ONE: It’s been a while between Six Packs, and with the time off I’ve had over the New Year I thought it was only fitting to churn out what will undoubtedly be the most massive Sunday Six Pack of all time.

On the Aussie front, the biggest news this week has of course been the relegation of Patty Mills to the D-League, and then his subsequent demolition job in his debut game: 38 points, 7-10 threes, 12 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals. Sure, it’s only the D-League. But don’t forget that Patty has been out of action nearly six months. To turn in a performance like that, without any noticeable rust, without having lost a step (from all accounts he was the lightning-fast Patty we’re used to) is truly amazing. It has caught the attention of Blazers’ fans everywhere who are now suddenly excited again about their future point guard prospects. It also caught the attention of Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard: “He looked fantastic last night. And that’s nice to see. He’s not shy. He’ll put it up.”

There’s also speculation that with Steve Blake hospitalized with pneumonia, Patty might get thrown a Blazers jersey sooner than we thought. “It’s probably the right thing to look at him coming up here the next couple days,” Pritchard said. Promising indeed and we’ll certainly keep an eye on the situation as it unfolds.

As for Big Drew, it’s been a mixed week for the man still very much in All-Star reserve contention (or so I keep telling myself). A week ago against Charlotte he and Michael Redd were benched for the entire second half, both players copping a spray from coach Skiles. “It’s not so much producing. It’s body language and the way we look out there,” Skiles said. “The bottom line: this is the NBA. You have to produce. It’s what pro sports is. And we need more consistent production out of our key players.” When asked about Skiles’ decision, Bogut merely responded “Nothing surprises me”.

The following game Bogut put up a respectable 15-10 against Dwight and the Magic, but again the Bucks turned in a woeful performance and were beaten by 25. Today things started to get back on track, with the Bucks pulling out a clutch win in OT against an in-form Thunder. Michael Redd was the story of the day with 27 points and several big buckets in OT, but don’t let that overshadow Bogut’s performance. It was AB’s best game since that epic 31-18 in mid December: 23 points, 15 boards and a clutch baby right hook with 38 seconds left in OT that put the Bucks up three. With Redd and Bogut firing like that, it’s a glimpse into the full potential this team can achieve. Equal with Charlotte in the 8th spot out East, I still maintain this is very much a playoff-worthy team.

Over in Texas Mr. Andersen continues to contribute for THE MOST surprising team in the NBA this season. I still cannot believe the Rockets are 20-14, consistently beating quality opposition (like Dallas last week), and are sitting only 3 games behind the #2 seed out West. Like I’ve said to a few people over the last couple of weeks, I sometimes wish I was a Rockets fan. This team never quits, they have (in my opinion) the Coach of the Year, and they’re doing it all without one bonafide superstar. Hell forget superstar, they’re doing it without any All-Stars! It’s defying all logic.

Back to Andersen, over the last week he’s been getting his 10-20 minutes per game despite his shooting percentage looking fairly ordinary. He had 6 points and 4 boards against the Hornets in a 108-100 win, playing 12 minutes. Against Dallas he had 4 points (on 2-8 shooting) and a rebound, and today he went 6-3 in a narrow loss to the Hornets.

In Minnesota Jawai continues to toil at the bottom of the T-Wolves bench. Against the Spurs last week he was given 7 minutes in garbage time, registering 2 points, 2 rebounds and a steal. In a much closer game against Utah he didn’t get off the bench (only the second DNP in his last 8 games), but followed it up with a 4 point, 6 rebound effort against Orlando in 14 minutes on New Years Day. Today against the Pacers Jawai played 4 minutes without scoring, grabbing 2 rebounds and dishing out 2 assists. It continues to be an uphill battle for Nathan, who is only sparingly used in blowouts or as a big body to soak up fouls against quality centers. In fairness, Ryan Hollins (the guy in front of Jawai in the center-rotations) has been performing decently enough to warrant his 15-20 minutes per game. I’m a big fan of Hollins and think he has some potential, no doubt the Wolves coaching staff do too, so they’re in the challenging position of trying to groom two young centers with not a lot of minutes to go round. Not easy when you’ve already got Al Jefferson and Kevin Love as two players of the future. Thankfully, Brian Cardinal has been demoted to the very end of the bench where he truly belongs. Having him hit the hardwood before Jawai was actually offending me on a personal level.

