SECAUCUS, N.J., Oct. 9, 2007 -- Somebody call the cops, I've been robbed. And no, this has nothing to do with whoever turned on my water hose and stole the ceramic squirrel and frog from in front of my house this past weekend. Who does that?

Sorry, I lost focus for a minute. The robbery I'm talking about was committed by Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki. Okay, maybe he didn’t rob me, but he owes me. Big time.

When the Warriors upset Nowitzki and the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs last season it prevented me from being able to do my favorite pastime: gloating.

I didn’t get the opportunity to write back to the countless e-mails I received from people who told me I was wrong for awarding Nowitzki the No. 1 spot in the Race to the MVP player rankings and that there was no chance that he would officially be named the league’s MVP.

I didn’t get the opportunity to put Icy Hot on my shoulder from patting myself on the back while telling all of my family members and friends, “I told you so.”

I didn’t get the opportunity to respond to the numerous blogs from Suns’ fans saying that Steve Nash deserved to three-peat.

If only the league’s most prestigious award were handed out as soon as the regular season ended instead of during the playoffs, I would have had a few weeks to brag.

Oh well.

Training camps have opened so it is time to stop looking back and start looking ahead. Yes, I know it is way too early for MVP talk, but the R2MVP follows every step of the 2007-08 regular season.

Meaning, if the Magic start the year with four straight wins and Dwight Howard is averaging a double-double, he could be at the top of the Week 1 or Week 2 rankings. Or, if the Bulls are leading the East at the All-Star break, Luol Deng might be at the head of the list.

Simply put, this is my personal choice.

Last year I went with the best player on the best team approach. This season I might go with a player who gets hot down the stretch and leads his team to a division title or the player who turned a bad team from a year ago into a good one or a player who puts up big-time stats all season for a team in the middle of the pack.

Remember, there is no right or wrong definition of what makes an MVP. Plus, there is nothing better than a good debate. Happy reading.

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    Contenders (Legit MVP candidates) with 2006-07 statistics
    1. Kevin Garnett, Boston Buy jersey
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    22.4 12.8 4.1 1.2 1.7 .476 .835
    KG was already a stud in the big man-rich Western Conference and now he comes over to the big man-poor East. Garnett will dominate, the Celtics will be the most improved team in the league and because of the emotion he displays on the court and what he has accomplished, there is no doubt who Boston’s leader will be. Sounds like a winning MVP formula to me. We’ll see.

    2. LeBron James, Cleveland Buy jersey
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    27.3 6.7 6.0 1.6 0.7 .476 .698
    It’s a good thing for Nowitzki that the MVP was awarded before the postseason instead of afterwards because it would have been King James holding up the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. As brilliant as his regular season was, James showed that he is capable of even more when he carried Cleveland to The Finals.

    3. Steve Nash, Phoenix Buy jersey
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    18.6 3.5 11.6 0.8 0.1 .532 .899
    Nash has put the fun back in basketball. Am I the only one who would love to see him play in a game on one of those mix tapes? His decision making is perfect, he shoots at a high percentage and other than defense, there really isn’t a flaw in his game. For the fourth consecutive season, he will be a serious MVP contender.

    4. Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers Buy jersey
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    31.6 5.7 5.4 1.4 0.5 .463 .869
    If I were simply ranking the top players in the league then Bryant would have probably been in the alpha male spot. He is the most talented player in the league and hopefully this is the season where he makes the Lakers into serious contenders in the West.

    5. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Buy jersey
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    24.6 8.9 3.4 0.7 0.8 .502 .904
    When the 2006-07 regular season ended, Nowitzki was the MVP. Forget about Dallas’ playoff flop, he deserved the award. He needs to come out more aggressive this season, attacking the basket instead of settling for jumpers in order to quiet some of the naysayers.

    6. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Buy jersey
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    20.0 10.6 3.4 0.8 2.4 .546 .637
    Yawn! All this guy does is score 20 points and grab 10 rebounds a game and win championship after championship.

    7. Yao Ming, Houston Buy jersey
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    25.0 9.4 2.0 0.4 2.0 .517 .862
    Yao’s statistics last season were off the charts – 25 points, 9.4 rebounds and almost two blocks per game for the Rockets, who were one of the elite teams. That’s the positive. The negative is that the big fella can’t seem to stay healthy. He only played in 48 games last year and managed to be on the floor for just 57 the season before.

