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Kobe Bryant managed only 33 points on 30 shots against the Clippers.
Harry How/Getty Images

LeBron, Kobe keep the pace in a busy week

By Frank Hughes, for
Posted Jan 8 2010 3:39PM

It's been a busy week here at the Race. LeBron carrying the Cavs. Kobe stumbling a little with the Lakers (but, maybe, with something big in store). Steve Nash being Steve Nash.

It's been a busy week in the NBA as a whole, too, with Gilbert Arenas' unsavory off-court incidents grabbing most of the headlines.


Here at the Race, though, we prefer to judge things by what happens between the lines. If these guys are good enough to win and play like they do, they're good enough to get my vote for an award. And they're good enough for the Race.

So, all those other headlines aside, here's this week's Race to the MVP. Where we try to stay between the lines.

1. LeBron James, Cavaliers
Last Week's Rank - 1
James and Kobe Bryant were named the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month. What more proof do you need that they deserve to sit atop The Race? James led the East in scoring (28.6) and was second in assists (7.6), an indication of just how much he means to Cleveland's offense. On top of that, the Cavaliers were 14-3 in December. James also has two triple-doubles this year and four 40-point games.

2. Kobe Bryant, Lakers
Last Week's Rank - 2
Bryant actually did not have the greatest week, turning in a 10-for-30, 33-point performance in a loss to the Clippers. 30 shots for 33 points? Not good. The Race predicts, however, that Bryant is about to go off, making up for the loss of Pau Gasol until Gasol's hamstring injury heals. In about a month, Bryant is set to become the Lakers' all-time leading scorer, if you can believe that.

3. Steve Nash, Suns
Last Week's Rank - 4
We realize that the only way Nash is going to win the MVP is if Kobe and LeBron wreck into one another in their next game and are injured indefinitely. Having said that, Nash is playing breathtaking basketball. He is now shooting a career-high 54.3 percent from the field while averaging a career-high 18.9 points. If the guy could play above the rim, he'd be right there with the top two.

4. Dirk Nowitzki, Mavs
Last Week's Rank - 7
The Big German rebounded from a difficult wake to post three consecutive strong games, the Mavericks' blowout loss to the Lakers notwithstanding. He is starting to pick up some bumps and bruises but at this stage of his career has learned how to play through them.

5. Brandon Roy, Blazers
Last Week's Rank - 5
Somebody up in The Rose City needs to wake up. This guy is ninth in All-Star voting? Ninth? Really? Even playing with a sore hamstring, he went for 27 points and nine assists in his last game. He continues to carry a team that has been besieged by injuries, averaging career highs in points, rebounds and minutes played.

6. Kevin Durant, Thunder
Last Week's Rank - 6
Here's all you need to know about Durant: The Thunder won 23 games last season and 20 the year before. It currently sits at 19 wins with a 19-16 record. Durant is averaging 28.4 points and 6.9 rebounds. Does any other proof need to be put forth?

7. Dwight Howard, Magic
Last Week's Rank - 3
What is happening with the Magic? Three straight losses and four in their past six? Howard has been grabbing his rebounds -- seven straight games with double-digit boards – but his scoring has been down and Orlando has not been the dominant team that it has so often this year. A loss to Boston is understandable. But three in a row to Toronto, Indiana and Chicago? They need to figure it out.

8. Tim Duncan, Spurs
Last Week's Rank - 10
Perhaps this is an indictment of the other candidates. Perhaps it is a nod to the steadiness of Duncan, the most enduring trait of his career – well, other than his bank shot. But Duncan moves up in the standings by doing nothing spectacular; he just keeps doing what he's does. Or, as the kids like to say, it is what it is.

9. Dwyane Wade, Heat
Last Week's Rank - 8
Wade is shooting far worse than he has over the course of his career and his team has lost four of five and is on the verge of falling below .500. He is doing all he can to carry the Heat, but there is only so much one player can do. He needs help, though it doesn't look like it is going to come immediately from his existing teammates.

10. Joe Johnson, Hawks
Last Week's Rank - N/A
A few weeks ago, I made a big deal of rookie Tyreke Evans averaging 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. Look who else is very close to accomplishing the feat. What's more, Johnson's team has one of the best records in the Eastern Conference. Johnson sometimes has off nights, but while Carmelo is hurt and the Nuggets are struggling we'll show Johnson some love.

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