NBA NOTES : Charles Barkley Running a Slick Campaign for MVP


It took awhile to figure out what Charles Barkley was up to, but after listening to several MVP voters and television personalities in recent days, it has become apparent that Barkley has managed a slick campaign. The man should run for office.

Barkley has been almost overbearing in recent weeks, claiming that he has no chance to win the MVP award. Barkley proudly has noted that he has refused to beg for votes and that voters will be reluctant to support him because his image has been distorted, and on and on and on.

It seems that we have been subjected to a lot of material from Barkley on why he will not win the MVP award. As a result, TV types are campaigning for Barkley, and a growing number of voters are supporting Barkley, perhaps to show him how sophisticated they are. The best way to prove Barkley wrong is to judge him the best.

Doug Collins, the TNT commentator and former Bulls coach, said during the Lakers-Sonics broadcast Tuesday that if voters are really going to vote for an MVP based on how a player has lifted his team, then there are three candidates--Barkley, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.


Magic has won two of the last three MVP awards and Jordan won the other. They are obvious candidates. To include Barkley without including Karl Malone or David Robinson, however, is ridiculous.

Malone and Barkley have similar statistics. Malone is second in scoring (31.1); Barkley is sixth (25.1). Barkley is third in rebounding (11.5); Malone is fourth (11.1). Barkley is second in field-goal percentage (.603); Malone is fourth (.565). Barkley has slight leads in assists and steals; Malone has a slight lead in free-throw percentage. And the Jazz has won more games than the 76ers.

Yes, Malone benefits from the presence of guard John Stockton. But there also is little doubt that Barkley has benefited from the presence of Rick Mahorn and the improved play of Hersey Hawkins. Take away the Jazz’ and 76ers’ supporting casts, and the same thing is left--two great forwards on teams that would be struggling to make the playoffs.

The Spurs are obviously the most improved team in the league, and that is not because of Terry Cummings and Sean Elliott. A lineup of Cummings, Elliott, Rod Strickland, Willie Anderson and backup center Frank Brickowski also would struggle to make the playoffs.

Barkley certainly is deserving of the MVP award. So are Magic and Jordan. But so, too, are Malone and Robinson. And anyone who leaves the latter two out of an MVP argument either has not been paying attention or has been unable to pay attention because Barkley has been so relentless in conducting his non-campaign for the most prestigious individual award in the NBA.

Akeem, Ewing come up short: It is rather noticeable that Patrick Ewing and Akeem Olajuwon have not been included on the list of MVP candidates. An explanation is due.

Players, fans and even officials of NBA teams often ask voters the guidelines used to determine the MVP. The NBA does not issue guidelines, so it is up to the individual voters to decide which statistics or records are more important. History, however, indicates what the MVP award has become. Only twice in the 34-year history of the award has a player from a team that finished with a record worse than .500 won the award--Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks (33-39) in 1955-56 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Lakers (40-42) in 1975-76. So superstars on losing teams can forget it.

Only twice since 1976 has a player won when his team won fewer than 50 games. Each time it was Moses Malone, who was MVP with the Rockets when they were 47-35 in 1978-79 and when they were 46-36 in 1981-82.


Therefore, history tells us that the award goes to a superstar who plays for a team that wins 50 games. And neither Ewing nor Olajuwon will play on a 50-game winner; realistically, they are eliminated.

Players still can make the All-NBA first team while playing for a losing team--Barkley made first team two years ago while playing for the 36-46 76ers and Michael Jordan made it three years ago while playing for the 40-42 Bulls. This season, there could be the unusual result of Robinson placing ahead of Ewing, Olajuwon or both in the MVP race while being no better than the All-NBA third-team center. But that only means that the All-NBA team has become a reward for individual play, while the MVP award is for the most spectacular combination of individual and team play.

Shaw returning for playoffs?: Celtic General Manager Jan Volk said rumors of Brian Shaw’s return for the playoffs are greatly exaggerated. Volk said Il Messaggero, the Italian team that signed Shaw and Danny Ferry, begins the playoffs Sunday. The first round is a best-of-three and Messaggero has the home-court advantage. A three-game series would last eight days and then there could be at least another playoff round.

If the Celtics put Shaw on their playoff roster, they must make the decision by 3 p.m. Monday. That would mean they could have only 11 other players on their roster and, with Dennis Johnson suffering from a badly bruised calf that caused him to miss the last half of the Bulls-Celtics game Tuesday, the Celtics could face a manpower shortage.


The Celtics, however, are known for their grandstanding acts, so it would hardly be shocking to see Shaw on their playoff roster. It is unlikely, however, that Shaw would be available for a first-round series. And even if he is, he won’t be of much use.

Plenty of good seats available: The competition for playoff spots and positions is as heated as it has been in recent years, and Sunday, the last day of the regular season, has some exciting matchups--the Celtics at the 76ers, the Bulls at the Pistons, the Jazz at the Rockets, the Suns at the Spurs and the Lakers at the Trail Blazers.

And then, of course, there is the exciting Magic-Nets game at Meadowlands Arena. Rumor has it that the Nets are trying to devise a promotion that would reward the person, or perhaps family, who actually attends the game.

Henderson provides an earful: If the NBA draft camp in Orlando last week was any indication, Duke’s Phil Henderson probably will get his share of headlines in the NBA, and not necessarily from his play on the court. Henderson played on a team coached by Alabama’s Wimp Sanderson in the Orlando Classic and, after the first game, this was Henderson’s analysis of Sanderson’s system. “I’m used to running a motion offense and we’re running a set offense,” Henderson said. “It causes very stagnant movement because we run down and we go to our spot and it’s just not enough movement in our offense. I wish we ran a different offense. It would be better for the guys because the talent is so good. You can’t take this kind of talent and say, ‘OK, do this.’ It has to be more reactive, rather than doing it a certain way. Basketball is too instinctive.”


Yes, Henderson should be popular with his first NBA coach.