Jason Kidd is going to be the NBA’s regular season MVP. He has almost single-handedly turned the Nets’ franchise around, doubling their win total from last season and bringing New Jersey on the verge of its first 50-win season, Atlantic Division crown, and Eastern Conference title. So when Kidd receives his Maurice Podoloff Trophy next month, there will be no question that he deserves it.
Ben Wallace is not going to receive any first-place votes in the MVP balloting. He probably won’t receive any second-place votes, either. He will not be on the All-NBA first team. He was not named an all-star.
But make no mistake about it, Ben Wallace is the Detroit Pistons’ and should be the league’s Most Valuable Player.
He, too, has turned his franchise around. The Pistons are about to capture their first Central Division crown since they won the championship in 1990, and they are nearly 20 games better than they finished last season. It’s not quite as impressive as New Jersey’s turnaround, but then Wallace’s teammates aren’t quite as impressive as Kidd’s.
But wait, you say, Ben Wallace has Jerry Stackhouse on his team, and Jerry Stackhouse is a big-time player in the NBA. In fact, many say it is Stackhouse’s maturation over the last two seasons that has brought the Pistons to where they are now. Apparently, because he takes fewer shots and dishes out more assists, Stackhouse is the reason behind Detroit’s resurgence.
Yes, Stackhouse does take fewer shots — he also makes fewer shots, shooting worse this season than the already dismal 40 percent he was shooting last season. Yes, Stackhouse dishes out more assists — a whopping 0.1 more each game this year.
And even if Stackhouse is as good a teammate as say, Keith Van Horn, who else does Ben Wallace have to shoulder the load? Thirty-five year-old Cliff Robinson? Chucky Atkins? Zeljko Rebraca?
Meanwhile, Kidd has, along with Van Horn, Kenyon Martin and Kerry Kittles filling the lanes for him. Don’t forget former Arizona superstar Richard Jefferson.
If you’re not yet convinced, check out Wallace’s stats over the last six games: 19.5 rebounds, 5.3 blocks, and 2.5 steals per contest. In those six games, he turned the ball over three times.
I’d let the numbers do the talking, but there’s so much more to say about Ben Wallace.
Wallace is just 6-foot-8, meaning he gives up three to four inches each night to the centers he’s assigned to box out. Still, as of yesterday and likely for the rest of the season, Wallace leads the league in both rebounding and blocks. If Wallace indeed finishes first in both of those categories, he will join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, and Hakeem Olajuwon — who have a combined eight MVP trophies between them — as the only players ever to do so in the same season.
And if all this still isn’t enough, Ben Wallace should be MVP if only because he represents everything the NBA needs to lure its disillusioned former fans back to professional basketball.
Perseverance — Wallace was never drafted and logged just six minutes a game his rookie year.
Humility — on not being drafted, Wallace said: “I don’t want to send the wrong message that just because you were drafted, you’re going to make it. Or just because you weren’t, and you put in a little work, that you will make it. You just have to continue to work hard, whether you were or weren’t drafted.”
Hard work — on rebounding, he said: “It’s no art. You just react to the ball. It’s all about effort, hustle and determination. You either want the ball, or you don’t.”
Besides, he’s given me 3,093,203 fantasy hoops points and he has wacky hair.
Take that, Jason Kidd.