    Sleepers (MVP potential if everything goes their way)
    8. Carmelo Anthony (DEN): 28.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.8 APG - Despite the presence of Allen Iverson, Anthony is still the face of the Nuggets. He averaged career highs in points and assists last year.
    9. Gilbert Arenas (WAS): 28.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.0 APG - Agent Zero had season-ending knee surgery in April, but he will be healthy by the time the regular season rolls around. Although he plays the point, a scoring title isn’t out of reach.
    10. Chris Bosh (TOR): 22.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG - After averaging double-digits in boards for the first time for Atlantic Division-winning Toronto, it is scary to think how much better this young stud can become.
    11. Jason Kidd (NJN): 13.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 9.2 APG - Proof that age is nothing but a number, this 34-year old averaged a triple-double in the postseason last season.
    12. Tracy McGrady (HOU): 24.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 6.5 APG - Normally I think it hurts a player's chances to win MVP when they have to split the votes with a teammate. T-Mac is the exception to the rule. When Yao Ming was sidelined last season with an injury, he was the biggest reason the Rockets stayed near the front of the pack. When his back isn't acting up, there are few players who are better.
    13. Carlos Boozer (UTA): 20.9 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 3.0 APG - Boozer and Deron Williams brought back memories of John Stockton and Karl Malone in Utah. Boozer had the best season of his life. What will he do for an encore?
    14. Dwight Howard (ORL): 17.6 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG - He hasn’t missed a game yet in his three-year career and his points per game has gone up each season. He shoots at a 60-percent clip and pulls down 12 boards a game. Maybe Garnett should be considered the second best big in the East?
    15. Dwyane Wade (MIA): 27.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 7.5 APG - A shoulder injury that is going to cost him the first month of the season is giving D-Wade’s MVP campaign a late start.
    16. Baron Davis (GSW): 20.1 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 8.1 APG - The only thing that can slow down Davis is injuries and for the past five seasons that has been the case. As he showed in the postseason, he should be mentioned with Nash, Arenas and Kidd for top point guard honors.
    17. Chauncey Billups (DET): 17.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 7.2 APG - On a team full of All-Stars, Billups has emerged as the face of the franchise. He commits very few turnovers and hits big shots. There's a lot to like about his game.
    18. Chris Paul (NOH): 17.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 8.9 APG - Paul had surgery on his left foot at the end of last season. If he returns at full speed and the Hornets -- who are playing all of their games in New Orleans this season --make the postseason, he could find himself rapidly climbing up the rankings.
    19. Jermaine O'Neal (IND): 19.4 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 2.6 BPG - If O’Neal is happy and motivated, expect the same type of superstar numbers he has provided since arriving in Indiana seven seasons ago.
    20. Luol Deng (CHI): 18.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.5 APG - He took the next step towards stardom last season, posting career numbers across the board. He is one of the most well-rounded forwards in the league and he topped a good regular season with a great postseason.
    21. Zach Randolph (NYK): 23.7 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.2 APG - I know it was only one preseason game and that Eddy Curry didn’t play, but all signs are positive after Randolph scored 17 points on 70 percent shooting in New York’s win over Philadelphia on Monday.

    Second Fiddles (Lose value because of star teammates)
    22. Allen Iverson (DEN): 26.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 7.2 APG
    23. Vince Carter (NJN): 25.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 4.8 APG
    24. Paul Pierce (BOS): 25.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 5.1 APG
    25. Deron Williams (UTA): 16.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 9.3 APG
    26. Josh Howard (DAL): 18.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.8 APG
    27. Amare Stoudemire (PHX): 20.4 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.3.0 BPG
    28. Caron Butler (WAS): 19.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.7 APG

    Teams Not Good Enough (Outstanding players, bad teams)
    29. Andre Iguodala (PHI): 18.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 5.7 APG
    30. Pau Gasol (MEM): 20.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.1 BPG
    31. Gerald Wallace (CHA): 18.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.6 APG
    32. Brandon Roy (POR): 16.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.0 APG
    33. Al Jefferson (MIN): 16.0 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 1.5 BPG
    34. Joe Johnson (ATL): 25.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.4 APG
    35. Michael Redd (MIL): 26.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.3 APG