Around the League: MVP Talk, Jason Richardson, Blake Griffin and Landry Fields
Where to start? Let's go with a look at a few MVP candidates.
As of right now, it's just a two-man race between Amar'e Stoudemire and Manu Ginobili.
The former is at the center of what's a tremendous revival of pro basketball in New York. Not only are the Knicks, the NBA's running joke of the past decade, winning again, but they're on pace for—take a deep breath—48 wins. Stoudemire, the league's second-leading scorer at 26.3 points per game, has been nothing short of remarkable.
During a 14-game stretch from November 17 through December 12, the Knicks went 13-1 and Stoudemire averaged 30 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks per game and shot 58 percent from the field.
As for Ginobili, he has simply been the best player on the best team. The Spurs are off to a ridiculously impressive 27-4 start and Manu is leading the team in scoring at a 19.1 points per game clip. Tim Duncan, who has played close to 1,200 career games, is just a role player at this point. Tony Parker has been the subject of trade rumors. Make no mistake, this is Manu's team and, interestingly enough, it might just be the best Spurs team we have seen thus far.
Other serious candidates: Deron Williams, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Derrick Rose.
My vote for MVP goes to Ginobili, if only because I want him to get the shine he so desperately deserves. This is a guy who has owned Kobe Bryant in his career and has won three championships. He's a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer and yet we seldom talk about him because he plays in a small media market and in Duncan's shadow.
Speaking of underrated players, I cannot tell you enough how happy and excited I am for Jason Richardson. Now that he's playing alongside Dwight Howard on the Orlando Magic, the 10-year vet might just get some All-Star recognition. After all, all J-Rich has done in his career is average 18 points and 5 rebounds per game. But that's easy to overlook when you're playing in Golden State, Charlotte and for a post-D'Antoni Phoenix squad.
Ironically, Richardson's pro career is much like this incredible two-handed, put-back (off of a blocked shot), reverse dunk he made in college in a game against Arizona. It was one of the craziest dunks in NCAA history, and yet I can't even find a photo of it online. After much digging, I found a clip of it in a Michigan State highlight reel of dunks. Here's the link (the dunk is at 3:36): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwVv1MMiEUQ
While we're at it, let's mention the name Rip Hamilton. Like Richardson, he's another great seldom-talked-about two-guard. If these guys can string together a few extra seasons of quality play, they might get some Hall votes, though that is unlikely.
A question I've heard quite a bit lately is, "What do you think about Blake Griffin?" My answer has yet to change. I think he might be the most athletically gifted player in the league not named LeBron James. I also think he lacks a natural feel for the game and thus often plays in a mechanical and predictable fashion.
Would he be this effective if he were less athletic? I say no. His future will be determined by how much polish he can add to his game before wear and tear slow him down. If I were running a team, I wouldn't sign him to a mega-deal. I see way too much Kenyon Martin in the equation. He's an athlete first, basketball player second. Fun to watch, though.
A friend said a few months back that Landry Fields could be the long-term two-guard solution for the Knicks. I laughed. Then I heard team GM Donnie Walsh say Fields reminded him of John Havlicek. I'm laughing harder now.
Yes, Havlicek and Fields both fit the mold of the athletically limited hustle-type of player, though Hondo was elite in other aspects of the game, specifically shooting, passing and defense. I don't see anything even above-average about Fields except for maybe his effort. It's easy to gush over a guy we respect for going hard all the time, but still, likening him to one of the NBA's top 20 players of all-time is more than a bit steep—it's moronic.
Knicks fans have a history when it comes to over-hyping their own. Channing Frye anyone? How about Renaldo Balkman, you know, the next Dennis Rodman.
I like Fields, but until he improves his shooting and ball-handling, I just can't see him being anything more than an energy defender and rebounder off the bench.
Lastly, I'd just like to add that Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo might be the two most painful players to watch in the NBA. Chalmers can't stick an open shot to save his life, and Arroyo carries the ball every time he takes a dribble. Their games are just flat-out ugly.
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