The 2017 NBA MVP race: who is in the lead?

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The 2017 MVP race is still intriguing with a couple of months left in the regular season. There is no clear-cut candidate that can be anointed by analysts and pundits at the moment. Russell Westbrook is performing at an MVP level all while breaking NBA records, James Harden is having a great statistical season and has the Houston Rockets third in the western conference standings.

Lebron James is always in the MVP conversation, his averages on the season are great, however, the Cavaliers have struggled at times throughout the season. Kawhi Leonard has been clutch all season and is the most valuable player on the San Antonio Spurs. Isaiah Thomas is performing at a high level and has been able to restore some balance in the eastern conference.

But first have a quick vote on who you think deserves the MVP honours, you will get a chance to vote at the end as we might persuade you to pick another player worthy of the award:

1) JAMES HARDEN (SG) – HOUSTON ROCKETS

Over the past two seasons, James Harden has been the effective ball handler for the Rockets, even though it is not his natural position, the team has handed the ball over to Harden and he has made the best of it. “The Beard” is averaging 28.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG with 11.3 APG proving that he can create for his teammates.

Harden’s amazing play this season has positioned the Rockets in third place in the western conference at 44-19, with his performances thrusting him into the frontrunner for MVP.

2) RUSSELL WESTBROOK (PG) – OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

The uber-athletic point guard is averaging 31 PPG, 10.0 APG and 10.6 RPG. His quest to average a triple-double on the season is still possible, which would make him the only player to do so since NBA legend Oscar Robertson, who achieved the feat in the 1961-62 season. Despite Westbrook’s heroic performances, the Thunder are sitting at a mediocre 35-28, 7th place in the western conference standings.

Westbrook does not have enough talent around him for the Thunder to be a contender, his energy and tenacity help on defense, but the Thunder as a whole are allowing 106.2 PPG by the opponent. Team record aside, if Westbrook is able to average a triple-double by the end of the season, it will be difficult to deny him the MVP.

3) LEBRON JAMES (SF) – CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Often referred to as the “best player on the planet”, the reigning NBA champion is having another great season statistically. Recording 25.9 PPG and 8.9 APG, coupled with eight rebounds a game, has Lebron in the conversation for MVP once again. His mid-season complaints that the Cavaliers need more help to defend their title have been dealt with by management, the additions of Andrew Bogut and Deron Williams will surely have ” The King of Akron” satisfied.

The Cavaliers have no clear threat in the east, the Celtics are the only team that can offer some resistance, but it is clear that Cleveland is preparing for a clash with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals. Even with his stellar play, it is difficult to see James surpassing Westbrook and Harden for MVP but it is a possibility none the less.

4) KAWHI LEONARD (SF) SAN ANTONIO SPURS

The elite two-way forward is having a stellar season for the San Antonio Spurs, Leonard has been a consistent scorer and comes through in clutch moments. His averages this season are 26.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG and is a lock down defender who offers great help defense as well.

Leonard has assumed the reigns as the Spur’s best player after the retirement of their Hall of fame worthy power forward Tim Duncan. Kawhi has helped the Spurs achieve the second best record in the west at 48-13 and now have a great chance of passing the Warriors for first place, after Kevin Durant’s injury that will keep him out indefinitely.

5) ISAIAH THOMAS (PG) – BOSTON CELTICS

In a league of giants, the 5 foot 9-inch scoring point guard has been on a tear this season. Thomas has averaged 29.5 PPG and 6.2 APG. The small statured point guard is not afraid of attacking the rim despite his size, his pick and roll excellence makes him very hard to cover because defenders must respect his shooting and passing ability.

His position in the MVP race has been earned and the Celtics are the second seed in the east sitting at 40-23 and could challenge the Cavaliers deep into the playoffs if the two teams meet.

HONORABLE MENTION:

KEVIN DURANT (SF) GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

The injury to Durant has certainly caused shockwaves in Golden State, their best player will miss the next four weeks and will be re-evaluated once again. Durant has been stellar this season, the offensive-minded forward also became a game-changer on defense.

