Now that the Chicago Bulls have clinched their division and a playoff spot, the rest of the season may appear anticlimactic. Of course, such an appearance is deceptive given the fact that, should the team stumble consistently in its last 19 games, the good chemistry and morale that has, in part, gotten them this far would be severely afflicted. There are, however, a couple of other things the Bulls have to fight for.
One would be going undefeated in their division. Yeah, it would be an almost wholly symbolic victory given how weak the Eastern Central has been this season. But no team in NBA history has ever accomplished this feat so, hey, why not. Beyond that, there's something else the Bulls can still do this season: Make sure All Star point guard Derrick Rose stays at the top of the MVP race.
It may seem that whether or not DRose stays in the race is up to him entirely. But at least part of the reason he's gotten this far is the strong supporting play from his teammates that allows Derrick to do all of the wonderful things he does. This angle does have an odd twist in that, if the team had another elite scorer, maybe Rose wouldn't have to go through flips and twists (sometimes literally) to put so many points on the board. But, be that as it may, this team needs to finish strong or a Dwight Howard or LeBron James could lay claim to the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.
Which brings us to our topic at hand. At this point, I could launch into a rant about why I think Derrick Rose should be voted the league's most valuable player. Because of the way he's almost single-handedly driven a team expected to be marginal contenders at best to near the top of the Eastern Conference. Because of his much-improved defense. Because of the way he picked up the slack during the loss of two key players (one of whom is out yet again).
But instead I thought I'd compile a list of individuals much closer to the game of basketball than me who have endorsed Derrick Rose for MVP. After all, this is an election of sorts: The MVP is selected based on weighted votes of selected sportswriters and broadcasters based in the United States and Canada. So it seems like public statements by notable figures should have some influence on the results. And can a fan of the Miami Heat put together a list like this? I don't think so. Here are my Top Five Derrick Rose for MVP Endorsements:
1. Michael Jordan
After last night's 101-84 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, the majority owner of that team made it official. "MVP of the season," said the stately bald gentleman with courtside seats following the game. "He deserves it. He's playing that well. He deserves it. Without a doubt. And if he doesn't get it, now he'll see how I felt a lot of years."
What a perfect MJ statement. Oh, he drives to the basket and puts it in. With authority. But he also can't help adding a little flourish at the end by bringing the story back to himself. A figurative tongue wag, if you will. Nonetheless, this endorsement from his Airness will echo throughout the basketball world for the rest of the season. And it should still be ringing in the ears of voters when balloting time rolls around.
2. Chris Bosh
Ah, Bosh Spice. What jocularity you've brought to us this season. What hilarity. The odd quotes. The lame flops. The one of 18 shooting. The tears. The ... Bostrich. Chris' finest moment, however, aside from his role in three Heat losses to the Bulls, may be his endorsement of DRose. Quoth the Boshinator:
LeBron has won the last two [MVP awards]. He is my teammate, but Derrick has had a phenomenal season. Just looking at what he has done with the team and their record, how improved they are as a team and how much improved he is as a player. I think it’s close, but I think I would give it to Derrick if I were a voter.
If LeBron is Derrick's biggest competition, what does it say that James' very own teammate -- and one of the vaunted Big Three -- has thrown his support behind Rose? I think it says a lot. There's value that comes from possessing phenomenal athleticism and basketball skills, which LeBron James certainly does, and there's value that comes from possessing those things to an arguably lesser degree yet pushing your entire team to play better than almost anyone expected. Derrick Rose has accomplished the latter.
3. Juwan Howard
It's crazy. If Bosh were the only NBA player to endorse Rose, it would be one thing. But he's not even the only Miami Heatplayer to give the nod to Derrick. Late last month, around the same time that Bosh gave his pro-Rose statement, forward Juwan Howard called into the Waddle & Silvy Show on ESPN 1000 radio and echoed the sentiment. He said:
I'm not even being politically correct, normally guys say I'm giving it to LeBron, but honestly I'll give it to [Rose]. If he stays on this pace that he's on right now, he's got my vote if I was part of the committee.
One can't help but wonder whether Howard's statement comes from the frustration he and everyone else on the Heat not named LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh feel playing in the environment those three players have created. Granted, DRose and LeBron are two very different types of player: point guard and small forward. But Rose's humbler more team-oriented approach has, interestingly, only elevated his MVP candidate status rather than detract from it.
4. Charles Barkley
Over the course of 16 NBA seasons, and in the roughly 11 years since his retirement, there's very little Sir Charles hasn't said or done. When he faced the Bulls -- especially in the Jordan years -- we loved to hate him and loved it even more when MJ beat him off the dribble. But Barkley is also one of the most honored players in the history of the NBA, and the man knows his basketball. This past January, he told the aforementioned Waddle & Silvy: "I think Derrick has surpassed Deron Williams as the best point guard in the NBA, and I think right now he has to be the front-runner for MVP."
Sure, that was back in January. But it's not like Derrick has done anything but continue to build his reputation since then, give an off game here or there. "Derrick Rose to me has been a tremendous leader," Barkley said in the same interview. "He's missed his second and third best players the majority of the season, and they have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference." Make that second best, Chas.
5. Doc Rivers
As any Bulls fan knows, the owners of the best record in Eastern Conference right now are the Boston Celtics. The team currently sits a game and a half ahead of the Bulls with a 46-16 record, winners of eight of their last 10 games. They had no fewer than four players in the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 20. So who does their head coach, Doc Rivers, pick for MVP?