Thus far, the general consensus on NBA MVP candidates are the usual suspects: Kevin Durant, LeBron James and even Derrick Rose to repeat. ESPN and Sports Illustrated recently surveyed their panel of hoops experts to predict who will win the MVP. 23 out of 30 and six out of seven chose either KD or LeBron to win it, respectively. When the likelihood of a season was at its bleakest during the lockout â€” even here at Dime â€” the popular candidates of KD and Blake Griffin were given the nod for Fantasy MVP and SportsCenter MVP, respectively. However, don’t get it twisted, though. Sean Sweeney was on to something when he deemed the Los Angeles Clippers as “The People’s Champion”.
“They’d be the 2010 Thunder of this year… everyone would be ready to crown them already,” said Sweeney.
This prediction has proven to be an ominous one since it was practically a month prior to their franchise-altering trade. Likewise, the MVP award is given to the player that best represents the utmost value to their team through the confluence of their stats, team success, and talent-driven bravado and marketability. That said, ain’t nobody in the league right now seeing the one and only cat that epitomizes what an MVP is and carries the burden of an entire franchise: Chris Paul.
Still, what the hell do these ESPN and SI pundits know about who the $#&%in’ real MVP will be anyways? Durantula is a lock to win a third-straight scoring title, but he is on the most well-run squad from top-to-bottom outside of the San Antonio Spurs. LeBron is on the path to prove all the haters wrong once and for all this season, but everything he’ll do is a moot point until he gets to the fourth quarters of The Finals. D-Rose won the award last season, but he can’t one-up himself for an encore unless he can lead the League in dimes and guide the Bulls to the best overall record again. Conversely, CP3 got traded to the best possible destination to capture all of the Drake-like headlines and virtually single-handedly transform the laughingstock Clippers to LA’s Hollywood team.
First and foremost, it’ll serve one well to go back to the 2007-08 season just to see how nice CP actually is at his finest hour. Kobe Bryant robbed ’em of the MVP. The sole reason why Black Mamba “won” the award was because the media realized they did an injustice of not granting him the MVP a couple seasons earlier when he had the epic 81-point game. The Los Angeles Lakers finished ahead of the New Orleans Hornets by just one game (57-25 to 56-26). CP’s stats were among the most impressive the game has ever seen. Not only was he tops in the league with 11.6 dimes and 2.7 steals, he did it while also being second among point guards in scoring with 21.1 points a game and an outrageous 28.3 PER. The most remarkable stat of all: his league-leading 17.8 win shares â€” his second best mark in his career â€” ranks only behind His Airness and The Big O amongst guards all-time, based on basketball-reference.com.
Now, fast-forward to last year’s New Orleans playoff run. CP was somehow able to take that squad filled with vagabonds like Carl Landry and Marco Belinelli (David West was out for the year) to battle the then-reigning champion Lakers to six games. In hindsight, his Game 1 onslaught of 33 points, 14 dimes, and four cookies as he shot 61 percent from the field was probably what ultimately convinced the Lakers to attempt to trade for him â€” even if it meant losing Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol in the process.
As long as the Clippers give ’em full control of the offense, the entire league should be put on notice. Rohan, who has covered CP since his rookie year from SB Nation’s At the Hive, notes:
“The 2011 regular season Chris Paul was definitely an All-Star caliber player, but the 2011 playoffs Chris Paul? That’s a Hall of Famer,” he says. “On-the-ball Chris Paul is, when healthy, arguably the most impactful offensive player in the league.”
And even though the season is only two weeks-old, Clips Nation‘s own John Raffo has also witnessed enough to recognize how great CP has been and what kind of influence he is already bringing to the Clippers:
“His record speaks for itself: he repeatedly took a lesser team further than anyone would have thought possible. He turned the Hornets into winners when he arrived in 2006…forcing an under-talented and under-achieving team to become more than the sum of its parts.”
His leadership is so genuine that, “Clipper fans haven’t seen anything like this since Sam Cassell was with the team,” says Raffo.
Most importantly, though, is the overall cultural change CP is imparting, making him leaps and bounds ahead of the so-called MVP competition. Amongst Angelinos, the Clippers have always been casted the lesser brother playing under the shadows of the big brother Lakers. While Griffin deserves credit for brushing off any notion that the “Clippers Curse” still exists, it hasn’t been until now that all of Los Angeles can look up at Hotel Figueroa and see the change in basketball hierarchy in town. How many other cats in the league have the balls to go on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno and call him out for routinely dissing your team for decades? It is because of instances like this that CP has been embraced by Clipper Nation and even Lakers fans like another former New Orleans resident and now Los Angeles transplant, Frank Ocean.
It wasn’t that long ago when The Game spit with Lil Wayne on “My Life,” which in retrospect now serves as a mirror reflection of the current state of the Clippers:
Gotta Chris Paul mind state, I’m never outta bounds.
My life used to be empty like a glock without a round.
Now my life full, like a chopper with a thousand rounds.
No other team in professional sports history has had a complete 180 degree turn of their fortunes as much as the Clips are currently going through due to one player. Clipper Nation feels like they are a legitimate title contender, while the Lakers are just getting older by the day. They used to show up to arenas just to entertain â€” knowing full well that they had no chance to put up a real fight. Now, the entire mindset of this organization is fundamentally different. CP made it known from the outset during his welcoming news conference.
“I can tell you one thing: nobody is gunna work harder than us. And I can guarantee you that…I’m all about competition,” said Paul when asked about how do you win.
When a reporter had the audacity to question him regarding the condition of his knees, Paul briefly stared at him with a WTF-is-wrong-with-you-look and seriously asked him in reply, “I’m good, do you want to play?”
This unrelenting self-confidence that CP exudes is the inner-MVP attitude that he possesses. Both Rohan and Raffo have noticed. Paul’s swagger is the missing and most invaluable link towards justifiably anointing the Clippers as the team to beat out West.
Rohan mentions what CP provided the Hornets with night in and night out during his tenure there:
“I wrote about Paul for years when he was a Hornet, and one thing that always stood out during games was how accountable he held everybody on the team. Off the court, they (David West and CP) were like brothers; yet on the court, Paul would routinely eviscerate West for errors (and regularly take back an earful from West as well). And I believe that almost, in a way, threatening sense of accountability will be nothing but a positive for Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.”
The fact that CP openly and willing criticizes his teammates as well as being receptive to it himself shows that he is a superstar that solely cares about the betterment of his team. Most stars ain’t trying to hear anything from their coaches, much less from their lesser teammates. CP isn’t too hard-headed or ignorant enough to simply dismiss what each player’s role is and how important it is for everyone to be on the same page. The entire Clippers squad is only going to benefit from it as the season progresses, especially once the postseason starts.
Likewise, Raffo echoed these sentiments:
“His behavior on the court and off the court seems exemplary. He’s embraced his new team and seems much more focused on winning than on personal stats. I suppose this is no surprise… though his points-per-game numbers have actually dropped the last few years, his reputation in the league (his ESPN No. 4 player ranking) and his ability to win games has risen.”
All things considered, CP is in a stratosphere of his own. It’s ’bout time for the rest of the universe to give him his props and declare him – as they did in the DJ Premier-produced and Ludacris’ joint “MVP” – the league’s rightful MVP.
Rohan believes you can’t undersell the value of having someone as directly competitive as Paul. And Raffo says there’s no on else quite like the new Clipper point guard:
“For his new feat, though the talent might be improved, the team’s reputation, its heavy burden of disrespect, might even be a greater hurdle. If it were anyone other than Chris Paul, you’d probably assume the challenge was too great.”
Do you think CP will win the MVP?
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