Archive for Saturday, January 20, 2007

Nash, Nowitzki, Arenas early MVP favorites

January 20, 2007


The last two MVP races have ended with Steve Nash on top, with his pal Dirk Nowitzki two spots behind.

As the NBA schedule reaches its midpoint, it looks as if another race is shaping up that will feature those two right at or near the top. Or maybe, just as he has with a number of games lately, Gilbert Arenas will win it at the end.

Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James still have plenty of time to make their cases, but for now, it seems there's another trio ahead of them.

Nash and Nowitzki, the best players on the two best teams in the league, are the most obvious and probably the strongest candidates. But plenty of support has been building in an amazing turnaround for Arenas, the Washington guard who this time last year was about to get snubbed for the All-Star game, only making it to Houston as an injury replacement.

This time, Arenas even has other MVPs touting his candidacy.

"We have to really start giving (Arenas) serious consideration for the MVP," Magic Johnson said Monday on TNT. "I don't want anyone to slight him this year. We know Dirk, we know Steve Nash, we know Kobe, we know LeBron and of course the guy from the Miami Heat. But Gilbert has been (winning games) all season long."

Arenas had done it again earlier that day, hitting a three-pointer as time expired to beat the Utah Jazz. He did the same thing in a victory over Milwaukee earlier this month and has moved into second place in the NBA scoring race.

But that might not be good enough to beat the best in the West.

Even Arenas acknowledged that it will be tough to unseat Nash, who is trying to join Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Larry Bird as the only players to win three MVPs in a row. Besides his sensational playmaking ability, the Suns guard was averaging 19.6 points on 53.2 percent shooting, both career highs.

"Right now, Steve Nash is above everybody," Arenas said. "You have to really do something dramatic in this league. If Kobe averages 35 with an 81 and he didn't get it, you have to do something else in this league to overtake what Steve Nash has done."

The Mavericks think Nowitzki is the one to do it. They reached their halfway point at 33-8 behind 25 points and 9.5 rebounds per game from the German forward. That included a season-high 43-point outing last Friday at Indiana, when he shook off an injured ankle to rally Dallas to an overtime victory.

"If there is any question about who the MVP is, take a look at the film of the game tonight," coach Avery Johnson said. "(Nowitzki) was out there playing on one leg and really carried us in overtime.

"I think he's up there. I mean, just watch the games," Johnson added this week. "There are a lot of guys that are playing on an MVP level, by the way - Nash, Arenas, (Tracy) McGrady. But what he's doing night in and night out, I wouldn't take anybody else over him. ... I don't know if I talked about it enough last year."


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