has continued to play well for Minnesota. However, they just can’t seem to get a win recently. Their playoff hopes have gone down the drain with this current six-game losing streak. They now sit four spots behind the eighth seed, and the playoffs begin at the end of the month. Had they not lost recent games against teams like Sacramento, Golden State and New Orleans, the Timberwolves would have a legit chance at making the playoffs, and Love would have a much better case at the MVP. Love just can’t catch a break, and unfortunately when it comes to the MVP, he’s only as good as his team’s success. Individual success can only take you so far in the MVP race.
5. DWYANE WADE â€“ Last week: 19.5 ppg/2.5 apg/5.5 rpg
LW: No. 4, falling
After the ugly loss against Boston in which Wade struggled, shooting 6-for-17 with 15 points, Wade and the Heat bounced back for a huge win against Oklahoma City at home. Supporting LeBron in his crucial face-off with Durant, Wade scored 19 on 7-for-18 shooting in a winning effort. He’s playing with a banged-up knee, so Miami should strongly consider resting him down the stretch as the end of the regular season nears.
4. KOBE BRYANT â€“ Last week: 27.6 ppg/4.6 rpg/3.0 apg
LW: No. 7, rising
Kobe Bryant has finally gotten back to playing Kobe Bryant basketball. In his last three games (before sitting out against Phoenix and New Orleans), Kobe shot 10-for-16 for 24 points against New Jersey, 13-for-19 for 31 points against the Clippers, and then 8-for-20, along with 11-11 shooting from the stripe, for 28 points against Houston. When Kobe Bryant is playing efficient basketball, the Lakers are pretty hard to beat. Hopefully Kobe can continue his hot shooting once he returns from his shin injury. If he can, he’ll be improving his case for MVP. The Lakers are still sitting tight in the West’s third seed, so if anyone deserves a significant move up on the list this week, it’s Kobe.
3. RUSSELL WESTBROOK â€“ Last week: 20.7 ppg/5.0 apg/6.2 rpg
LW: No. 3, maintaining
Westbrook has been playing well, but has also continued to shoot the basketball more than Durant, which has become a trend for Oklahoma City. Durant addressed the media in an effort to support his teammate, claiming that the team is at their best when Westbrook takes the most shots and he focuses more on defense and rebounding. Whether he really meant it or not, it could either be a good or a bad thing for the success of the Thunder.
If Westbrook stays hot, it makes the Thunder a lot more difficult to guard. But Westbrook can’t continue hoisting up shots if he’s not hitting them. There’s simply no room for that come playoff time. Keep a close eye on the Thunder as playoff time approaches. As for Westbrook, he’s had some poor shooting nights recently, 5-for-16 in the streak-snapping loss against Memphis, 9-for-26 in the loss against Miami, 7-for-23 in another loss against Indiana, and 5-for-12 in a win against Toronto. So whether or not the team is better when Westbrook shoots the most is yet to be determined.
2. KEVIN DURANT â€“ Last week: 29.5 ppg/5.5 rpg/2.5 apg
LW: No. 1, falling
Although KD has fallen behind again by letting LeBron get the best of him in Miami, he’s not too far behind in the race. There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played. However, Durant might have done himself a disservice by what he said to the media. When’s the last time you remember an MVP saying his team is at it’s best when he doesn’t take the most shots? Sure Durant is a very efficient player, and is admirably humble and supportive of his point guard, but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. The fact of the matter is he’s arguably the best scorer in the NBA. To say his team is better when he doesn’t shoot the most shots is taking away from his MVP argument, even though in a loss against Indiana on Friday, Westbrook only took 12 shots while KD took 24, made 15 of them, and finished with 44 points.
1. LEBRON JAMES â€“ Last week: 30.5 ppg/5.75 rpg/5.5 apg
LW: No. 2, rising
LeBron James reclaims the top spot this week with two monster games against Philly and Oklahoma City. With Wade out, LeBron torched Philly for 41 points on 15-for-25 shooting. Then in his face off against Durant, LeBron played like he had a point to prove: 34 points on 10-for-20 shooing, 10 assists and seven rebounds. He followed those monster nights up with 21 points in a loss against Indiana, and 26 points in a win against Detroit. If you ask me, LeBron has hushed up all the talk about Durant being the favorite to win it. For now.
Did I get it right? Who are your top 10 MVP candidates?
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