I have a feeling Tommy Heinsohn would not approve of this post because he thinks Dwayne Wade never gets fouled. As ardent of a Celtics fan as I am, I am willing to admit the man knows how to take the ball to the hole. I'm surprised he didn't drive even more due to the black hole that was the Celtics' paint defense last night.
Watching him put a dagger in the Celtics in the fourth quarter with a long 3-pointer gave us some indication as to how much his range has improved. Not only is he doubling his career average for attempted treys (3.3) but he is shooting his highest percentage (.314) as well. Wade has always been devastating with short jumpers and bank-shots but being a threat from down town has taken his game to a whole new level.
Such improvement to an already stellar set of tools brings us to the obvious question: Since when is the leading scorer in the NBA such a dark-horse candidate for the MVP? Wade is averaging 29.7 points per game with 7.7 dimes and 5.1 rebounds and somehow is seen as a distant third runner in the race for hardware in May.
The argument that Lebron James and Kobe Bryant are more deserving because of their teams' records doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. If Wade replaced either Kobe or Lebron in their respective lineups I doubt there would be any sort of drop off. Why am I so confident in that opinion? Wade has been playing with rookie Mario Chalmers and Chris Quinn as his point guards this year, neither of which are exactly John Stockton when it comes to court vision and passing ability. Lebron can feel D-Wade's pain and I gave him the same type of love last year when he was forced to initiate offense by himself. Now he has an elite point guard in Mo Williams to get him the ball and take some of the scoring pressure off of him. Kobe has Derek Fisher to get the ball to him in spots where he can score, which seems more simplistic than it really is but Fisher is a veteran, pass-first guard who is a huge upgrade over either of the Miami point guards.
If you read any of my summer postings, I said it wouldn't be a shock to see the Heat back in the playoffs this year as a five or six seed. Wade served notice during the Redeem Team's dominant run that he was indeed back to being the same player who had the greatest finals ever back in 2006. He had to have been in the subconscious of any basketball fan who watched the Olympics when they were predicting awards in the pre-season. My point here is that it's not as if he's coming out of nowhere or that anyone had forgotten about him.
It's nonsensical to say this is "Lebron's year" because he hasn't won the MVP before in the same way it was "Kobe's year" last year. Chris Paul was the MVP last year but because Bryant hadn't received his lifetime achievement award he was snubbed. Dwayne Wade is the NBA MVP.
Oh yeah and my answer to last night's ESPN poll that broached the question of who among James, Wade and Bryant would you want to take the last shot of a game? My answer would be reigning Finals MVP Paul Pierce.
-Clay Buchholz's road back to dominance is a bigger deal than most people are making it out to be. Much in the same way the Blue Jays did with current ace Roy Halladay, the Red Sox started from square one with Buchholz. As I said the other day, I'm not sure where or when his delivery problems arose but the Sox should have caught them sooner. I've only seen him in limited action thus far so I'm not able to go into too much depth but he does seem to be far more consistent with his motion.
Another knock against Buchholz last year while he was struggling was his tendency to not trust his fastball at times and at others give in too easily in hitter's counts. For someone so outwardly confident, it's ironic that he lost his bravado with such ease. Even if he doesn't make the rotation to begin the year, there will be a place for him eventually. And, no, I do not want them to use him as a chip to acquire Jarrod Saltalamacchia. If Joe Mauer is on the other end, I'd include him in a heart beat but Salty is a future first baseman whose ceiling isn't as high as some scouts seem to think.
-I can't believe I'm saying this but the Patriot secondary should be viewed as a strength for the first time since 2003. Not only are Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden two solid starting cornerbacks but Ellis Hobbs is where he should be, which is placed as a number two or a nickel back. The presence of Deltha O'Neal as insurance with far less pressure on Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite to perform well make this secondary deep. Bill Belichick knew he would need to address corner back situation with his defense suddenly unable to consistently create a pass-rush. Do we look at Bodden signing as Vrabel's replacement with a guy like Jason Taylor waiting in the wings (move to linebacker?) Give Bill credit; he is on his way to revamping this team. This wasn't an easy thing to do considering it went 18-1 two years ago and nearly made the playoffs last year without Tom Terrific behind center.