By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com
Posted Dec 3 2010 10:23AM
CLEVELAND -- It probably was only a matter of time.
As enthusiastic as The Race committee is about scouting out new MVP prospects, especially early in each season, and as skeptical as certain members were about the ganged-up, shared-load approach being deployed by the Miami Heat this season, it figures that there would be no keeping down LeBron James for long.
Reigning two-time winners of the Maurice Podoloff trophy have a way of asserting themselves.
James makes his first appearance this week in the list of 10 for 2010-11 on the strength of his performance at Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday -- he pretty much punked the house on a night when he was supposed to be rattled and ill at ease -- and on Miami's three consecutive victories.
The big question about James heading into this season as a potential three-time MVP winner was, would he have "too much" help? Would the presence of two fellow All-Stars water down his candidacy, requiring less of him and therefore rendering his contributions less impressive than in his one-man-band days with the Cavaliers?
The committee isn't prepared to say that it has a definitive answer quite yet, but the way James has played lately -- the way he can and ought to play more often -- and the Heat's results suggest he can be MVP-worthy again.
Certainly, Bob McAdoo thinks so. The lanky Hall of Famer and Miami assistant coach can speak with authority on the topic from a couple of angles. He's inside the Heat experience, of course, and McAdoo also is a past MVP winner. He earned it in 1974-75 during his years as the Buffalo Braves' best player, leading the league in scoring (34.5 ppg) and minutes per game (43.2) while finishing fourth in rebounds per game (14.1). Later, though, McAdoo spent four seasons with the Lakers as a role player, a terrific offensive option off the bench on two of L.A.'s title teams of the 1980s.
So he has seen it both ways, from the inside out.
"If you thnk about it, we could put three MVPs out on the floor at one time, which was probably something that hadn't been done in the NBA," McAdoo said Thursday at The Q. He was talking about himself, about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (who had won six MVPs by the time McAdoo got to L.A.) and about Magic Johnson, who would win the first of his three trophies in 1986-87, shortly after McAdoo's departure.
"Our main concern at this time was just winning the championship. But that [MVP consideration] comes with winning. You've got to win big, which we did my four years there. That's what Magic did out there with the talent he had."
That's what McAdoo did, on a smaller scale, when he was the straw that stirred Buffalo's drink. In 1972-73, his rookie season, the Braves (who became the Clippers) won 21 games. In his MVP year, they won 49. Said McAdoo: "That showed a big improvement, so that helped my situation as an MVP."
Miami winning big from its current 12-8 perch -- say, 48-14 the rest of the way -- could get James back into position for a third straight MVP. Especially if he's seen as the Heat's No. 1 option and its initiator of offense, even if Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh often end up finishing.
"Yeah, he's got two guys who are used to having the ball, too," McAdoo said. "He's toned it down. But he'll pick his spots when he goes on a rampage."
The Miami assistant, a Pat Riley favorite, then had a glimmer of James' 38-point, eight-assist night in the emotional return to his old arena. "I'm thinking the fans might spur him on," McAdoo said an hour before tipoff, "and just the memories of being in Cleveland."
Here are this week's MVP leaders:
Dropping out: Carmelo Anthony (No. 10 last week).
Honorable Mentions: Anthony; Rajon Rondo, Boston; Amar'e Stoudemire, New York; Dwyane Wade, Miami; Al Horford, Atlanta; Danny Granger, Indiana.
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