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Race to the MVP Mailbag: Injuries hold back Rockets' duo

By Rob Peterson,
Posted Dec 17 2008 3:50PM

Greetings, everyone and welcome to another Race to the MVP mailbag. It's getting close to Christmas. Do you know where (in snail mail or FedEx truck) your gifts are? Track your packages, people. Let's keep on top of things. We have shopping to do, parties to attend, cookies to bake and "It's a Wonderful Life" to watch.

Speaking of cookies, Laurens in the Netherlands picked up what I was dropping last week when I included this throwaway request in the link to the mailbox: Complaints, comments or recipes for holiday cookies, drop us an e-mail at

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Props to Laurens for heeding the call. And it doesn't make a difference that you found it on the Internet, Laurens. People find all sorts of things on the Internet. Cookie recipes. Spouses. The Race to the MVP Mailbag!

Last week we covered two intriguing topics: Can a team be too good to have a Top 10 MVP candidate? And can a good team have multiple MVP candidates? I asked you to send me suggestions as to teammates I had neglected, left out or just plain ignored. One tandem kept popping up more than any other.

What about Yao [Ming] and [Tracy] McGrady? Or McGrady might be a little late, but [Ron] Artest maybe? Or [Shane] Battier? *cough*
-- Viktor

R2MVP Rob: Viktor, you should get that cough checked out. After adding those last two -- Artest and Battier -- I think you may be coming down with something.

As for The Great Wall and T-Mac, you and a few others may be on to something. At 16-9 (as of Wednesday), the Rockets have a record that could yield an MVP candidate or two. My problem with Yao and T-Mac is each season they go all Godfather Part III on me: Just when I thought I was out ... they pull me back in.

Take, for instance, last night's 108-96 pole-axing of the Nuggets in Houston. Yao and T-Mac's digits were delicious. Yao had 32 points and seven boards, while T-Mac did it all with 20 points, 14 boards and 10 dimes for the fourth triple-double of his career. When they're working together, they are as formidable a duo as you'll find in the NBA.

But that's just it. After getting our hopes up, the injury bug will inevitably bite. I remember doing an interview with a scout six years ago for a season preview on McGrady was coming off back-to-back NBA scoring titles. The world was his oyster. But the scout noted at the time there were concerns about McGrady's back. That scout turned out to be dead-on. McGrady played 78 games in his first season in Houston and hasn't played more than 71 in another since.

Don't get me wrong. When he's on, T-Mac is as exhilarating as any player in the league. It's just so disappointing to see him in so many nice suits. The same for Yao. When Yao's on, no one can stop him. But as soon as it looks as if he's getting on a roll, something in a lower extremity goes kablooey (I think that's the technical term for it.) He's played only 150 of 246 games in the last three seasons.

So, I need to see more ... not from them, but of them. If they put a string of games together like Wednesday's, you'll see more of them around and in the Top 10.

(By the way, would you like to know how far Yao has entered the American cultural consciousness? Microsoft Word doesn't tag Yao in spell check, it does for McGrady. I spelled McGrady right, right? Good.)

The omission is fair for now, but as the season progresses, look for Yao and T-Mac to crack that discussion. May be a little far-fetched but let's talk Chris Duhon and Al Harrington too.
-- D. Smith

R2MVP Rob: Done and let's. I dig the way Duhon and Harrington are playing, but MVP candidates? Not yet. Not at 11-14.

And of course, the Raptors fans weighed in.

How about the Houston Rockets with T-Mac and Yao? And I think that Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon could also show up (depending on the Raptors record).
-- Simon

R2MVP Rob: Simon, thanks for throwing in that parenthetical caveat. Trust me. I love passionate Raptors fans, I love Bryan Colangelo, coach Jay Triano and PR guy extraordinaire Jim LaBumbard. But I don't love the 10-14 record. We'll revisit once the Raptors get above .500. Well above .500.

I would say Jason Terry with the Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki should be considered a duo. If the likes of Zydrunas Ilgauskas can be considered with Le Bron for Cleveland.
-- Ranjeet

Touché, Ranjeet on calling out my inclusion of Z, whom I think is the second-best center in the East (Dwight Howard, Z and Andrew Bogut, in that order). As for Terry, they have an award for guys like him: Sixth Man Award. The former author of R2MVP, now over at the Worldwide Leader, has Terry at the top of his Sixth Man race.

