KG For MVP? Too Close To Call
Was in Boston last night to hear Kevin Garnett get serenaded with chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" throughout the second half of the Boston Celtics' 117-97 win against Phoenix last night. I heard that it was only the second time all season that it had happened at TD Banknorth Garden.
You all might remember the first time.
(It was on a night in mid-January when the Wizards did what, at the time, was unthinkable and came back from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Celtics for the second time in two games. I was there as Garnett put on a show that night, not with his game as much as his entertaining theatrics. With the Celtics looking like they were ready to trounce the Wizards, Garnett lowered himself and lifted his arms like a maestro for the crowd to make more noise. But in the end, Butler was mocking Garnett, doing the same move after the Wizards shocked the fans at the Gahh-den).
It was a different story last night against the Suns. The Celtics were well on their way toward a solid whipping of the Shaq-lit Suns when the fans decided to put Garnett's name back into a debate that has been dominated by Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and lately, Chris Paul, in recent weeks.
"Kevin is the most valuable player to me, but really, you can't take anything away from those guys. you really can't - especially when I play Chris Paul on Friday," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said with a laugh. "They all deserve it."
"Kobe probably should've won it several times and hasn't. It might be his time," Rivers continued. "The greatest part about our league this year is that we have an argument. Chris Paul, a point guard, and we're talking about MVP. I thimk that's phenomenal. LeBron James, a 23-year-old or whatever he is, going on 50. We're talking about all these young guys and Kobe. Kobe to me has been the best player in our league for some time and doesn't get his due."
Garnett is the oldest of the bunch at 31, and he's also the only one with an MVP trophy already resting on his mantle. He likely won't get another, even though the Celtics have the league's best record and is about to pull off the greatest turnaround in NBA history (they already have 32 more wins than last season with 11 games left). Garnett is the best player on the best defensive team and the team with the best record.
Talk about the competition in the Eastern Conference all you want, the Celtics are 24-5 against the West. Garnett should be a lock, right?
Except he doesn't lead his team in scoring What Garnett has working against him more than anything, unfortunately, is that the Celtics went 7-2 when he was out with an abdominal strain, but as Rivers said, "It was a residual of what he did."
"The whole face of the Celtics turned around when the trade happened with this guy," Celtics teammate Paul Pierce said. "Everyone talks about the MVP and they talk about numbers, but this guy has changed the whole culture around here, and I think that says a lot for everything."
Garnett had 30 points against the Suns - only the second time all season that he scored at least 30 in a game - but the most impressive number Garnett put up last night was zero. As in, the number of points Garnett allowed Suns forward Amare Stoudemire to score in the third quarter after Stoudemire entered the half with 22. Stoudemire missed both his shots and committed four turnovers in the period, while Garnett scored eight points with two assists and a blocked shot as the Celtics pulled away in a game that was tied at the break.
After the game, I asked a former MVP his opinion on the race. Shaquille O'Neal didn't hesitate to give his response. "The Kobester," he said, referencing his former teammate and frenemy, Kobe Bryant. "He's an assassin, with LeBron [James] coming in right behind. After that, I really haven't been paying attention."
O'Neal hasn't watched the Hornets much, huh? When a reporter asked about the guy across the hall, O'Neal shook his head. "I'm going to have to go with my guy before him," O'Neal said, speaking of Stoudemire. "All day, every day."
He was serious. Stoudemire for MVP in 2008? Not happening.
Garnett was asked about the MVP chants. He said, "My MVP is sitting next to me," Garnett said, speaking of Pierce, who scored 27 points, with 12 coming in the fourth quarter.
I spoke with someone who has observed the Celtics all season who told me that he didn't think Garnett was the MVP because he didn't have any memorable fourth quarter performances this season, outside of one game against Houston back in January. He told me that Pierce was the guy who often stepped up in the fourth quarter and that Pierce and Ray Allen were the ones who took the tough shots and hit the game-winners.
"The stuff they say about KG in the fourth quarter might be true," the guy told me, referencing Garnett's reputation for being a great, but not clutch performer.
I told someone else that the MVP vote would so much easier if you could combine Garnett's play in the first three quarters of a game with Pierce's fourth quarters. "Then you've got LeBron," he said.
I laughed. This is one year that I'm not upset that I don't have an MVP vote. This one will come down to the finish.
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