This week, there was a groundswell for Kevin Love’s inclusion in the MVP conversation.
Thanks for joining us in 2012, folks. Love should should have been in it months ago.
We know all the names that already comprised the conversation – LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul – with Tony Parker and Dwight Howard on the periphery. Those six candidates differ from Love in two ways.
1. They all play on winning teams.
2. This season, they all couldn’t wash Love’s socks.
Yes, winning is very important when determining the MVP. So is value to one’s team, overwhelming statistics, leadership and durability.
Let’s come back to the winning thing later and concentrate on the other categories.
Value to one’s team? James, Durant, Bryant and Paul each have at least one All-Star sidekick; all of their teams would still be in the playoff chase without them. Injuries in San Antonio and inconsistency in Orlando have forced Parker and Howard to carry a heavier load than the other candidates, but the cupboards aren’t exactly bare.
Without Love, the Timberwolves would be in the D-League.
Overwhelming stats? James (scoring, steals), Paul (assists, steals) and Howard (rebounds, blocks) all are in the top five in two of the major categories. Bryant and Durant are 1-2 in scoring.
Love is third in scoring and second in rebounding; it has been eight years since someone finished in the top five in those categories in the same season. He is second in offensive rebounds and seventh in 3-pointers made, which seems almost impossible.
“I think we used to call him kind of a poor man’s Larry Bird,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “I think you can take ‘poor man’s’ off that comparison now. His ability to rebound is incredible and his offensive tools and skills are growing.”
Leadership? Paul has shown the Clippers how to win, Parker has made the Spurs his team, and Durant and Bryant make the big shots that James wishes he would even take. Howard is a giant step behind for the circus he created.
Love has made his share of big shots and has given belief to an extremely young team that previously has only known losing, even though he is just 23 himself.
Durability? Bryant, Durant and Howard all have not missed a game and are among the top five in minutes per game. James has missed one game, Parker three and Paul five.
Love has missed four games. He also leads the NBA in minutes per game and is second to Bryant in free throws made, taking a tremendous beating to score many of his points.
“He’s just tenacious,” Bobcats coach Paul Silas said. “That ball goes up and he’s there.”
It’s pretty evident that Love either meets or exceeds whatever MVP standards folks may be using – except for that winning thing. Even Love said, “We need to win a lot more games in order to be anywhere close to that.”
The Wolves are 25-28 after Friday’s stinker vs. Boston. They are four games back in the loss column with 13 to play. The schedule is not overbearing, but the Wolves pretty much have to go 10-3 to have any shot of ending their seven-year postseason drought. So if you want to exclude Love from the MVP conversation before his team is mathematically eliminated, go right ahead.
Just understand it will be the last time you do that for a while.
“I’m not stopping,” Love said. “I’m continuing to get better.”
TRIVIA: How many current coaches averaged at least 20 points per game at least once in their playing career? Answer below.
THE END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT: Let me get this straight, OK? A 7-footer who shouldn’t be more than five feet from the basket takes a pull-up transition 3-pointer in the third quarter of a two-possession game, then doesn’t get back on defense. He is pulled from the game and spends his time on the bench laughing and not joining huddles during timeouts. And the coach, Mike Brown, has to explain to the media why he benched Andrew Bynum?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry, on Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Kyrie Irving:
“He doesn’t play like a rookie. I heard he turned 20 years old. That’s frightening because I have suits older than he is.”
LINE OF THE WEEK: Kevin Love, Minnesota at Charlotte, March 28: 43 minutes, 14-31 FGs, 4-7 3-pointers, 8-10 FTs, six offensive rebounds, 19 total rebounds, four assists, 40 points in an 88-83 win. Love accounted for more than half of his team’s points while making more 3-pointers than the Bobcats and grabbing as many offensive rebounds.
LINE OF THE WEAK: Derrick Favors, Utah vs. Sacramento, March 30: 22 minutes, 0-13 FGs, 6-8 FTs, nine offensive rebounds, 14 total rebounds, two assists, one steal, six points in a 104-103 loss. Favors set a franchise record for most shots without a make. His rebound numbers were padded by repeated missed putbacks and tip-ins, including one just before the buzzer, costing the Jazz a win that could keep them out of the playoffs.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Chicago at Oklahoma City, April 1. This nationally televised game could mark the return of Derrick Rose for the Bulls, who are one game in the loss column ahead of the Thunder for the league’s best record. It is also another big week for Oklahoma City, which sent messages to Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers last week and have a rematch in Miami on Wednesday.
GAME OF THE WEAK: New Jersey at Portland, April 4. This is the ultimate tank game. The Nets lose their first-round pick to the Trail Blazers unless it is one of the top three. Right now, New Jersey would have the seventh pick.
