Howard vs. Sonics: Man Child
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SECAUCUS, N.J., Nov. 30, 2007 -- As the head coach of my sonís second grade basketball team, I lower the baskets from 10 to eight feet before every practice in order to make shooting easier for the kids. From time to time, I also tighten the laces on my Air Jordans and hit the hardwood to demonstrate drills in a real life man-against-boys scenario.

Iím not saying that the Sonics are the equivalent of a JCC youth squad, but on Wednesday night, the Magicís Dwight Howard made it look that way.

I needed a big showing from the Beast of the East to help justify his No. 1 spot in the Race to the MVP rankings. The "LeBron James Is King" campaign was in full swing after he followed up back-to-back triple-doubles by hanging 38 points and 13 assists on the Celtics on Tuesday in a Cavs win.

Howard did me a favor and quieted the critics (for one day at least).

He went around, over and sometimes through the Sonics en route to scoring a career-best 39 points. He also owned the glass, pulling down 16 rebounds and was a Dikembe Mutombo-in-his-prime force on defense, rejecting five shots as Orlando pulled away late for a 110-94 victory.

The Sonics tried one defender on Howard. The result? Dunk. Then they double-teamed him. The result? Dunk. Then they put three and sometimes four defenders in the lane to try and impede his progress. The result? Dunks and more dunks.

He snapped the rim nine times in all, finishing 12-for-17 from the floor.

Seriously, it was childís play.

Speaking of youngsters, Seattleís future All-Star Kevin Durant had this to say about Howard after the game.

ďPoint blank, he is the most dominant player in this game right now,'' Durant said.

Howard now has 14 double-doubles in 17 games. The Magic have an NBA-best 14 wins and their record of 9-1 on the road is also tops in the league.

Give Howard, who is averaging 23.5 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game, his due.

He deserves it.

Time to respond to some of your e-mails.

Bill in Ohio: Whoever hired you Brooks, should be fired. Everybody knows LeBron James should be No. 1.

Brooks: Billy, what are you talking about, James only scored 15 points Wednesday and his team lost by 35. Before you start typing up a nasty e-mail to me, of course I know that LBJ sprained his left index finger in the second quarter against the Pistons and didn't play in the second half. In a game where he was injured, he still managed to pick up more support for being the most valuable player in the league. Cleveland trailed by just five at halftime and was outscored by 30 without him in the second half.



Mike in Texas: You're the man Mo, but seriously ... your picks change from week to week like Paris Hilton's boy toys. I understand that it is early in the season, but you're putting whoever did the best for the past week at the top 5 slots instead of picking the person that's best overall this season.

Brooks: Hey Paris, I want to be clear. Those are Mike's words, not mine. And if you want to put him in his place, I have his contact information. Mike, if what you said were true, LeBron would be No. 1, with any combination of Michael Redd, Baron Davis, Chris Bosh and Caron Butler to follow. Last I checked, that is not the case.



Robin in Texas: I like reading your stuff, and in general I agree with you. If I don't agree, I look further into what you said and realize you know your stuff pretty well. HOW DARE YOU PUT MANU "RUINING THE GAME WITH HIS FLOPPING AND TRAVELING" GINOBILI ahead of Deron Williams? D-Will is one of the top point guards in the league and in my opinion, he is the leader and best player on his team. Granted, Ginobili gives bench points, but he would rather flop than muscle up and try hard. You should reward guys like Deron. Sorry for the rant, I really do like/read your column.

Brooks: I doubt you could get many people to agree with your points about Ginobili simply being a flopper, but the most important thing I took out of your e-mail was the part about you reading my column. That's all that really matters.



Adam in Indiana: How valuable is Stephen Jackson to the Warriors?

Brooks: He missed the first seven games of the season because of a suspension and the Warriors started 0-6. Their record is now 7-7. In this case, the numbers tell the entire story.



Aaron in Seattle: You know what would be really cool? I think you should do a Race to the Playoff MVP. Granted it will be hard to quantify stats after teams are eliminated, but I'm sure in your infinite wisdom that you can think of something! Personally, I don't think this award necessarily needs to be synonymous with the team advancing each round. Let's face it, sometimes a player can only do so much without support.

Brooks: Not a bad idea at all. I will run it by the powers that be. Also, are you a Sonics fan? If so, Kevin Durant will have to wait until next year to be included in the R2MVP Playoff Edition. There isn't going to be a postseason for the Sonics this season.



MickelGayed in Egypt: I have never hated a writer as much as I hate you. Every week you have something to say about the true MVP Mr. Kobe Bryant. Please state what you need Kobe to do this year in order to win MVP. That way, when he goes over the top and exceeds the expectations of haters like you, everyone will see that you are truly the ultimate Kobe hater. We all know you still wouldn't rank him No. 1 for whatever stupid reason you will come up with.

Brooks: And to think, you still have R2MVP bookmarked in your favorites. Nice.



Beatey B: First off, I want to say thanks and send my appreciation for what you do. It is always exciting to see your new rankings every week. It kind of gives some extra anticipation for the fans. Secondly, I think I will ask my question now. Other than this year, how long has it been since the top three players in the R2MVP all came from the East?

Brooks: Thanks for the kind words and I guess that little trade that brought Kevin Garnett to the East coast may have shifted the balance of power. I've only been writing R2MVP for two seasons and I don't think the top half of the list has ever been this East heavy.



Tyler in Canada: Hello sir, I'm a long-time reader, first-time writer and I know you know what's coming since I'm from Canada. The Raps. Are we gonna see some love for Bosh soon on R2MVP? I mean it's clear that his knee is better considering his double-doubles here and there. On a side note, can Jose Calderon get some recognition, too? His play lately deserves at least a pat on the back

Brooks: Long-time reader, first-time writer, I like that. Made me feel like the host of one of those radio talk shows. Here is what I will do for you Tyler. How about I give a shout out to the entire Toronto team: Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani, Maceo Baston, Carlos Delfino, Juan Dixon, T.J. Ford, Jorge Garbajosa, Joey Graham, Kris Humphries, Jason Kapono, Darrick Martin, Jamario Moon, Rasho Nesterovic and Anthony Parker. Happy now?



D in Toronto: Jason Kidd is shooting 36 percent from the field this year. Those are Dajuan Wagner numbers. And, the Nets are below .500 and you have him on the MVP list. Is it just because it's kind of cool to have a point guard that grabs rebounds?

Brooks: Are you serious? Promise me that you will watch a Nets game from beginning to end this week. Afterwards, I expect an apology from you for reducing all that Kidd does on the court to simply being a rebounding point guard. Yeah his jumper is suspect, but he brings so much more to the table than that for New Jersey.



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