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2008, March 28: ESPN.com Daily Dime – Nuggets Take Big Step Toward Ousting Mavs

June 24, 2008

With Denver’s 118-105 win over the Dallas Mavericks in
a pivotal Western Conference game on Thursday, the Nuggets moved within one game
of the Mavs for a playoff spot. With their best players healthy, I’d say Denver
is likely to unseat Dallas for the final West playoff spot, with Golden State
moving up to the No. 7 spot. Denver now also owns the tiebreaker against Dallas.

I’m rooting for Dallas. Part of the reason is I just don’t like to see a team
drop out in large part because it lost a player of Dirk Nowitzki’s caliber. And
I like seeing my good friend Juwan Howard getting some minutes (six points in 12
minutes).

Getting Dirk back sooner rather than later would be important to the Mavs.
However, there’s a difference between being hurt and being injured. If you’re
injured, you’re not coming back until you’re healed. Take Gilbert
Arenas
. You can see he wants to come back, and the psyche of an athlete
always want to try, but if you’re injured, there’s nothing you can do about it.

So the Dirk watch continues. The stakes are high for Dallas. It looks like
it’s going to take 50 wins to get into the playoffs in the West. Meanwhile, an
East team that’s as many as 10 games below .500 is going to get in.

That’s wrong. I wish the NBA would consider going to a format in which teams
are seeded 1 through 16, regardless of conference. This format would breed even
more competition — you really would have to play out all 82 games. Right now,
many of those top four East teams are not likely to budge from their spots, but
if you put them in the mix with the West, it would change things.

I know travel and time zones can be issues, but those are the kind of things
that can be ironed out.

In a revised playoff format, Dallas, instead of being on the edge of
qualifying, would now be the No. 10 seed in a 16-team playoff field.

Who’s the MVP?

Got an update here.

It’s Chris
Paul
.

The New Orleans Hornets guard convinced me with his stellar play in the
team’s 100-99 road win Wednesday over LeBron James’ Cavaliers.

Kobe
Bryant
had been my favorite just a few months ago. He’s the game’s best
overall player, but if you think about it, we didn’t validate his MVP candidacy
until the Pau Gasol
trade came down. So then gradually, it seems LeBron had become the No. 1 force
in the game, so he was the call.

One thing going for Paul over James is he’s battling for the Western
Conference crown. Like the BCS strength of schedule, that plays in Paul’s favor.
His numbers and production are jumping off the charts. He’s a scoring threat who
leads the league in assists.

Any team that beats San Antonio by 25 is not a fluke. For those who think the
Hornets are going out in the first round, I would think twice because of the way
CP3 can step it up. Tyson
Chandler
to me looks like the most athletic big in the game along with Dwight
Howard
. David West’s scoring and Peja
Stojakovic
spreading the floor with the 3 has been big. Don’t forget that
coach Byron Scott’s been there before, taking two New Jersey Nets
teams to the Finals.

Last shot for a good friend

Chris
Webber
retired this week. I’m happy and excited for him. He’s been a
longtime friend of mine. We played together in the backyard, in AAU and in
college. Then we played against each other in the NBA.

The first time I met him was the day he joined our 12-and-under AAU
basketball team known as the "Super Friends." Our coach was telling us that
there was a kid coming to practice and he wasn’t going to have to try out. When
we heard that, we thought when he gets here, we’ve got to make sure he doesn’t
make the team.

He did.

And he went from being one of the best players on that team to become one of
the best in the game has seen. Hopefully, he’ll find his way to the Hall of
Fame. He’s keeping good company with the numbers he put up.

By Jalen Rose – ESPN.com

ESPN analyst Jalen Rose is a regular Daily Dime contributor. For more
about Jalen, visit his Web site: JalenRose.com
.