TRILLION WATCH: The best non-effort of the week belonged to Orlando’s Von Wafer, who had a 5 trillion at New York on Wednesday – nowhere near the magical 11 trillion posted by Quincy Pondexter of Memphis on March 20. And to illustrate how much stock you should put in plus-minus stats, Golden State’s Keith Benson had a 4 trillion on Sunday and was plus-8.
TWO MINUTES: The Lakers may be ahead of the Clippers in the Western Conference standings, but not in local adoration. And that has finally gotten to Kobe Bryant. “Why is everybody acting like we’re in eighth place?” the superstar said. “You guys were kissing the Clippers’ (rears) at the start of the season, and now we’re in the third seed and everybody’s acting like we suck. I don’t understand it.” You’ve split your last eight games and dropped three of the last five at home, with narrow wins over Portland, Golden State and New Orleans. The sheen from the Ramon Sessions deal has worn off, your center is firing 3-pointers and beloved and aggrieved Derek Fisher came back to town with his new besties and kicked your tail. So, yeah, there’s some issues. … A loss to the woeful Wizards on Friday saw the Sixers surrender first place in the Atlantic Division, which they had held since Dec. 28. There is still plenty of time for Philadelphia to regain the top spot; it has an easier remaining schedule than Boston or New York, something coach Doug Collins admits he is watching. “We all like to say, ‘Let’s just take care of our business,’” he said. “But it’s like looking in our neighbor’s window.” … Remember when the Hawks had Dikembe Mutombo manning the middle, and players around him dropped like flies from his stray elbows? Well, current Hawks center Zaza Pachulia is doing a pretty good impersonation of Mutombo. On Tuesday, Pachulia accidentally clocked teammate Joe Johnson, who needed stitches to close a cut on his upper lip. The next night, he clobbered Bulls forward Kyle Korver in the forehead, drawing blood. … In his first season as coach of the Pistons, Lawrence Frank has had to endure a 4-20 start, a flagging fan base, Charlie Villanueva’s general apathy and the growing pains that come with a rookie point guard. But he hasn’t lost his sense of humor. After Monday’s virtually unwatchable 79-77 win at Washington in which the teams combined for 32 percent shooting (25-of-78) and 21 turnovers in a 35-30 first half, Frank cracked, “The NBA called. They were about to throw both of us out of the building.” … Are the Trail Blazers for sale? Owner Paul Allen took to Twitter to say a report on the Comcast Sportsnet Northwest website claiming that he has considered offers for the team were “absolutely false.” But Portland has an interim GM (Rich Buchanan), an interim coach (Kaleb Canales) and could have around $30 million in cap room if Jamal Crawford and Shawne Williams don’t pick up their options. The Blazers also could have two very high picks in a deep draft if they miss the playoffs and the Nets don’t end up with one of the top three picks at the lottery, two likely scenarios. Now all they need is the commissioner to void one of their trades for “basketball reasons.” … Overall, the Bulls are 42-11, the NBA’s best record. Without Derrick Rose, they are 14-5, which would be the NBA’s fourth-best record, percentage-wise … Last Sunday’s marathon between the Jazz and Hawks was the NBA’s first four-overtime game since Nov. 14, 1997, when the Suns edged the Blazers, 140-139. Atlanta’s 139-133 victory lasted a baseball-like 3:16, but here’s how long the game really lasted. Joe Johnson was hot, went stone cold and heated up again. In the first quarter, Johnson shot 8-of-8. He shot 1-of-9 over the next three quarters, then made 5-of-11 shots in the extra sessions, including a tying 3-pointer at the end of the second OT. “It was unbelievable. I just had to laugh it off, because I just couldn’t believe it,” Johnson said. “I’ve never played in a game like that.”… The Bobcats would have to lose all of their remaining games to finish with a lower winning percentage than the record .110 mark of 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers. But there is no denying that Charlotte is among the worst teams in NBA history. The Bobcats have a point differential of minus-12.7, which would be the second-worst since the 1976 NBA-ABA merger. During that span, the only worse number was the minus-15.2 posted by the 1992-93 Mavericks, who lost 71 games. The last team to have a negative double-digit point differential was the 1999-2000 Clippers at minus-11.5. … Celtics guard Avery Bradley has been starting for the injured Ray Allen and provided a boost, getting to the rim early on and scoring a career-high 23 points in a win vs. Washington. Just don’t count Wizards coach Randy Wittman among those who were impressed. “I could have scored those layups. I’m being serious,” said Wittman, who played nine NBA seasons. “I mean, we didn’t have anybody guarding him. When I was a player, if you gave me four layups to start the game, I’d have a pretty good groove on to make some jump shots. He ought to send us a postcard of ‘Thank you’ or something.”
Trivia Answer: Four – Doug Collins, Larry Drew, Kevin McHale and Byron Scott. … Happy 24th Birthday, Brook and Robin Lopez. … Maybe the Maloofs can borrow the $3.2 million they have to pay for arena pre-development costs from Travis Outlaw.
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Wednesday and Sunday. You can follow him on Twitter.