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LRB
02-25-2003, 07:49 AM
Shootaround: Hotshot Kobe could miss on MVP award
02/25/2003




Kobe Bryant's performance the past nine games is the stuff of legends. But is it enough to assure that MVP voters will stuff his name in the ballot box?

History says no.

Most Valuable Player trophies aren't won in a 2 -week span no matter how great the effort. Just because Bryant has produced his current string of nine consecutive 40-points-ormore games doesn't mean the Lakers guard has locked up his first MVP award.

In 1961-62, Wilt Chamberlain put together two 14-game streaks of 40-or-more performances and lost the award to Bill Russell. The next season, Chamberlain had a 10-game streak and Russell won again.

And in 1986-87, Michael Jordan carved out nine straight games of 40 or more, but Magic Johnson got the MVP nod.

That's not to say Bryant won't break that hex this year. If the season were to end today, he would be the top name on many ballots, although Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett and Jason Kidd would also receive plenty of consideration.

But the perception remains and rightly so that the Lakers' most valuable player is Shaquille O'Neal. That creates a quandary. How can you vote Kobe as the league's MVP when he's not even best on his team?

Plus, voters may nitpick about the streak, saying Bryant takes more shots than Sonny Corleone stuck at a toll booth. In five of the nine games, Bryant has launched 30 or more shots including a streak-high 41 to score 44 points vs. the Spurs.

During the streak, Bryant has taken 37 percent of his team's field goal attempts. By comparison, the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki has taken 20 percent of his team's shots this season. If Nowitzki increased that to 37 percent, think he might produce Kobe-like scoring numbers?

Despite all that, Bryant enters the final third of the season as the MVP favorite. His Lakers have already moved ahead of Phoenix and Houston in the West standings and should have no more concerns about making the playoffs. That eliminates one reason not to vote for Bryant.

Bryant's chief MVP competitor is McGrady, the only player with a higher scoring average. Though Orlando is a game under .500, McGrady is the team's biggest star. Bryant is not. That's a distinction MVP voters must deal with along with how much emphasis to place on Bryant's streak.

OBSERVATION DECK


Had Seattle not traded Gary Payton to Milwaukee, the Sonics could have taken his $13 million off their books next season by not re-signing him. But by acquiring Ray Allen in the Payton trade, Seattle has taken itself out of the running as one of the major players in the free-agent market this summer. Allen is under contract for two more seasons after this one, with an average annual salary of $14 million.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said the trade could help his team because one of the big-name free agents may be forced to take a one-year, $4.5 million mid-level exception contract instead of signing a long-term deal, and Dallas could be an attractive option for a season. Cuban added that just six teams will have enough cap space this summer to offer significant long-term deals: San Antonio, Utah, Denver, the LA Clippers, Miami and Washington (if the Wizards don't re-sign Jerry Stackhouse).

RADAR ALERT


J.R. Bremer, Boston Celtics

Despite all the college scouting done by NBA teams, players still slip through the cracks. Prime example: Bremer, the 6-2 point guard from St. Bonaventure. Undrafted last summer despite being the fourth-leading scorer in the nation at 24.6 points per game, Bremer signed as a free agent with the Celtics and he's intent on proving that he belongs in the league.

Since moving into the starting lineup on Jan. 12, Bremer is averaging 10-plus points, along with four assists and a steal per game. "He can play at this level," teammate Antoine Walker said. "He's going to have a future in this league because he can shoot the basketball."

TEXAS TIES


Kevin Ollie, Seattle SuperSonics

If there was any doubt that the Dallas-born point guard is an NBA vagabond, Thursday's trade deadline made it official. Sent to Seattle by Milwaukee in the Gary Payton-Ray Allen trade, the 6-2 Ollie is now on his ninth team since starting his NBA career in 1997 with the Mavericks. The only season Ollie has spent with the same club was 1999-2000 in Philadelphia.

Ollie had been averaging 21.3 minutes this season as Sam Cassell's backup, but he might have a shot at more playing time in Seattle, a team lacking a true point guard since both Payton and Kenny Anderson were traded.

INSIDE THE LINE


Karl Malone, Utah Jazz

37 mins. 5-9 FG, 10-12 FT, 7 rebs., 10 ast., 3 fouls, 20 points

He was snubbed for the All-Star Game but is getting an invitation to the 2004 U.S. Olympic team. Malone, 39, apparently isn't going away anytime soon and in some respects, maybe he's even getting better.

Witness his performance in Saturday's 99-89 win against Denver. Usually on the scoring end of all those John Stockton passes, Malone tied a career high with 10 assists three more than Stockton. Utah coach Jerry Sloan said Malone has become a much better passer through the years. A 10-assist night certainly supports that theory.

MIDWEST MATTERS


When David Robinson returned to the Spurs lineup Saturday, it was the first time since the season opener that San Antonio had its core group of 12 players healthy and ready to play.

Houston point guard Steve Francis said his chances of playing for Team USA in the 2004 Olympics are eliminated now that Sacramento's Mike Bibby will be added to the roster.

On his second game back from a seven-game suspension, Utah coach Jerry Sloan was hit with a technical and nearly tossed out against Minnesota.

QUOTEMARKS


"I thought that this was going to be an improved year individually, with the type of players and the coaches here. But I don't think that I've gotten any better. I think I've taken a step back, in my eyes."

Clippers point guard Andre Miller, who averaged 16.5 points and an NBA-leading 10.9 assists last season in Cleveland but had dropped off to 14.4 points and 7.3 assists this season.

THIRTYSOMETHINGS


Kobe Bryant's recent surge has pushed his scoring average past the 30-point mark. Tracy McGrady is the NBA's leading scorer, with a 31.4-point average. If those two remain above the 30-point average at the end of the season, it would be just the fifth NBA season to feature two 30-point scorers in a single season. The list:

Season: Leader, Avg.; Runner-up, Avg.
1979-80: George Gervin, 33.1; World B. Free, 30.2
1981-82: George Gervin, 32.3; Moses Malone, 31.1
1987-88: Michael Jordan, 32.3; Dominique Wilkins, 30.7
1989-90: Michael Jordan, 35.0; Karl Malone, 31.0
*2002-03: Tracy McGrady, 31.4; Kobe Bryant, 30.8

*Through Monday

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK



Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Tracy McGrady of the Orlando Magic were named the NBA Western and Eastern Conference players of the week Monday.
Bryant led the Lakers to a 4-0 record, averaging 43.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. McGrady averaged 40.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 7.7 assists for the 3-0 Magic.

LRB
02-25-2003, 08:15 AM
Wanted to know what everyone thought about Cubes comment on how the Payton trade with affect the free agency this summer?

TripleDipping
02-25-2003, 09:22 AM
I absolutely hate to say this but if LA makes it to the playoffs this year Bryant should get serious consideration for MVP.

Subliminal012
02-25-2003, 08:22 PM
It's not his streak that makes me see MVP. IT's the fact that he got the team back on track from december until now. They have been winning and he is leading the way. Obviously shaq is the guy that the team needs, he is the guy that everyone is built around and everyone is complementary to him. Kobe put shaq on his back too and carried him.

On jordan getting the 9 40 point streak, he didn't get mvp because he they went 42-40.