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Mostly Vapid Prognostication

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Don’t be a crow.
James Harden, MVP and you know it.
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

This has been an NBA season of simply wonderful individual performances. Records of long standing have fallen. The level of play, at least on the offensive end, is perhaps higher than it has ever been. Four players could receive the Most Valuable Player award, with no disgusting injustice done.

I am also heartily sick of hearing about the damned MVP. I now recoil from podcasts and writers I normally enjoy, because there’s no chance I will escape yet another exegesis on the MVP award. Today, it seems a relentless millstone, grinding ever finer the grist of an individual honor in a team sport.

Do not mistake me, I firmly believe that James Harden deserves the MVP award. The arguments supporting his candidacy tend to center around the things I think are most meaningful in the context of winning team basketball. To discuss those things at length here, though, would be like punching a bruise. I’ve read, heard, and watched it all before, for months, and I’m guessing, so have you.

To my mind, James Harden is decidedly the Most Valuable Player in the NBA for 2016-2017. Whether he’ll be granted this honor is another matter entirely. ESPN has bombarded the world with Westbrook adulation to such an extent that one suspects ESPN has somehow bought Westbrook stock, or knows something about his future plans. Other outlets draw other conclusions, and perhaps what I believe is the right result will be reached. But I doubt it.

Part of this pervasive MVP fever comes from the relative lack of drama and excitement regarding the supposed outcome of the season. Add to that the fairly static playoff positions in the Western Conference and the MVP award takes on an exaggerated role in NBA discussion.

Golden State has run away with the number one spot, again. San Antonio briefly threatened that dominance when the Warriors were, most unfairly, given the sort tough stretch of schedule that every NBA team experiences, and some teams (cough, Rockets) experienced more than once this season.

An Aside - I’ve described this year’s Golden State Warriors as a merger between Chase and Citibank. The only beneficiaries to this combination of assets (Golden State, Kevin Durant) are the entities in question. While certainly powerful, likely irresistible, there’s nothing at all lovable or compelling about Golden State. They’re a joyless, inorganic, corporate basketball business model, which they weren’t before Kevin Durant joined them. I don’t in any sense begrudge Kevin Durant his right to live and work where he likes, but I do question the existence of his moral courage.

Anyhow, the only drama in the West was: who will be #4 or #5 in what promises to be a vastly entertaining series between the Clippers and the Jazz, and who will be butchered by Golden State in the first round. (Can miracles happen? I certainly hope so, for the sake of my town, and really, us all. Go Blazers!)

In the East, the Conference remains LeBron and The Seven Playoff Dwarves until proven otherwise. I’d love to actually see this “otherwise”, but the way to bet is, King James takes the pot, again. So it has been, so it shall be, as I don’t see any Aces over King in the East.

While I enjoy almost any form of playoff basketball, the season’s ultimate result hasn’t seemed much in doubt to most observers since, oh, Halloween, 2016, when I still had some illusions. But, as last season’s Finals demonstrated, that’s why they play the games.

So, where does this all leave the Houston Rockets?

One, employing the Most Valuable Player in the NBA, whether awarded such, or not. Take joy in true gold, while crows delight in random shiny trash.

Two, a totally enjoyable team to watch; a team that has restored a sense of joy in watching Rockets basketball. The ghosts of 2015-2016 and Dwight Howard and his herpetology have been exorcised.

Three, a team that engages the intellect, with their bold venturing into a future that looks vastly different from the past of the league.

Four, and perhaps most controversially, a team that, and this is important, functions almost alone on the court in generating results. That is to say, if the Rockets shoot a certain percentage on their threes, or get easy and close basket attacks, it almost doesn’t matter who the opposition is. With very rare exception (Golden State, Cleveland), essentially no team can match the scoring in the time, or possessions, allotted.

If, and it’s a big “IF”, the Rockets make their shots at a certain rate, at a certain pace, no one can beat them. With some (let’s be honest, a ton of) luck, that’s a title. That chance is the Most Valuable Thing, after all.

I forgot the customary poll. Sorry! Here’s one.

Poll

Who will win the damned MVP?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    James Harden
    (149 votes)
  • 12%
    A Forklift
    (41 votes)
  • 32%
    Russell Westbrook
    (105 votes)
  • 0%
    LeBron James
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Steph Curry
    (1 vote)
  • 7%
    Mavs in Four, Go Mavs.
    (25 votes)
321 votes total Vote Now