Since the D-League is now front-and-center for Aussie basketball fans, it’s only fair to check up on Luke Nevill – starting center for the Utah Flash. Luke has come off some really solid games in the past week: 11-8 against Idaho, 14-5 with 4 blocks two days later against Idaho (again), and a season-high 20 points with 6 rebounds and 4 assists on New Years Eve against Albuquerque. Today he had 14 and 4 in a narrow loss to the Thunderbirds (gotta love D-League team names).

TWO: Hear the one about the two Wizards players who drew guns on each other in the locker room?  Basically the story goes that Gilbert Arenas and Jarvis Crittenton were arguing over a card game on the team’s overnight flight back to Washington on December 19th. The argument got pretty heated, and then over a day later resumed in the team’s locker room, only this time with guns. Here is the ESPN report and article from Marc Stein.

“This is unprecedented in the history of sports,” Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA players’ association, told the New York Post. “I’ve never heard of players pulling guns on each other in a locker room.” Me neither, Billy. And I certainly didn’t expect it to involve Gilbert Arenas of all players, one of the (seemingly) most fun-loving and easy-going characters in the league. But then again, Devin Harris tells us that 75% of NBA players own weapons, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised? Either way, it’s a bad blow to the NBA’s image and you can bet David Stern would be fuming. I’m not 100% aware of the security checks that are in place for NBA players, but how do you even get a gun into the locker room? During my US travels in 2009 when I had media passes, I had to go through metal detectors in most stadiums before getting access to the locker rooms. Shouldn’t players be subject to the same measures? In the interest of self-protection, maybe not, I can understand that. But it doesn’t look good for the NBA knowing that team locker rooms are filled with guns (Arenas reportedly had three).

Gilbert is still denying pulling a gun on anyone, and investigations are still being performed. But as per the ESPN report, “If either Arenas or Crittenton is found to have brandished a gun against his teammate, long-term suspensions and heavy fines from NBA commissioner David Stern are widely considered inevitable, given Stern’s well-chronicled determination to snuff out any hint of violence in the league.”

THREE: Some random thoughts on teams I’ve been watching over the past week.

I’ve seen a lot of Sacramento lately (both Lakers games and the Cleveland game), and man, there are so many things I like about them. Tyreke Evans is fantastic and has completely overtaken Jennings in the ROY stakes. The thing I love most about Tyreke is how much he embraces the spotlight. In the both the Cavs and Lakers games he demanded the ball in crunch time and – to varying degrees – delivered. He still gets a bit hot-headed in those moments and probably over-thinks things (he didn’t even get a shot off against the Lakers in regulation in the last possession), but hey, he’s a rookie! I’m also riding the Casspi bandwagon pretty heavily – this kid is super versatile for his size, can run the floor and finish, and has a much better three-ball than I thought he was capable of. The thing I love most about him is his tenacity – he’s aggressive and doesn’t shy away from the pressure situations (his late three against the Lakers yesterday was cold-blooded). Basically, he’s the type of player that I absolutely would love to have on my team, and he’ll be a real player of the future for the Kings. Then there’s Spencer Hawes, who’s three-point shooting yesterday nearly single-handedly derailed the champs. This guy has range. He’s like Ilgauskas with a pulse. I shudder to think how good the Kings could be if they can keep a core of Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin, Spencer Hawes and Omri Casspi. Not to mention Jason Thompson and Donte Green (just love this kid). Seriously, they are my favourite team in the league to watch right now, and their future is stunningly bright.

A couple of days ago in a completely impulsive move I loaded $50 on the Cavs to with the championship at $5.50. In two days those odds are already at $5.00. You watch them shrink. Do I honestly believe the Cavs will win the championship? I’m not sure, but I sure as hell know its a lot more likely than it seemed a few weeks back. The Lakers and Celtics have been completely unconvincing the past week or so. With the Celtics its a mix of injury and chemistry problems. With the Lakers its a mix of injury and complacency. With the Cavs I’m not seeing any of those signs – they’re healthy, they have the best chemistry in the league, and they have absolutely nothing to be complacent about. Plus I have a sneaking suspicion they are going to make a trade soon to catapult them into firm title favourites. I have no idea who or how – possibly involving Ilgauskas’ corpse – but I just get the feeling the Cavs are only half a player away from seriously threatening the Celtics/Lakers, and they’re not about to let Lebron walk at the end of the season when they’re this close.  Hence the $50.

