The NBA MVP race of 2005-06 has had more twists and turns than the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Charting the MVP course
On Thursday night, another candidate made his case as the Miami Heat overcame a 25-point deficit behind a scintillating second half by Dwyane Wade and beat the Boston Celtics 107-104. Toward the end of the game, as Wade stepped to the line, the Miami crowd chanted "M-V-P! M-V-P!"
That followed Thursday's column by ESPN.com analyst John Hollinger, who endorsed Wade for MVP, arguing that Flash has outplayed LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and all of the NBA's other greatest players.
Here's a quick recap of where the MVP race stands on St. Pat's Day and how we got here.
It was the straight November award, by the way, for James, who also got the MVP endorsement of ESPN reporter Chris Sheridan.
One perennial contender, Shaquille O'Neal, fell aside when he sprained his ankle the first week of the season.
Billups was featured in a column by John Hollinger, who named some candidates who might be able to come out of nowhere, the way Steve Nash had the year before.
In his first trimester report, Marc Stein identified Nowitzki and Billups as his MVP frontrunners.
But the same argument was beginning to take hold on behalf of Steve Nash, for the second straight year. As the Phoenix Suns began to take hold of the Pacific Division without the injured Amare Stoudemire, Nash was credited for leading seven Suns, including himself, to career-high scoring numbers.
Billups stayed very much in the race as well, as the Pistons got off to an amazing 39-6 start and Mr. Big Shot won Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors.
On the ballot of one ESPN.com writer, Marc Stein, Nash had supplanted his friend and former teammate Nowitzki as the leading candidate in the Western Conference during the second trimester. And ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard came out strongly for Nash as well.
But it's clear that Nash will never get unanimous support, and it's quite possible that, if elected, the award will be as controversial as it was last year, when Nash edged out Shaq (with race as part of the conversation).
On ESPN.com, Nash was hardly the consensus choice.
Chris Sheridan put forth a candidate no one was talking about, Tony Parker. While even Parker's coach Gregg Popovich shot down that idea, it got attention because the San Antonio Spurs for so long have been considered Tim Duncan's team.
And, as mentioned, John Hollinger would cast his vote for Dwyane Wade.
Meanwhile, Shawn Marion and Paul Pierce each had an amazing February to put themselves in the conversation. Marion was the Western Conference Player of the Month, while Pierce was nipped by Wade in the running for the Eastern Conference award.
We still have a month to go in what is turning out to be the most wide open MVP contest in years.
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images
Heat point guard Jason Williams and coach Pat Riley discuss the Celtics' ways. Boston coughed up a 25-point lead and lost.
Dwyane Wade is probably the best defender of the MVP candidates -- the only other one who can make a good argument is Kobe. Although no player of this caliber is asked to be a defensive stopper full-time, Wade was a second-team All-Defense selection a year ago and has performed well again this season.
In fact, the Heat give up two fewer points per 48 minutes when Wade is on the floor -- even though his backup, Shandon Anderson, is in the league only because of his defense. More amazingly, Wade and Tony Parker are the only MVP candidates who can say this -- the teams of Bryant, Nash, Nowitzki, Billups, James, Iverson and Elton Brand all give up more points when they're on the court than when they're off it.
Paul Shirley listed his 21 favorite albums, most of which Kasey Kasem won't be counting down anytime soon. And then he chatted about it . . .
Nancy (Philly): Why is there no hip-hop on your list anywhere?
Sieva, Detroit, MI: Hip Hop negative? That's funny. Where is the jazz, or country or rhythm and blues.There are some great Motown singers/albums ya know!
Chris (Houston, TX): If you were happier, do you think you might like Motown music?
The Heat have made a habit of trailing at halftime and storming back to win. So beating the Celtics in this manner was nothing new.
Can't Beat The Heat
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
Dwyane Wade and the Heat heated up in the second half, rallying for a 107-104 win over Delonte West and the Celtics.
Quote of the Day
-- Andrew Ayres
We got a taste of how the Shaq-Zo duo might work in Miami's comeback win over Cleveland on Sunday, when Shaq and Mourning played together for a few minutes at the start of the fourth quarter and held a 13-8 advantage during that time.
Of course, it won't work in every scenario. Particularly worrisome would be matching the two up against Detroit when Rasheed Wallace is on the court because one of the two would be forced to chase 'Sheed out to the 3-point line. On the other hand, any time Wallace checked out and Antonio McDyess checked in, Miami's Shaq-'Zo arrangement would be a perfect response, and the two would also match up extremely well against San Antonio in a Finals pairing.
As a result, it's one more reason for title contenders to fear a potential matchup with the Heat. Even without using the dynamic duo in the middle, Miami has won 12 of 13 and is 31-11 since Riley took over -- a 60-win pace for a full season. Add the threat of a Mourning-Shaq front line to the mix, and the Heat look like a dangerous sleeper in the NBA title chase.
The Heat overcame an 18-point halftime deficit to defeat the Celtics, 107-104. It was already Miami's sixth win this month in which they trailed at the half. With two weeks remaining in March, the Heat has a shot at its own league record of nine such victories in a month, set in December 2004.
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Let's pull out the crystal ball, take a peek one decade into the future and handicap a few of the games on the imaginary NBA schedule:
The Kings of Las Vegas at Brooklyn Nets: Another jam-packed crowd of nearly 20,000 is expected at the sparkling new arena above the old Atlantic Railyards as the Nets play host to the Kings. The Kings left Sacramento behind after commissioner David Stern stunned the basketball universe at the 2007 All-Star Game when he announced an agreement with the Nevada Gaming Commission, which compromised by taking NBA games off the books in Sin City, but not in the rest of the state.
Kansas City Hornets at Oklahoma City Magic: Should be about a 50-50 split in the stands between those who pledged their allegiance to the Hornets when they temporarily relocated from New Orleans and those who latched onto the replacement franchise that ditched its old digs near Disney World and moved to the nicest, newest arena in the Midwest.
San Jose SuperSonics at Vancouver Trail Blazers: Remember back in the good ol' days when the laws of geography said the Sonics traveled south to play the Blazers? Things sure have changed since Paul Allen cut his losses and left the Rose Garden, the country's nicest tractor pull facility. Not many thought Starbucks magnate Howard Schultz would make good on his threat to leave Seattle, but San Jose's final sweetener -- replacing low-fat milk with frappucinos in the city's public schools -- sealed the deal.