Feb. 12, 2008 --The addition of Pau Gasol moves Kobe Bryant closer to winning an NBA title, but also pushes him further away from claiming his first MVP trophy.
Fact. In the past, Bryant was applauded for single-handedly carrying the Lakers on his back. KB24 supporters said not only should he get props for taking a team lacking talent into the postseason, but also for being the best individual player in the league. With Gasol in the fold, Bryant will have to share top billing from time to time. Of course it is still his team, but there are going to be plenty of nights like last Friday where Bryant dropped in 36 points and his new wingman fired in 30 of his own. Will the addition of another superstar prevent Bryant from getting all of the MVP attention he deserves? Maybe. Does he care? No, especially if he gets a fourth ring at the end of the season. And in case you are keeping track at home, the new-look Lakers are 5-1 since Gasol started wearing the purple and gold.
The Lakers acquiring Gasol is a bigger shift of power in the West than the Jazz trading for Kyle Korver and the Suns dealing for Shaquille O'Neal.
Fiction. The Korver trade has made Utah one of the deepest and scariest teams to play against. The one thing the Jazz were lacking was someone to come off the bench and stroke it from deep. Korver fills that void and then some. He is averaging 11.1 points in 20 games since being shipped to Utah. While his production may not appear to be earth-shattering, the Jazzís 17-3 record since he has been in uniform is.
I may be in the minority, but I think the Sunsí trade for Shaq will pay off in the long run. Amare Stoudemire, who shifts from the five to the four, will eat up power forwards. Also, he will get the opportunity to learn a lot by simply being around OíNeal. Donít worry about what Shaq does for the remainder of the regular season. Phoenix didnít bring him in for now. They brought him in to help them contend with the other dominant front court players in the West during the playoffs.
Despite missing 15 games this season, Tracy McGrady can climb back into the MVP race.
Fact. Iím not saying he can actually win the award. Iím simply pointing out that since he returned to Houstonís lineup, the Rockets have gone from afterthoughts to playoff contenders once again. He deserves kudos for that. They are 10-1 in their last 11 games. As great as Yao is, he couldnít do it by himself.
Fiction. The Pistons are having a great season so I don't have a problem with three players getting selected, but how does Wallace get chosen over Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu? Turkoglu is having a career year and like Detroit, his team is also a division leader. Statistically, Turkoglu is having a better season, so I just don't get it.
Last Week's Rank - 1
The Cavs are six games below .500 without James in the lineup and 13 games above it when he plays. This past week I received a large amount of e-mails pointing out that he is in the East. Do you really think his stats would be any worse if he were in the West? As well as he has balled this season, he has been even better lately, averaging nearly 33 points, nine boards and six assists over his past six games.
Last Week's Rank - 2
Memo to Deron Williams fans. R2MVP takes into consideration the entire season. Yes, Williams and the Jazz are hot right now, but Paul and the Hornets have been putting in work since Nov. 1. D-Will has a lot of players to leapfrog in order to move into the top 10. Oh, and I almost forgot that Paul had arguably the best game by a player this season against the Suns last week.
Last Week's Rank - 6
I know there are a bunch of fans checking out R2MVP right now and wondering how come this guy is always in the top five. We'll start with the fact that he is a great teammate, shoots over 50 percent from the floor and over 90 percent from the line, leads the league in assists and is the best player on the best team in the West and go from there.
Last Week's Rank - 5
Yo, Beast of the East, I've been your biggest supporter all season, but maybe you should stop concentrating on the dunk contest so much and start getting back to rebounding and blocking shots. Do you really only have five blocks in the past six games, including none in the past two?
Last Week's Rank - 7
AI, I know you have been busy helping the Nuggets duke it out with the Jazz for supremacy in the Northwest Division, but have you checked out your old squad lately? The Sixers have won four of their past five to move within a half-game of the Nets for the final playoff spot in the East. Just thought I'd point it out.
Last Week's Rank - 10
It looks like the old leader of the Celtics is now the new leader of the Celtics. Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett have both missed time because of injury, while Pierce has shown up for work everyday, leading the C's in points and assists in the process.
Last Week's Rank - 8
Nowitzki has made just 8-of-31 shots from the floor, including 0-for-8 from beyond the arc, in the Mavericks' last two games (losses at New Jersey and Philly). C'mon Dirk, you're a lot better shooter than that.
Last Week's Rank - 9
Around the Western Conference, teams have been adding key pieces to the puzzle to put themselves in position for a deep postseason run. B-Diddy's new addition? An aging Chris Webber, who in three starts has totaled a whopping eight points to go with seven fouls.
Last Week's Rank - 4
KG, it is going to be very difficult for you to get your lofty postion atop the player rankings back after watching Boston go 5-2 while you have sat out with a strained stomach muscle. You are expected to miss two more games, too. You know my rule, you aren't helping your squad if you are not playing so I had to slide you down, big fella.
On the Outside Looking In (averages - last week's rank)