Maybe they really miss Ron Artest that much? Over their last six games the Lakers opponents are averaging 110 points per game – in other words they have been one of the worst defensive teams in the league. They squeezed pass Oklahoma, got thumped by the Cavs on Christmas day, escaped in Sacramento, got thumped in Phoenix, beat the Warriors unconvincingly, and stole yesterday’s game against Sac (again). Not one convincing performance in the whole bunch. The only shining light has been Kobe who during this stretch has averaged a ridiculous 38.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6 assists – and while jacking up all these shots has managed to shoot a respectable 48.2% from the field. The Lakers could very easily gone 0-6 without Kobe’s scoring binges and last-second heroics. The question is, should that bother Lakers fans? Not really. Because what you’re reliant on isn’t a temporary resource or stroke of luck. It’s Kobe Freaking Bryant and he will do that for 82 games (and more) if he needs to, no matter how many fingers, elbows or knees he injures in the process. It’s remarkable to think that in his 14th season Kobe might be in career-best form – to put that in perspective for you, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird only played 13 seasons for their Bulls and Celtics respectively. I can’t think of many players in the modern era who have been playing at an MVP-calibre level after 14 seasons – Kareem and Karl Malone certainly, Olajuwon to a less degree, but that’s about it.

You may have noticed I don’t talk about my Pistons much any more. Well, maybe losing nine-straight games has something to do with that. Like I said on Twitter a few days back, it’s plain depressing being a Pistons fan right now. I honestly don’t remember feeling like this…ever. Well, certainly not in the last ten years. You can officially forget my pre-season prediction and I’m aware how stupid that must look right now. But I’m still pulling the injury card here – the core of this team was completely gutted, and with such a young mix of new teammates, it was always going to take a while for everything to gel. I am thankful for coach Kuester’s optimism, who even after the recent loss is still taking positives out of games and seems to be really level-headed about the whole thing (I can’t help but feel Michael Curry would be a complete mess by now).

What this recent string of losses also does it put an interesting spin on the Pistons outlook this season. At 11-21 you wouldn’t rule out the playoffs (only three games out) but it’s looking increasingly unlikely. There was a lot of trade talk earlier in the season revolving around Rip and Tayshaun, with the intent that it would bolster the Pistons for their post-season assault. A core of Stuckey-Gordon-Charlie V-Rip/Prince isn’t that far off being a Top 6 team out East. But now I’m starting to see things in an entirely different light. 2009-2010 isn’t the year the Pistons re-establish themselves as an East contender; it might be the first year since 2001 they miss out on the post-season all together. The word “rebuild” comes to mind. So maybe a Rip/Tayshaun trade would be enticing, for the purpose of injecting youth rather than playoff-contending pieces? I see a changing of mindset speaking to Pistons fans and hearing our coaching staff talk. We’re not so much focused on the “now” as we are the “future”, and this is somewhat refreshing. But I look around the league at teams that are truly built for the future – Oklahoma, Sacramento, Minnesota, Memphis – and I see far more sustainable talent than I do on the Pistons roster. Changes need to be made, but maybe another step backward is in order before the forward one.

FOUR: I finished reading Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball a few days ago. I love the concept of Bill Simmons. A sports fan who has spent so much time watching, absorbing and learning about the players and the game that he’s practically a walking encyclopaedia. I often am stuck in heated basketball arguments with friends where we clearly can’t see eye-to-eye, more often than not because one (or both) of us is missing crucial evidence to back up our case. I would love to convince you that Kobe Bryant would school Jerry West on the court but I really haven’t watched enough Jerry West games, so I’d struggle to do it – that kind of thing. I wish in those heated moments that I could make Bill Simmons magically appear out of nowhere and ask him: “Ok Bill, settle this right now”, and he would, injecting enough fact combined with personal recollection that would make his answer seem, on the whole, irrefutable. At least, that’s the good Bill Simmons, when his bias doesn’t cloud his mind.

