Sunday, April 13, 2003

Duncan makes MVP case on court

By Chris Sheridan
The Associated Press

Who is the NBA's Most Valuable Player?

Someone who deserves the award, whether it's Tim Duncan, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd or the person who got rid of those annoying Adam Sandler commercials.

Official NBA ballots were mailed to voters a week ago, and the MVP will be announced in May.

Here is one writer's choices for official and some nonofficial awards. (The Associated Press does not participate in official NBA award balloting.)

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Duncan, San Antonio. It didn't seem fair when Duncan was selected as MVP last season over Kidd, who transformed a moribund franchise into the Eastern Conference finalist. This season, however, Duncan has been taken for granted amid all the debate over the MVP credentials of the other candidates. In the end, it comes down to three questions: Who's got the best record? Who swept the Lakers 4-zip in the season series? Who's the best player on that team? Runner-up: McGrady.

ROOKIE: Yao Ming, Houston. Not an easy choice, with Caron Butler of Miami and Amare Stoudemire of Phoenix having legitimate credentials. There are plenty of arguments to be made against Yao, who didn't produce on a night-in, night-out basis the way Butler did, and seemed to play his best only in games which were nationally televised. He gets the nod because he had more to do with keeping the Rockets in playoff contention than Stoudemire did for the Suns. Runner-up: Butler.

COACH: Eric Musselman, Golden State. He taped a carrot to each locker before the Warriors beat Minnesota. A victory meant a day off, thus the dangling carrot. He placed mousetraps by each locker in a game at Denver to keep his players on their toes. Runner-up: Jerry Sloan, Utah.

SIXTH MAN: Bobby Jackson, Sacramento. When Mike Bibby missed the first 27 games of the season, Jackson shot almost 50 percent from the field - a very high percentage for a shoot-first point guard - while leading the Kings to a 21-6 record. He broke his hand when O'Neal fouled him hard on Christmas night, and he didn't do much after that. Without him, though, the Kings wouldn't have won the Pacific Division. Runner-up: Andrei Kirilenko, Utah.

MOST IMPROVED: Chauncey Billups, Detroit. Another race in which there are plenty of worthy qualifiers. Billups makes the cut because of his knack for keeping his cool and making several game-winning shots. Runner-up: Troy Murphy, Golden State.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Ron Artest, Indiana. Not only defends people, but scares them. The loosest cannon since Dennis Rodman, there's no faulting Artest for his unmatched competitive nature. Runner-up: Iverson, Philadelphia.

ALL-NBA: First team: C O'Neal; F Duncan; F Garnett; G Bryant; G McGrady. Second team: C Ben Wallace; F Dirk Nowitzki; F Jermaine O'Neal; G Kidd, G Allen Iverson. Third team: C Yao; F Chris Webber; F Shawn Marion; G Steve Nash, G Stephon Marbury.

ROOKIE TEAM: First team: C Yao; F Stoudemire; F Carlos Boozer, Cleveland; G Butler; G Emanuel Ginobili, San Antonio. Second Team: C Nene Hilario, Denver; F Drew Gooden, Orlando; F Reggie Evans, Seattle; G Gordan Giricek, Orlando; G Marko Jaric, Clippers.

ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM: C Wallace; F Artest; F Bruce Bowen, Spurs; G Iverson; G Gary Payton, Bucks.

ALL-OVERPAID: C Travis Knight, New York, ($4 million); F Danny Fortson, Golden State ($5.04 million); F Vin Baker, Boston ($12.4 million); G Antoine Rigaudeau, Dallas ($600,000); G Vince Carter, Toronto ($10.06 million).

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