Blocking shots and grabbing rebounds as he attempted to compensate for the Warriors lack of size in the post. Durant’s averages before the injury were 25.3 PPG and 8.2 RPG while shooting .537% from the field.

Let us know who you think should be MVP using  #360fans on Twitter or on Instagram or getting in touch via Facebook.

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STATESIDE: Colin Kaepernick in lose-lose situation as free agent

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Colin Kaepernick plans to stand for the national anthem next season.

Colin Kaepernick cannot win.

For some, the now former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was a trailblazer for social equality at a time when the United States was beginning to tear itself apart.

His refusal to stand for the national anthem last season sparked ferocious debate. It was started before United States President Donald Trump’s rise to power though was timely all the same. Police brutality in deprived black communities had reached the point of no return.

It sparked a similar stream of political stands from all over US sports – especially in the NFL and the NBA. Say what you want about Trump (pictured right) – believe me, it’s hard to avoid the man’s name in conversation here – but his Presidency has undoubtedly got literally everyone talking – and caring – about politics.

Though considering the revelation that the 29-year-old Kaepernick will refrain from kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner came at exactly the same time he was announced as a free-agent after six years with the 2-14 Niners, doubts surrounding his protests have been raised.

‘He’s a hypocrite’ snarled the New York Daily News who were convinced his decision to abort his public displays of anger to ensure getting the best contract possible. “So much for the cause he once called ‘bigger than football’, and so much for the anger he once had toward a flag that ‘oppresses black people and people of colour,’” wrote one of their columnists. Harsh.

This whole saga, coupled with the anger and fury over the political climate right now, totally overshadowed his day job – throwing footballs for touchdowns which he failed to do very often.

There were times when he found himself uncomfortably out of his depth when his politics hat was on. On wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a picture of despised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, he was ripped apart from a Miamibased columnist who severely took him to task on where exactly his allegiances lie.

Some members of the military were also upset for what they saw as disrespecting the flag. An unnamed NFL account executive told the Washington Post that his future may not be straightforward: “Everything is a factor, especially at that position. You take everything into consideration. That’s the face of your franchise, as they say.” Kaepernick has baggage.

The 49ers weren’t keen to extend his deal, which says everything about their view of him from a purely sporting point of view. Nevertheless, at the end of last season he was presented with the Len Eshmont award from 49ers top brass, the yearly gong which is given to the player who impresses with spirit and heart.

The Kaepernicks won’t be going hungry anytime soon, yet this is his last payday. He has to chase some money. The way he attacked the authorities from his lofty vantage point and inspired others to follow suit was admirable. Okay, so he won’t kneel anymore.

Yes, the timing can be construed as being a tad iffy. But will his beliefs change as a result? Absolutely not. This period of his life will stick with him forever. He’s certainly not backwards in coming forwards. Yet perhaps, for now, enough is enough. Point made.

People have been made aware. The fight isn’t over even if the kneeling is. He donated money – over $1 million – to organisations working in oppressed communities, but protests of this kind cannot last forever.

The fight goes on regardless, with or without him, yet it did cause a serious problem for commissioner Roger Goodell who was trying to talk down a reduction in TV viewing figures at the time.

By the end of the season, there wasn’t a fuss made about Kaepernick’s knee, though the image had been seared into America’s conscious. It took huge guts to take a stand and it takes even more courage to walk away knowing a firestorm is on the way.

Those looking to follow his lead in the future will undoubtedly be inspired and wary in equal measure.

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HIGHLIGHTS: Curry comes alive as Warriors end losing skid

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Stephen Curry moved into 10th place on the all-time three-point list as the Golden State Warriors rebounded from back-to-back defeats with a 112-105 NBA win over the struggling New York Knicks on Sunday.

The Warriors had dropped two straight games since losing Kevin Durant to injury and one factor was a lack of production from Curry.

But the reigning two-time NBA Most Valuable Player found his scoring touch on Sunday.

The 28-year-old point guard tallied 31 points, hitting five three-pointers at Madison Square Garden to move ahead of Chauncey Billups for 10th place overall.
"We haven't been playing our best. It was showing as we lost two in a row," said Curry. "Just the way we were playing wasn't great so we wanted to get back to who we are."






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