Simmons has always carefully walked the line between professional sports writer and your everyday Joe sports fan; it’s what makes his material so endearing and polarising at the same time. He is, after all, a devout Celtics fan so it’s not surprising to see him take pot shots at Kareem, Kobe and Isiah while embellishing guys like Kevin McHale to the point where it seems like Chinese water torture. You have to expect this when you pick up Simmons’ book, and if you do, you won’t be surprised or disappointed. Having said that, there are a couple of things I took exception to that I felt like fleshing out in detail here. And really, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

1) Jason Kidd should be ranked higher than Steve Nash. In the section of Simmons’ book where he ranks the greatest 96 players of all-time, he puts Nash (#38) ahead of Kidd (#42). I’ve argued the Kidd-Nash debate a lot over the past few months, ever since I called Kidd the “best point guard of the last 15 years” back in November. Here’s my argument. Firstly, no doubt the biggest gun in Nash’s historical holster is his back-to-back MVPs – but we know both of them were questionable and certainly not clear-cut wins. For the record I voted for Shaq in ‘05 and Kobe in ‘06 and was glad to see Simmons agreed. You will find countless fans, bloggers and media debating the merits of those Nash MVPs, especially when the following season (06-07) was, ironically, the best of the three. And while we’re talking about questionable MVPs, I still maintain Jason Kidd was robbed in ‘02 when Duncan took the prize. Kidd lead his team to the East finals and totally transformed the entire Nets franchise – it was a far more impressive turnaround than what Nash did when he came to Phoenix. Ultimately I can live with the Duncan decision more easily than the Nash ones, but for the purposes of my argument, I’m disregarding the MVP hardware. Nash should have won one MVP at most (if any), so should have Kidd. (Also, I’m disregarding the “Nash is a nice guy and Kidd was a wife-beating bastard” argument – has no influence on me when discussing their basketball prowess).

Secondly, answer me this: which of the following players would you take in their prime season?

Player A:
Pros: Averages over 18 points a game and over 11 assists per game (first in the league). Shoots a terrific 53% from the field, 45% from downtown, 90% from the line. Plays the up-tempo game better than anyone. Crunch-time performer. Floor general in the truest sense of the word. Runs the floor beautifully.

Cons: Couldn’t defend a pot plant. Averaged less than one steal per game. Is consistently beaten by opposition point guards who often have career-nights against him. Not one athletic bone in his body. Average rebounder at best

Player B:
Pros: Averages over 18 points a game and 9 assists per game (first in the league). Also pulls down 6.3 rebounds which leads all point guards by far. A walking triple-double. All-Defensive Team member and best defensive point guard in the league.  Top-5 in the league in steals. Runs the floor beautifully.

Cons: Shoots 41% from the field (mediocre) and 34% from three-point range (respectable). Wasn’t always a reliable option in crunch time owing to his average shooting.

I hope you don’t need me to tell you that Player B is Jason Kidd, and based on those points, Player B sounds like the better player. Jason Kidd, in his prime, was always amongst the best passing point guards in the league as well as the best defensive point guards. Steve Nash was always amongst the best passing point guards as well as the best shooting point guards. The difference is Kidd was an average shooter, while Nash was a well-below-average defender. It’s hard to deny that Kidd is the better all-round basketball player – I simply cannot concede that argument. Earlier in the decade Jason Kidd would often defend Kobe Bryant when he played for Phoenix and New Jersey. Sure, he wasn’t always effective, but can you honestly imagine Steve Nash trying to defend Kobe Bryant? You wouldn’t go there. It would amount to basketball suicide. Besides, Jason Kidd’s three-point shooting really wasn’t that bad (he’s been above 40% the last two seasons) – it was his mid-range arsenal that was lacking and his general offensive creativity (Nash kills him there). But you’d take 14-18 points on 41% shooting from a point guard that was the best defensive player at his position, right?