What about B-Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge? Lately, they are combining for, like, 65 points. I think they should be considered.
-- Rodrigo

R2MVP Rob: Well, if 39 combined points per game (Roy averages 22.3 points per game and Aldridge 16.7) is like 65, then, yes. I can see how 39 Euros could get you 65 American dollars, but that exchange rate is the only place I see that math working. We've had B-Roy in the Top 10 the past two weeks. Aldridge is a nice player, but he's not MVP material yet.

Chris Paul and David West. We all know that CP3 is the best point guard in the last decade, but I think we should show David West some love, because he has been one of the most consistent players in the last couple of years.
-- Anthony

R2MVP Rob: My swooning over CP3's skill set has been well documented in R2MVP and the mailbag. And David West is an All-Star. If the Hornets and West have another season as they did last year, then I could see West sneaking into the Top 10. Paul, however, is the big beating heart of that squad. Another 8-10 years of what Paul's been doing these first three seasons and he's a lock to be mentioned with the all-time greats.

I have an interesting Paul observation. I saw him play in person for the first time at the Rookie Challenge during the 2006 All-Star weekend in Houston. At one point in the game, Paul came off one of those weak All-Star Weekend screens at the top of the key. Three post players blocked my view of the lane as they just happened to line up shoulder-to-shoulder from the elbow to the low block. Paul left my view around the free throw line, and faster than you could snap your fingers, he was below the low block.

Remember those old Warner Bros. cartoons where Bugs Bunny could go through a solid object, but Elmer Fudd couldn't? That's what it looked like. CP3 as Bugs. Calm, cool, collected and able to break the laws of physics. I'll always remember that.

Love your column. I think when you look at stats, though, you have to take things into perspective. To help out things like blowouts, you can always just post per 36 or 40 minute numbers.
-- Garron

R2MVP Rob: Garron had a much longer e-mail, but I'm trying to keep the e-mail brief (you should too; no more than four lines if you want to get on the site). It's a good suggestion. Numerous sites break down stats this way. I'll see what I can do.

Where'd he go? He's not even looking in at 23 points and 8 boards? Not even enough to be OLI? He's also shooting 56 percent. Did you forget about him this week? I know he's inconsistent, but for Pete's sake, those stats aren't that far off of Kobe's, and he's in at fifth. Come on man, he deserves to be OLI at least.
-- Seb, London

R2MVP Rob: Seb's talking about Amar'e Stoudemire. He's right. Amar'e should have been an OLI resident. Sometimes when I move a guy out of the Top 10, I forget to put him in OLI. Then again, you should think of OLI like you do a crowd at a game. Amar'e just went to get a hot dog. Danny Granger had to go to the bathroom. Joe Johnson went to get Dippin' Dots. Don't worry. They'll be back.

Just wanted to ask what you think about Caron Butler? Just hypothetically, if the Wizards weren't so bad right now, his stats would be enough to be outside of the Top 10, don't you think? High scoring, many steals, nearly perfect free throw percentage. Even his assists went up this season -- and all on a regular basis. What you say? Got some love for Caron "Tuff Juice" Butler? In these dark times as a Wizards fan, I'd like to hear some positive things about at least one of our players!
-- Phemy in Germany

R2MVP Rob: If you want to deal in hypothetical situations, I have a few: If I were 6-foot-11, five years from now, someone would be reading about my induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. If the Wizards had won all their games, they'd be 82-0. You get the drill.

But seriously, there may be no better story in the NBA than Caron Butler. And considering he and I are from Wisconsin, I have a strong affinity for my fellow Badger state brethren. Butler does have divine digits, but the Wiz don't. Sorry, that's all the amore I can show right now.

And finally ...

I always read the Race to MVP of NBA, very upset that it is published only once per week. I think it should be published twice per week or even more.
-- Arik

R2MVP Rob: Ah, my public. Always asking for more! I am flattered, really. And you know what, we may not do a complete R2MVP every day, but we may be working on a solution where we're blogging a little more.

Again, thanks for all the e-mail. And remember, you the readers are the MVPs of the R2MVP mailbag.

(Complaints, comments or suggestions for which HDTV I beg my wife to get me, er, the family for the holidays? Drop us an e-mail at

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