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Monday, March 10, 2003
Updated: March 11, 12:45 PM ET
KG don't need no stinkin' trophies

By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist

Dear Reader,

Respectfully submitted for your consideration (and with nothing but love and admiration for Masters Bryant and McGrady), six reasons Kevin Garnett should be league MVP:

Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett does it all for the T-Wolves night in and night out.
1. Versatility. Here's the line from Sunday night against Phoenix: 29 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists. Just look at that a minute. It's so sweet, so perfectly pitched, so spectacularly balanced. How many fundamental hoop ideals are pulsing in a line like that? Win your position battle, seize the moment, give up your body, keep coming, move the ball, see the floor, be a cog, be the man. A line like that -- those numbers in series -- it's like a combination unlocking the secrets of the game.

2. Heavy lifting. The T-Wolves are 41-24 and holding down the fifth seed in the brutal Western Conference. Garnett's wing-man is Wally Szczerbiak (and he has missed 30 games). After Wally, he has Troy Hudson and Radoslav Nesterovic. I say again, the Wolves are 41-24 at this point. Check KG's shoulders: Look for the weight of the world.

3. High impact. The most impressive stat I've heard all year (courtesy of Chad Ford's must-read NBA Insider column last week) is this: when Kevin is on the floor, Minnesota scores 14.3 more points per game than when he's on the pine. And they hold the opposition to 10.1 fewer points when he's out there, too. Call it the NBA's plus-minus rating and call KG's 24.4. Then call around -- call L.A. (Kobe: 11.1), call Jersey (Jason: 13.0), call Orlando (T-Mac: 10.7) -- you won't find anyone close.

4. Consistency. Two crucial numbers: 50 double-doubles and zero missed games (in fact, he has missed only three in the last four years). But it's more than the numbers. It's the way he puts a brave, bad-ass face on the franchise night in and night out. It's the fact that he has only ever been inspired, and not defeated, by hardship, abandonment (oh, Stephon, where are you?), and rumblings from the press.

5. Clutch performance. He came strong in November and December, and he has come stronger in February and March. He plays big against the biggies, Dallas, Sacramento, San Antonio and L.A. (And, by the way, last year in the playoffs? Just a tidy 24, 18 and 5, that's all.)

6. Heart. Yeah, it's an intangible. So what, the MVP race is an exact science? Don't think so. Anyway, some guys play with a quiet, seething heart that you can't see, but you see it's handiwork everywhere. Think Jordan and Bird. Some guys -- Magic was one, Garnett is another -- bring a bold beating thing to the gym and lay it out for all the world to see. Such a heart is infectious. It makes our own hearts beat faster, hungrier, and with more unbridled hoop enthusiasm. Spirit counts. Garnett's shout-it-to-the-rafters joy is valuable, to his team and to the league.

6a. And did I mention just the wild improbability of all things KG? Look at those numbers up above. Now look at his rail-thin, 6-foot-11 body. In this league? It doesn't compute. He's not Shaqalicious enough to dominate the paint, but somehow he does. He's not Kidd-quick enough to work the perimeter and find the open man, but he does. He's a mystery, my friends. We can't hope to understand him, perhaps, but that shouldn't stop us from throwing a trophy at his feet.

***** ***** *****

Dear Kevin,

Kevin Garnett
You can't blame KG for Minnesota's past playoff failures.
Congratulations on an amazing season. As you know, there's a lot of talk lately about you being a good bet for league MVP. I'm sure it would mean a lot to you to win that kind of hardware, and I think you deserve it. But I've been thinking lately that as big as you'd be in a moment like that, there's a way to be even bigger. I've been thinking if you really want to make history if you win the thing, you ought to turn it down.

Hear me out. I've got six reasons:

1. You've been riding hard under the labels and criticisms for a while now:

He's great, but he's soft; no go-to move; can't get you two when it's all on the line; doesn't make his teammates better; lacks a killer instinct; never been out of the first round.

If you win the award, a lot of this stuff goes away and you look redeemed (especially, forgive me, if you and the Wolves also win a playoff series) -- pretty intoxicating idea, I'm sure. But if you win this award and take a pass on it (flash a little Henry Steele from "One on One" -- "Sirs? All the way up, with a red hot poker," if you know what I mean), if you just point to your numbers over the past five seasons and say this one's really no different, you've turned the tables. Now all of a sudden it's us -- the writers, fans and critics -- who have some 'splainin' to do. Very intoxicating idea, no?

2. You're a team-man, and this would be the ultimate team statement. Like the Patriots running onto the field as a group for Super Bowl XXXVI, your guys will be unified and energized, ready to make another run next season.

3. Here's the press conference I'm envisioning: You walk up to the podium, smiling and gracious. You say this is a great honor, and you are very flattered that the voters have found you worthy of it. However, you explain, you're focused on winning championships, and individual awards feel like a dangerous and unnecessary distraction to you right now.

I know, I know, Garth Brooks pulled something like this at the American Music Awards one year, and everyone thought he was kind of a melodramatic freak. But, first of all, you are way cooler than Garth, so you don't have to worry about anyone thinking you're a freak. And second of all, you can play the championships card here, and can't nobody say boo about you when you invoke the rings and the Larry O'Brien, man.

You win the MVP and your rep in and around the league goes way up. You turn down the award because you're all about the titles, and we're talking a little thing called history, we're talking a George C. Scott refusing the Oscar for "Patton" sort of moment, full of integrity and focus.

Do a thing like this and nobody's talking about whether your team has made it out of the first round yet, they're just talking about your will to win. And suddenly all your righteous year-in, year-out numbers take on their proper weight.

4. It would be very street.

5. It would scare the bejeezus out of your opponents, make them wonder what else you'd do, or be willing to sacrifice to win. You'd make them question their own commitments and wonder if they were men enough to face you. And once you've got them wondering ...

6. It'd complicate stereotypes about me-first athletes, inspire the kids, confound the pundits, befuddle the experts, charm the ladies, surprise your friends and teammates, impress the old guard and throw a gauntlet down for the new. All of which is to say, it would be kind of fun, don't you think?

Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.