The Most Valuable Player debate doesn't take long to heat up -- it's raised nightly when a crowd chants its endorsement of a favorite candidate. For example, you could hear it cropping up for Dirk Nowitzki during Tuesday's Rockets-Mavs game.
In value, Nash looking peerless
No shortage of excellent candidates here. Dwyane Wade isn't too high on the charts these days, because his Miami team is the biggest question mark in the league. But if Shaq gets healthy, and the Heat get red hot, you'll likely see Wade jump way up on my list.
Same goes for Carmelo Anthony. He's not in my current Top 10, but he has the potential to rise quickly. If the Nuggets take off when he returns starting Monday, this team has the chance to string together a bunch of wins.
One figure notably absent from MVP consideration is Clippers forward Elton Brand, whom I figured would be a leading candidate this year. He isn't. Tired legs after another summer of playing have hurt. And his team is not showing much inspiration this year.
The lesson: many are chanted for, but only one is selected. My top 10 choices . . .
1. Suns guard Steve Nash -- His best season ever. If I had a knock on him in the past, it was that he wasn't the kind of player who could take over the scoring himself. This year I think he's shown he can be a dominant scorer, all the while still incorporating new guys, who then proceed to have career years. I think he's an underrated defensive player. Very active in double-teaming.
2. Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas -- We haven't seen a scoring spree like this since the days of Jordan -- every night you wonder if he's going to get 50. He's put up his biggest numbers against the best teams. His offense is so good, it is enough to assure that the Wiz will make some noise in the playoffs. With Caron Butler going strong, Arenas is good enough to get the Wiz to the East finals.
3. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant -- Based on talent, his team doesn't have the right to be 12 games over .500 at this point in the season. But the best all-around player in league has accelerated the development of young players -- Andrew Bynum, Ronny Turiaf, Brian Cook and Kwame Brown. Kobe's more of a leader than he's ever been.
4. Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki -- The best player on the team with the best record. Overcame a big personal hurdle in playoffs last year in the Spurs series -- the tendency to disappear. That's carried over that right into this season. Has improved dramatically as a rebounder.
5. Spurs forward Tim Duncan -- Some thought last year's foot problems might have signaled the beginning of the end for the greatest power forward of all-time. But no. He's still the best low-post scorer in the league with his huge arsenal. Incredibly consistent and consistently great.
6. Jazz forward Carlos Boozer -- You take one of the smartest, best coached teams, with great chemistry, and give them a dominant low post player -- look out. His ability to rebound against guys 2-3 inches taller than him is remarkable. Without him, the Jazz are a nice team that plays .500 ball and you don't have take seriously. With him, a very formidable team.
7. Rockets center Yao Ming --- Injured now, but Yao has now taken the title of Best Center in the Game. This is the first year that unofficial title hasn't been owned by Shaq since his second or third year. I think this is the first year Yao expects to dominate when he goes to the arena. He doesn't just want to blend in, this year he calls for the ball more, and is tougher around the basket.
8. Cavs forward LeBron James -- I think LeBron in some way approached the season a little more casually than he did last year. So they won one playoff series? There's should still be a deep, deep hunger. Most wouldn't put him this low, but I think with the East ready for the taking, the Cavs failed to put much distance between their No. 1 East mark and the rest of a struggling conference.
9. Magic center Dwight Howard -- This guy is a combo of Karl Malone strength and KG athletic ability. When you have a dominant big man, you have a chance to compete, just because Howard is on the boards.
10. Heat guard Dwyane Wade -- The mark of a true MVP is the ability to carry a team when depleted. He was hurt himself, but when he's out there, he's carried the team. He's the foundation in a very chaotic season.
Of note, Kevin Garnett's case is strong for inclusion, especially with his Wolves' clutch wins of late.
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Tracy McGrady had the hot hand early, scoring 21 points in the first quarter (finishing with 45), but Dirk Nowitzki (30 points, 10 rebounds) and Co. finished strong, 109-96.
Ryen Russilo examines a few questions about Ohio State freshman phenom Greg Oden. Is he as good as advertised? Once he enters the NBA, will he live up to expectations? Is it too early to tell?
Dikembe Mutombo has had at least 10 rebounds in each of his last 11 games. That's by far the longest streak by a player older than 40. The only other 40-year-old with a streak of even five games is Robert Parish, who did it in six straight games for the Celtics in January 1994.
The only other player with at least 10 rebounds in 10 straight games this season is Kevin Garnett, who has had two separate streaks of that length. For Mutombo, it's the fourth-longest streak of 10-rebound games in his career and it's his longest since a 15-game streak in the spring of 1999.
-- Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias
T-Mac starts fast, finishes with 45 in loss
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With his new coach Flip Saunders at his side, Chris Webber shows off his wide receiver worthy 84. He was a great catch for Detroit.
Quote of the Day
-- Andrew Ayres
The big impact from the Chris Webber signing may be as much in the other moves he allows Detroit to make as in his own production.
Obviously, the signing of Webber itself was a pretty easy call. Regardless of how diminished he may be because of the bad wheel, if you can get a guy like this for the minimum salary you pull the trigger and figure out where he fits in later.
And with this deal done, the Pistons now are in the position to deal a big for a small. A major benefit of adding Webber is that it gives the Pistons a surplus of big men, allowing them to more easily trade one of them and address the glaring weaknesses on the perimeter.
The Webber addition also completes a remarkable two-year transformation in Detroit that hasn't received much ink. Forget about the Bad Boys -- these are more like the EuroPistons. Detroit has completely changed its identity from a defensive-oriented team that won with intimidating big men to a high-efficiency, jump-shooting offensive machine that just asks the defense not to lose the game.
I think Rasheed Wallace will welcome having another effective big man next to him. Rasheed doesn't want to be the go-to man down low, either offensively or defensively. He doesn't want that responsibility. Never has.
That's why he fit in so perfectly in Detroit in the first place. But when Ben Wallace left last summer, Rasheed became the enforcer/face of the Pistons' front line, and he didn't like it. Not that Chris Webber's going to be The Man, but now Rasheed has someone to share the burden/responsibility of giving Detroit a inside presence with.
And when Rasheed's struggles (as he did in going 1-for-11 with 3 points in Monday's loss to Minnesota), Webber will be there to pick up the slack (albeit with jumpers instead of power moves).
Move over Larry Bird, here comes Dirk Nowitzki.
Dirk and Bird are the only players in NBA history to have 20 PPG, 9 RPG, and make 75 3-pointers in a single season. Nowitzki has done it four times compared to Bird's three ... and in four fewer seasons.
-- ESPN Research