Nash gains extra points for the way he moulded the most exciting team in the league, and the fact that talent-wise, what he had with Phoenix (Amare, Marion, Barbosa, Joe Johnson, Q-Rich, Bell, Diaw) was far more capable than what Jason Kidd had with New Jersey (Kenyon Martin, Jefferson, Kerry Kittles, Van Horn, Lucious Harris, Todd McCullough). Which brings me to my third point. Doesn’t Jason Kidd deserve some cred for dragging this team to two-straight NBA Finals when Nash couldn’t get there once? Yes Nash’s Western Conference foes were far greater than the Eastern Conference teams Kidd faced earlier in the decade. But let’s get one thing straight: Kidd NEVER played on a New Jersey team that was even considered Top-5 in the league. Phoenix on the other hand had a three-year run under Nash when they had the #1, #4 and #2 best regular season records in the league. Yet in ‘05 they were demolished 4-1 in the WCFs, in ‘06 lost 4-2 in the WCFs, and in ‘07 didn’t even make the WCF’s (there was of course, some Tim Donaghy intervention along the way). The best chance the Suns had of advancing was the one time they didn’t play the Spurs, in ‘06, with the Mavs series equalled at 2-2 going back to Phoenix for Game 5. And what happened? Dirk took charge and dropped 50, Nash turning in the worst game of his playoffs (5-17 shooting, 1-6 from downtown).

Maybe you’re thinking that it’s easier for Kidd to get out of a weak East than it is for Nash to get out of a strong West? Yeah, except for the fact that Nash’s teams played other Western Conference teams far more regularly, and still put together two 60-win seasons. There wasn’t anyone that seriously doubted Nash’s teams were the real deal – they looked invincible most of the time, had offensive firepower of the likes we’ve rarely seen, and glossed over their defensive shortcomings by playing the other end near-perfect and becoming masters of tempo-dictation. Nash’s teams should have done better than bailing out of the WCFs in six, they should have reached at least one Finals – they underachieved. Kidd’s teams on the other hand had about as much success as they should have – reaching two Finals, getting badly beaten in one, and out-classed in another. And it was a far less talented team.

Lastly, there is the obvious fact that Kidd has simply been playing at a high level for longer than Steve Nash. Kidd earned MVP votes as early as 1994-95 (his rookie season) and right up till 2004. By the same measure, Nash earned votes between 2001 and 2008. Kidd is second on the all-time assists leaders (behind only Stockton) while Nash is 9th (soon to be 8th, and could finish as high as 6th). Longevity doesn’t always count when comparing players, but it’s hard to deny that Kidd put in six quality seasons before Steve Nash even became relevant in the NBA (2001).

In case I’m making it sound like Kidd is head-and-shoulders above Nash as far as their legacies go, he isn’t. I put Kidd only marginally ahead – if I was re-performing Simmons’ exercise I’d probably swap their positions around (38 & 42). It’s close, and it’s still being played out – Nash is proving he’s far from finished this season, and Kidd and Dallas are looming as serious contenders). But it has been something on my mind of late, hence the 1100 word outpouring on a Sunday afternoon. Kidd was a better all-round basketball player. Nash had the better team. Kidd got more out of his. Your thoughts? Am I way off on this?

2) Isiah Thomas should be ranked higher than #23. This one puzzles me. Simmons spends a lot of time throughout his book extolling the virtues of the archetypal point guard and concludes that Isiah is the perfect mould – and that he might be surpassed, one day, by Chris Paul (fair enough). Isiah pops up in so many random Simmons tangents about players with killer instinct and ruthless competitiveness, players who play through pain, players that would do anything to win. For a Celtics fan, I was impressed and a little surprised at the admiration he openly expressed for Isiah – especially considering the verbal pounding he’s given him as a failed GM over the years. I found myself agreeing with everything Simmons said about one of my favourite players of all time – and then he goes and ranks him at #23. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so shocked if it was for Kevin Garnett being ranked one position higher! Seriously. This is a guy who couldn’t get out of the first round for seven years, and then after eventually making the Western Conference Finals, failed to get to the playoffs at all the subsequent season. He choked his way through so many big games I can’t remember them all. His ability to hide in crunch time was second to none – even Vince Carter stood up more in the clutch. I know it might be hard to remember thanks to his Boston renaissance, but cast your mind back to May any time between 2002 and 2007; KG was the laughing stock of the league, at least within the group of friends and fans that I knew.

