Noah Graham/ Getty Images
Advantage, Denver Nuggets.
With Denver's 118-105 win over the Dallas Mavericks in a pivotal Western Conference game on Thursday, the Nuggets moved within one game of the Mavs for a playoff spot. With their best players healthy, I'd say Denver is likely to unseat Dallas for the final West playoff spot, with Golden State moving up to the No. 7 spot. Denver now also owns the tiebreaker against Dallas.
I'm rooting for Dallas. Part of the reason is I just don't like to see a team drop out in large part because it lost a player of Dirk Nowitzki's caliber. And I like seeing my good friend Juwan Howard getting some minutes (six points in 12 minutes).
Getting Dirk back sooner rather than later would be important to the Mavs. However, there's a difference between being hurt and being injured. If you're injured, you're not coming back until you're healed. Take Gilbert Arenas. You can see he wants to come back, and the psyche of an athlete always want to try, but if you're injured, there's nothing you can do about it.
So the Dirk watch continues. The stakes are high for Dallas. It looks like it's going to take 50 wins to get into the playoffs in the West. Meanwhile, an East team that's as many as 10 games below .500 is going to get in.
That's wrong. I wish the NBA would consider going to a format in which teams are seeded 1 through 16, regardless of conference. This format would breed even more competition -- you really would have to play out all 82 games. Right now, many of those top four East teams are not likely to budge from their spots, but if you put them in the mix with the West, it would change things.
I know travel and time zones can be issues, but those are the kind of things that can be ironed out.
In a revised playoff format, Dallas, instead of being on the edge of qualifying, would now be the No. 10 seed in a 16-team playoff field.
Who's the MVP?
Got an update here.
It's Chris Paul.
The New Orleans Hornets guard convinced me with his stellar play in the team's 100-99 road win Wednesday over LeBron James' Cavaliers.
Kobe Bryant had been my favorite just a few months ago. He's the game's best overall player, but if you think about it, we didn't validate his MVP candidacy until the Pau Gasol trade came down. So then gradually, it seems LeBron had become the No. 1 force in the game, so he was the call.
One thing going for Paul over James is he's battling for the Western Conference crown. Like the BCS strength of schedule, that plays in Paul's favor. His numbers and production are jumping off the charts. He's a scoring threat who leads the league in assists.
Any team that beats San Antonio by 25 is not a fluke. For those who think the Hornets are going out in the first round, I would think twice because of the way CP3 can step it up. Tyson Chandler to me looks like the most athletic big in the game along with Dwight Howard. David West's scoring and Peja Stojakovic spreading the floor with the 3 has been big. Don't forget that coach Byron Scott's been there before, taking two New Jersey Nets teams to the Finals.
Last shot for a good friend
Chris Webber retired this week. I'm happy and excited for him. He's been a longtime friend of mine. We played together in the backyard, in AAU and in college. Then we played against each other in the NBA.
The first time I met him was the day he joined our 12-and-under AAU basketball team known as the "Super Friends." Our coach was telling us that there was a kid coming to practice and he wasn't going to have to try out. When we heard that, we thought when he gets here, we've got to make sure he doesn't make the team.
And he went from being one of the best players on that team to become one of the best in the game has seen. Hopefully, he'll find his way to the Hall of Fame. He's keeping good company with the numbers he put up.
ESPN analyst Jalen Rose is a regular Daily Dime contributor. For more about Jalen, visit his Web site: JalenRose.com.
David (Brooklyn): While they're getting a bit more credit in analytical circles lately, no one seems to consider the Hornets capable of going particularly deep in the playoffs. But doesn't anyone else see the real possibility of a totally dominant breakout performance from the already tremendous Chris Paul a la LeBron James last year? I wouldn't bet against this team at this point. Every time I do they make me feel silly.
Chad Ford: To me, it's been Chris Paul who's been the MVP in the league this season. LeBron is No. 2. Kobe is No. 3 in my book. But whenever you have the league's best player with his hands on the ball, you can go deep.
Ben (Winston-Salem, N.C.): Do you think that [Bill] Simmons, or any other intelligent, basketball knowledgeable person, could run a team as well as or better than most of the people currently running teams? It seems to me that from a basketball point of view, once you have those two skills in place you have at least made the playing field far less skewed.
Chad Ford: It's not just intelligence. It's about being able to manage a $400 million corporation. You have to be able to hire talented people, learn how to delegate, know the salary cap and how to manage it, manage expectations in the media, know how to resolve conflict between a group of employees with historically huge egos, find ways to motivate people with contracts that pay them millions regardless of performance and you have to have an eye for talent AND chemistry. So no not just anyone can do it. It's not like being a fantasy GM. Just by looking at how many people fail at the job, it should give you a clue of how hard it is.
The Clippers' loss at San Antonio dropped their record this season to a league-worst 2-15 in the second game played on consecutive days. The Clippers are on pace to post the worst single-season record in franchise history in that category (3-20 in 1987-88 is their worst to date). Last season, the Clips had their best such mark in franchise history (12-9).
Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets forward: Goes for 32 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, leading the way for a Denver team that boosted its playoff hopes with a 118-105 win over Dallas.
Kasib Powell, Heat forward: Who? Spends 34 minutes on the court in an 85-69 loss to the Pistons, missing 7 of 8 shots. The Heat's newcomers, including Powell, Stephane Lasme and Blake Ahearn, are making Chris Quinn seem like a household name.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"It's worthy of tears. To see him come back, he's a hell of a person and to help him through this, if we can help him play this year, it will be a great story, it'll be a great feeling, it will be a great building block for the character and chemistry of our team."
-- Nuggets coach George Karl, on Nene's return to the lineup after battling testicular cancer. • See Thursday's daily leaders • See the current playoff matchups
-- Andrew Ayres
Kobe Bryant picked up two technical fouls Wednesday night to increase his total to an NBA-leading 15 this season. If Kobe picks up one more technical foul, he will receive an automatic one-game suspension. Kobe is in no danger of touching the record. Rasheed Wallace had 41 for the Portland Trail Blazers in 2000-01.
Most Technical Fouls
|Kobe Bryant, LAL||15|
|Baron Davis, GS||11|
|Rasheed Wallace, DET||11|
|Carmelo Anthony, DEN||10|
|Linas Kleiza, DEN||10|
|Chris Paul, NO||10|
In an interview with ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd, Tim Legler says the Lakers should be concerned about their injuries, and he doesn't like the Suns' chances in the West after the Celtics provided a perfect blueprint on how to play them. Also, he says the MVP race is between Kevin Garnett and Chris Paul.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Nene played the final 77 seconds of the Nuggets' 118-105 win over the Mavericks on Thursday night, marking his return to the court 2½ months after surgery to remove a malignant testicular tumor.