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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

NBA REPORT

Bulls' Rose clear selection for MVP


NEW YORK — It's time to break up this space's monotony and cast votes instead of aspersions.

MVP: For your information, there is no format to follow, no standards to stick to, no specific instructions given by the NBA when picking this award or any of them, for that matter.

It's strictly personal preference based on individual interpretation. I pull the lever for the player who recurrently works wonders for teammates and his team — regardless of nightly companionship and competition — and makes unreasonable ticket prices reasonable.

Derrick Rose has been the Bulls' guiding star for three seasons, leading them to the playoffs in each. Only this time, flaunting a keenly crafted exterior jumper, he transported them to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

Nobody has ever triggered more exclamations from me in a single game, not even Julius Erving when he rocked Rucker. Almost every ground incursion and air raid is a top 10 highlight.

There's no wasted motion, no playing to the camera, no chest-beating and, for the most part, no change of expression, hit or miss, win or lose. At 22 and 191 days, he'll become the youngest MVP in league history to Wes Unseld (23-9) who was also top rookie in 1968-69.

Not surprisingly, a lot of voters are proudly wearing "I like Dwight" pins. Yeah, I know all about his stupid fouls — both traditional and technical — but it's undeniable Howard is the lone perpetrator whose presence or lack thereof, acutely affects both sides. The fact he has kept Stan Van Gundy employable is something I choose to hold against him.

Top Rookie: Deducting doofus points for vaulting over a vehicle and jeopardizing his career, Blake Griffin's accomplishments are astonishing. No need even to factor in his gaudy numbers, he gave fans a real reason to monitor my Paper Clips.

In February, when I asked him about Charles Barkley's rant about Griffin not really being a rookie because he was injured all of last season with L.A., Blake declined to take the bait. For a split second.

"Then I guess," he began, "that means Brandon Jennings wasn't a rookie last year because he played a year in Italy. I don't recall Charles ever saying that. Or claiming foreigners who played pro ball overseas before joining the NBA should be disqualified from consideration."

Coach of the Year: This rarely goes to a guy whose team is supposed to win big and it shouldn't go to a guy, it says here, whose elite leader listens in the huddle, buys into exacting a defensive concept and doesn't point crooked fingers, compelling everyone else to do the same.

Still, Tom Thibodeau — on course to tie Paul Westphal's 62-20 record (1992-93) for a rookie drill sergeant — is exceedingly deserving. That would be 21 wins better than last season, though it's not as if management was trying to succeed, surrender talent to create $28 million of cap space for last summer.

Consequently, the Bulls were in position to make a ceiling bid on Wade and ultimately sign Carlos Boozer ($75 million for five years), Kyle Korver ($15 million for three), C.J. Watson ($10.2 million for three) and Ronnie Brewer (nearly $14 million for three).

On the flip side, it can't be easy coaching Boozer and having to adjust to life without him for 19 games at the start of the season because he alleges to have tripped over a gym bag in his home and breaking his wrist.

But Doug Collins beats out Mr. Thibs on my ballot, barely. The 76ers, having added Spencer Hawes and peripherally productive Evan Turner to last year's ratty rotation, began the season 3-13 with a new head coach while drawing fans at gunpoint.

I felt Collins' hiring was a monumental mistake and e-mailed that opinion to team president Ed Stefanski, later demoted to GM upon Rod Thorn's appointment. However, once Collins got a grip on his emotions and physically re-adapted to the travel and work load, he transformed the undisciplined team into a cohesive playoff unit that runs and defends and spreads the wealth; Andre Iguodala's metamorphosis from unrestrained mortar launcher to being fairly manageable may be Collins' major feat.

Sixth Man: I try to pick someone who does more than just score or just rebound or just pass. Players productive in two categories usually get the nod. Lamar Odom wins going away, though, granted, he performed best as a starter earlier in the season when Andrew Bynum was out of service. So much so, he was a legitimate All-Star candidate in the brutal forward-heavy West.

Defensive Player: Howard, for being the simple answer to the simple question, "How many outstanding big men are there in the rank and file right now?" The fact he's taken himself out of his game more than the opposition has taken him out of his game is a subject for another day.

Most Improved: Can you be the MVP and most improved?

This award is about who worked the hardest on their game in the summer and who has adapted their game best to fit into their team. Clearly, Rose, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, Aaron Afflalo, Dorell Wright, Nick Young, Matthews and DeMar DeRozan invested time and effort in raising their periscopes.

Despite falling a little short of breaking Wilt's consecutive double-double mark of 221, Love gets my support. Aside from elevating from 15 points and 11.7 rebounds last season to 20.2 and 15.2, he also advanced his 3-point shot from .372 to .417.

All-NBA First Team: Rose, Kobe Bryant, Howard, Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James.

Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.


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