So then, does one season (albeit an incredible title-winning season) with the Celtics in 2007-2008 really warrant putting KG this high? Not in my book, and certainly not higher than Isiah, a born leader who had more big games and clutch moments than KG would in one hundred lives. Let’s not forget that even in KG’s title-winning season it was Ray Allen and Paul Pierce that hit ALL the big shots. What a luxury, eh? It really was the perfect situation for Kevin – play intense defense, patrol the paint, grab rebounds, score when needed, then let Paul and Ray take over in crunch time. Even guys like Eddie House, Leon Powe and Glen Davis had more clutch moments than KG. I know I keep harping on this “clutch” angle, but it was so devastatingly absent from KG’s career resume that I cannot ignore it. He was (and is) practically Karl Malone 2.0 when it comes to big games and big moments.

Isiah was the complete opposite. An assassin. I’ve said it before, but his Game 6 effort on a sprained ankle in 1988 could have gone down as the the greatest Finals performance ever if the Pistons hang on to win. His 25 points in a quarter is still an NBA Finals record. In Simmons’ book there is a section where he recalls the story of Isiah watching that game years later, on television as part of an ESPN feature – it was, for me, the most emotionally stirring part of the book. When I watch that game I find myself wincing, like my own ankle is broken. You can’t watch that game and not feel an immediate respect for Isiah and his desire to win. It didn’t have the mystique of Jordan’s Flu Game, where we knew the man was suffering but hiding his pain as much as possible. In Isiah’s game you can’t escape the pain – his ankle is sprained and he’s running round like a horse shot in the leg. It’s uncomfortable to watch.

Anyway, Isiah was The Man on a Pistons team that won back-to-back Finals in the most competitive era of the 80’s (Jordan Bulls ramping up, Lakers and Celtics still title-contenders) and could have been three straight. He had a great, deep team, and Joe Dumars even stole one Finals MVP from him. But Isiah was the heart and soul, and they only went as far as he carried them.  Can you honestly say the same about Kevin Garnett after the 2008 title? Was he not bailed out by Paul Pierce in Game 7 against Cleveland and again in the Finals? Isiah Thomas was never bailed out by anyone. He did the bailing.

Simmons spends a lot of time talking up Isiah’s unpopularity amongst his peers, his omission from the Dream Team (due to that reason), and his incompetence in later stages in life (as a GM and coach). I couldn’t care less about those things (Simmons typically does) – Isiah was a champion on the basketball court, and that’s all that matters.

For the record, I would put Isiah higher than KG, Cousy, Lebron (having him at #20 is a bit of a joke, as Simmons concedes), Charles Barkley and Karl Malone. To me he is around the #15 mark, in the group of Baylor, Havlicek and Shaq. Sure I’m a Pistons fan, and I’m trying to be as unbiased here as possible. Can you really put Isiah as low as #23 though? Really?

FIVE: I’ve been reading a lot recently about these All-Decade teams, and I thought it only fair I have a crack myself. You know, for the record.

All-Decade First Team
C – Shaq. Can be no question. Four titles, three Finals MVP, one MVP (should have been two)
PF – Duncan. Again, no argument. Three titles, two Finals MVPs, two MVPs.
SF – Pierce. This is the most interesting selection and the toughest. I can’t choose Lebron because his body of work just isn’t large enough: 3 elite seasons, 2 great seasons and 1 MVP for Lebron vs 8 great seasons, a championship and Finals MVP for Pierce. The fact this is even close is a testament to Lebron. But you know who this position should really belong to? Tracy McGrady. In 2005 you ask yourself who the best SF of the decade is – it’s not even close, T-Mac by a mile. Only the last five years killed him, thanks to injuries and a Rockets team that was curiously just as effective without him than with him.
SG – Kobe. Again, by default. Four titles, one MVP, one Finals MVP. Leading scorer of the decade.
PG – Jason Kidd. The second toughest selection. Kidd owns the first half of the decade, Nash the second. But for the reasons I outlined in FOUR above, Kidd gets the edge.

