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By Andy Roth, Contributing Editor - Archive - Email
The Pulse of the NBA
New York, NY (Sports Network) - It seems to be a foregone conclusion that either LeBron James or Kevin Durant will take home the Most Valuable Player Award.

James, of course, has the luxury of playing with another superstar in Dwyane Wade and a seven-time All-Star in Chris Bosh.

Durant's supporting cast includes two-time All-Star Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, who will likely win the Sixth Man of the Year Award this season. My pick for MVP doesn't have a number two guy quite like James and Durant have, plus his team has played without one of its star players for more than half the season.

Enough suspense. I'm talking about Tony Parker, who, like his team the San Antonio Spurs, doesn't get his just due. Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson, who was a two-time MVP winner, thinks Parker should be in the discussion.

"Tony Parker is playing on an MVP-type level. He's just having his way," said Johnson, after Parker put up 25 points and seven assists in the Spurs' 114-105 road win against the Thunder on March 16.

Parker's best game of the season, however, came in the previous meeting against the Thunder on Feb. 4, when he completely destroyed fellow All-Star Westbrook, lighting him up for 42 points. The Spurs' point guard was also flawless running the offense, as he had nine assists and no turnovers. Parker has done a great job this season finding a balance between scoring and creating shots for his teammates, averaging 19.1 points and a career-high 7.6 assists per game.

Both of his longtime teammates, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, realize he's taken his game to another level and how valuable he's been to the Spurs' success this season.

"It's been 10 years, and he's had some amazing games, some amazing streaks," said Ginobili. "But he owns the team now; he really owns it." "He's been the guy for us all year long and he's controlling the game," said Duncan. "He's making the right passes and making the shot when he has to. He's been unbelievable."

There's no disputing the great numbers both James (26.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 6.4 apg, 53-percent FG%) and Durant (27.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.4 apg, 51-percent FG%) have put up, and that Parker's (19.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 7.6 apg, 48-percent FG%) pale in comparison to them, but the fact remains that the Spurs have a better winning percentage than the Heat and Thunder.

And in weighing Parker's MVP credentials, I think you have to consider the fact that Ginobili has played a much lesser role this season and Duncan is no longer in the prime of his career.

Not only has Ginobili missed 29 games, but he's averaging just 12.7 points and 23.7 minutes per game, which are the lowest totals since his rookie season, while Duncan is putting up 15 ppg while playing only 28.5 minutes. The Thunder, meanwhile, have had no significant injuries to their top players, while the Heat have been without Wade for 11 games. If you look beyond the normal numbers, I think you can make the case for Parker to take home the MVP Award.

QUICK DRIBBLES

* The Thunder, Spurs and Lakers are the favorites to come out of the Western Conference, but don't underestimate the Memphis Grizzlies. They snapped the Heat's 17-game home winning streak in convincing fashion on Friday, adding to their impressive list of road wins lately. The Grizzlies knocked off the Thunder earlier this month and beat the Lakers in late March. Keep in mind, that last season without the injured Rudy Gay, Memphis knocked off the Spurs in the first round and gave the Thunder all they could handle before losing in seven games. The Grizzlies will not only have Gay this year for the playoffs, but additional bulk up front with Marreese Speights, who has been a key contributor since being acquired from Philadelphia after Zach Randolph went down with a knee injury just four games into the season.

* Derek Fisher was a major defensive liability for the Lakers, yet they've been a nightmare at the defensive end since his departure and the arrival of Ramon Sessions.

In the 43 games the Lakers played prior to the trade-deadline deals, Los Angeles was one of the top defensive teams in the league, giving up just over 95 points-per-game. In the 14 games since the trades, they've been downright awful, allowing 101.8 ppg, including a season-high 125 points in Saturday's loss in Phoenix.

With the playoffs looming later this month, head coach Mike Brown better figure things out quickly if he wants to see his team make a deep run.

* I wouldn't be surprised if the Minnesota Timberwolves try to get the month of April deleted from the calendar. That's because Saturday's loss in New Orleans' was their 21st straight in April dating back to 2009.

The Wolves season actually started to go down the tubes in March when they lost rookie point guard Ricky Rubio to a torn ACL. Since his injury, Minnesota is just 4-12 and has fallen out of the Western Conference playoff picture.

* Back to the Lakers for a moment. When is Mike Brown going to stop giving backup point guard Steve Blake (23 mpg) significant minutes? To say Blake is awful is an understatement. He can't defend. He doesn't create shots for teammates, and he's strictly a spot-up jump shooter who is shooting 37-percent from the floor this season and has gone to the foul line only 22 times.

When Ramon Sessions is on the bench, Brown should mainly use Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks, since Kobe Bryant doesn't need to play with a traditional point guard because of his own playmaking skills.

Copyright 2012

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