By Rob Peterson, NBA.com
Posted Dec 6 2008 7:52PM
If you've followed me here at Race to the MVP or at my old column, Central Intelligence (and I know you did), you'll know that I have a thing for point guards like tweenage girls have a thing for the Jonas Brothers.
"Did you see that no-look pass?"
"Did you see how he broke his ankles?"
Oh my god, he's so dreamy!
"Does anyone control the flow of the game better than him?"
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Whether it's an old-school point such as Oscar Robertson or a new school floor general such as Chris Paul, I've always been fascinated by excellent point guard play for many reasons.
Running a basketball team from the point isn't easy and it's hard not to admire the guys who make it look effortless and efficient.
As the individual with the game's most precious possession in his hands a majority of the time, a point guard must not only know how to run an offense and how to react to a defense but he must also control the game's pace (good ones have an impact on both ends of the floor), have a good rapport -- almost a sixth sense -- with the head coach and he must know his teammates' tendencies. Oh, and if called on, you need to score, and score at will, please.
Rare is the player who can do all of those things and do all of them well.
Again, it's not as if the point guard position has been unimportant or unheralded. Since the game's peach basket days, point guards have always started the offense and Boston point guard Bob Cousy won the NBA's second MVP award in 1956-57. But since Cousy's MVP, only three other point guards (four if you consider Allen Iverson a point guard) have earned the league's highest individual honor: Robertson in 1963-64, Magic Johnson in 1986-87, 1988-'89, 1989-90 and Steve Nash in 2004-05 and 2005-06.
But that's it.
Tiny Archibald didn't win MVP when he led the NBA in scoring AND assists in 1972-73. Karl Malone won two MVPs, but the first half of the "Stockton-to-Malone" equation, John Stockton, never finished higher than seventh in MVP voting. Jason Kidd took a moribund Nets franchise, led it to its best-ever NBA record in 2001-02 and still couldn't edge out Tim Duncan for MVP.
Basketball has always favored the big man's game, and for decades it was the point guard's job to feed the big man in the post. But thanks to two rule changes in the last 30 years, we're living in the golden age of point guards.
One happened nearly 30 years ago, the other is more recent. The three-point line, which the NBA adopted before the 1979-80 season, has, over time, spread offenses and given smaller players an equalizer. The other, a more literal re-interpretation of the hand check rule, has allowed players such as Paul, Chauncey Billups, T.J. Ford and Steve Nash, to name a few, to scoot around the court unimpeded. Gone are the days when a guy like Derrick Harper can stick a meat hook into a guard's side and guide him into positive position for the defense.
And it's not limited to point guards either. Four of the players in the Top 10 -- LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Brandon Roy -- spend a lot of time handling the rock. They're guys who can start an offense as well as finish. It's as if those teams have a second point on the floor. With the exception of Wade's Heat, those teams are well over .500 this season.
So, think of those things when you watch Paul or Devin Harris weave his way through traffic with defenders trailing like cosmic dust trailing a comet or Chauncey expertly direct a game as a conductor would conduct a world-class symphony.
Or don't think at all. Just sit back and take it all in.
Quick thoughts on some guys not in the Top 10 this week:
Chris Bosh, Toronto: Chris, I love your game and your personality but I don't love your team's record. I know you want to win MVP, but you and the rest of the Raptors need to get on a roll. Maybe coach Jay Triano can get you guys on the right track.
Amar'e Stoudemire, Phoenix: Last week, I wrote that I missed STAT's ferocity. Now I know why it was missing. "I want to be that guy," Stoudemire told ESPN.com's Stephen A. Smith. MVPs don't want to be that guy, they are that guy. If you want it, take it and prove how unstoppable you can be.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas: Sir, I hear you. You're knocking on the door.
Another knock at the door ...
Vince Carter, New Jersey: Oh, um ... Hi. Yes, yes, I am surprised to see you. No, there is no problem, it's just that, well, it's been a while, Vince, and I didn't expect to see you in the Top 10 neighborhood again to be honest with you. I thought you had moved far away. And, yes, yes, it is good to see you. I mean, you definitely have the talent and ability to be here. I don't think anyone has ever denied it. I just thought ... well, lots of water under the bridge since you've made an impact. What? Oh, yeah, Devin's here. He's inside the Top 10. OK, I will tell him "Hi" for you. Maybe sometime soon, you can come on in and tell him yourself. It was good to see you too, Vince. Come around again, will you?
Hoops Line of the Week: Devin Harris at Phoenix, Sunday, Nov. 30: 47 points, 8 assists and 7 boards
More point guard love. Just a damn impressive line.
Drop of the week: Chris Bosh, Raptors; Amare Stoudemire, Suns (out of the Top 10)
Rise of the week: Brandon Roy, Devin Harris (into the top Top 10)
Dropping out: Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire
Outside looking in, for now, in alphabetical order: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Danny Granger, Joe Johnson, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Derrick Rose, Amar'e Stoudemire
Other readers' favorites: They're mostly in OLI above, but I did get an e-mail about Rajon Rondo. Nice triple-double this week, but ... no.
As usual, if you have a comment, complaint or great basketball anecdote, drop us a line at RacetotheMVP@gmail.com.
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