All-Decade Second Team
C – Ben Wallace. Maybe a bit of Detroit bias here, but here me out. Was a four-time Defensive Player of the Year and the starting center in a team that made six straight Eastern Conference Finals (including one championship). Between 2001 and 2007 was the best defensive big man in the league. The only center I’ve seen effectively defending Shaq one-on-one when Shaq was near (note, not “in”) his prime. From 2007-2009 was not much of a factor, however I’d argue that gap is less significant than the 2000-2002 gap when Yao didn’t exist, or the 2000-2004 game when Dwight didn’t exist. Sure, a hopeless offensive player, but we always knew the 2000’s were starved of quality centers – it’s not like we have a lot of choice.
PF – Kevin Garnett. Edges Dirk but only slightly. Dirk will still be elite for another 1-3 seasons.
SF – Lebron James. Although will be more remembered for being best player of the next decade.
SG – Allen Iverson. Edges Ray Allen slightly, who edges Wade slightly. AI was larger than life between 2000 (MVP) and 2003, resurfaced for an epic 2005-2006 season (at least statistically, 33 points and 7 assist per game), kept contributing in Denver as the #2 behind Melo, then went into serious decline mode. Ray would get the nod if he had more success with his own teams in Milwaukee and Seattle.
PG – Steve Nash.

All-Decade Third Team
C – Yao Ming. Was averaging 17-9 from 2003-2004 onwards. The lack of quality big men in the league meant Yao very quickly became a Top-3 center.
PF – Dirk Nowitzki. Hugely consistent performer across the decade. Lost a Finals he shouldn’t have, won an MVP, and is still practically unguardable.
SF – Tracy McGrady. As mentioned above, the best small forward over the first half of the decade (I just noticed this post at The Baseline which is startlingly relevant)
SG – Ray Allen. Similar to Dirk, hugely consistent 20+ppg performer across the decade. Never lead his own team very far, but that’s more than made up for than being probably the second best three-point shooter of all time.
PG – Tony Parker. Shocked I didn’t pick Chauncey? Parker can’t be overlooked for the mere fact he won three titles, a Finals MVP, and was an integral part in the consensus team of the decade.

What I’ve found most interesting about the ‘Best of the Decade’ discussions recently, is how there’s isn’t a consensus Player of the Decade. Some pick Duncan, others Shaq, others Kobe, and each has a really good case. It’s not clear-cut, considering one of Duncan’s titles was actually in 1999 (and was the lock-out season). Considering Shaq went into serious decline post 2006. Considering Kobe was the second best player on his team for the first four years of the decade. For the record, I go with Duncan slightly over Kobe. But it does fascinate me that when we look back on 2000-2010, we cannot say “This guy was the player that owned the decade”. The nineties had no such problem, the eighties is Magic or Bird depending on how you feel (Magic for me). But the 2000s is an interesting one. Here’s why: the guy that should be remembered as the player of the decade (Duncan) got his ass handed to him several times by the other guys competing for that mantle. In 2001 Shaq and Kobe swept the Spurs, and in 2002 beat them 4-1. Tim got revenge in 2003 (not nearly as convincingly though), but in 2004 the Lakers got them again thanks to Fisher’s 0.4 second heroics. Add to that Kobe’s one-man demolition of the Spurs in the 2008 playoffs, and you find yourself wondering whether Duncan really was The Man? After all, what made MJ so great in the nineties was the fact he punished every other contending superstar. It’s why we put an asterisks next to Olajuwon’s name, because he snuck in for two titles when MJ wasn’t there.

I still go with Duncan as Player of the Decade, but it’s the kind of label that could change over time. Put it this way. If the Lakers win the 2009-2010 title, history will probably remember the 2000s as Kobe’s decade, even though technically he would have won 5 titles in 11 years. It doesn’t really matter, but it does prove how void of a single dominant figure the 2000s were.

SIX: If you’re still awake by this point, you really deserve some excuses to escape to another website. These might help. Enjoy.

- The Top 100 Best Dunks Ever (non-NBA dunks, bloody awesome)
- 10 Things we know about Kobe’s clutchness – Kevin Ding at The Register
- Steve Nash continues to defy age – Yahoo Sports
- (Im)Possible ways things can get crappier for the Celtics – Loscy
- Nate Robinson, Mike D’Antoni look forward, not back – North Jersey
- Devin the (traded) Dude? – Two Sides of the Hoop
- Bloguin MVP/ROY Voting for December – Talk Hoops
- Stephen Jackson playing All-Star Basketball in Charlotte – FanHouse
- Rasheed Wallace wants to read Tim Donaghy’s book – Slam Online

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