Nash is deserving

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

PHOENIX -- We hope we didn't leave any hanging chads on our MVP ballot.

Canadian Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns got our vote. But you know what can happen in the United States when an election is close.

And not to sound any alarm bells or anything, but Nash's main rival for MVP honours, Shaquille O'Neal of the Miami Heat, just happens to earn his living in the state of Florida.

True, all signs are pointing to a Nash victory today when the NBA announces its MVP recipient. The Suns have called a press conference for 4:30 p.m. EDT, and we're assuming they haven't bothered to do that just to call attention to Nash losing.

But remember, for a while on a certain November night in 2000, all signs were pointing to an Al Gore victory, too, in the U.S. presidential election.

Nash's margin of victory presumably will be the smallest in the history of MVP voting, which speaks to the strong qualifications of both the kid from Victoria, B.C., and O'Neal.

"I probably would vote for Shaquille," a humble Nash told reporters yesterday following the Suns' practice.

The debate over what constitutes an MVP never will be resolved, since reasonable people can have different opinions.

But we will say this: Heat coach Stan Van Gundy is out to lunch if he truly believes one of his stated rationales for favouring Shaq.

Van Gundy was quoted the other day as saying that because Nash's former team, the Dallas Mavericks, "got better" without Nash this season, and Shaq's former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, did not get better without Shaq, "that's the difference."

While we respect both Van Gundy and Shaq very much, that has to be one of the most ridiculous arguments we have heard.

For all the factors that go into this, could anything be less relevant than how a player's former team fared?

The Mavs made more changes last summer than just losing Nash, and the Lakers made more changes than just losing Shaq.

And even if you check your brain at the door and accept Van Gundy's concept, the jury definitely is out on the overall quality of this year's Mavs when compared to the Nash-era version.

An MVP should be decided upon what a player did for his team -- his current team -- in any given season.

In that regard, both Nash and Shaq are very deserving. That's why the vote will be so close, not because the Lakers struggled more than the Mavericks.

Duh.

"I don't know what to say," Nash said when asked if he has wrapped his mind around what is happening to him. "I don't even think I dreamed about this award."

And who could dream of denying Steve Nash at this point?

Well, if the winner of the NBA's most-valuable-player award miraculously turns out to be George W. Bush, we're outta here.

MORE FEARLESS PREDICTIONS

Here's a brief look at the two second-round series that start today.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Miami vs. #5 Washington

If the Chicago Bulls hadn't fallen on their own swords Friday, the Wizards would be preparing for Game 7 in the Windy City. As it stands, we don't see any compelling reason why the Heat should have more trouble with the Wizards than it did with Vince Carter and the New Jersey Nets.

And the winner is: Miami in four.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#2 SAN ANTONIO VS. #3 SEATTLE

It will be fun to see if star Sonics guard Ray Allen and allegedly dirty Spurs defender Bruce Bowen get into a fist fight.

But that could be the only intriguing battle here.

Pundits have been waiting all season for the surprising Sonics to plunge to earth, and this is where the Cinderella story ends.

And the winner is: San Antonio in five.


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