Thursday, December 27, 2007

Travis Outlaw, 6th Man

Around the time the win streak climbed into double digits, Travis Outlaw leapt from one category of my brain to another. I was already appreciating his growth on the court, ecstatic at the sight of this consistent contributor that had replaced the talented enigma we had come to know and love/hate. He is having his best season statistically so far, but his intangibles have been the hardest to believe. He has become a player that can have a bad shooting night, but start hitting down the stretch. I’ve become enamored with those frequent awkward skyscraper jumpers. They seemingly always go in when they have to, much to the befuddlement of the defense. We’ve seen him block shots, now we see him block shots that ensure victory. He gets clutch rebounds. When the other team gets physical (always a go-to strategy against the skinny guy), Outlaw couples an awkward enthusiasm with his awkward game. Somehow this equals beautiful basketball and Blazer victories.

In my raging homerism, I started postulating that maybe these emerging attributes qualify him for the Sixth Man of the Year Award. I welcome that this is against logic. Ginobili is probably considered a mortal lock at this point. Even if he manages to fall off for the rest of the season, players such as Jason Terry, last year’s winner Barbosa, or some other guys I’ve overlooked are of course ahead of Outlaw.

Because this award is given to the best player that does not start. Right?

Something is lacking. Each and every year we sit and listen to guys on TV emphatically debate what “MVP” means, and who deserves the award. Then we talk to our friends about what “MVP” means, and who deserves the award. Then we take our significant other out to eat and tell them what “MVP” means, and who deserves the award. And they don’t care, so you have the conversation with the server. And your server is totally up on it because you always take your significant other “out” to that wings place with a million jumbotron TVs that show sports all day, so all employees there have heard every debate on the topic a thousand times. The sports and TV orgy is really why you keep dragging this person to this place anyways, although you continue to hold strong to the tired “the wings are amazing” line. Admirable.

Anyways, there is always a debate on exactly what it means to be MVP. Common perspectives include “Best player on the best team,” “Single player most critical to team success,” or the old standby “Best player, period.” Despite this gooeyness, nobody complains that the award is given based on a myriad of differing perspectives. The definition of what this award means remains in flux, and keeps debate wide open. Sounds healthy.

Why not take a similar philosophical argument to the SixthMOY? Do we dare look beyond that uninteresting “best guy that doesn’t start” thing? Circling back to Travis Outlaw, I think he could fit the award more than many of the automatic selections. He is a bench player, in letter and spirit. Ginobili and Terry fit the letter, that is they don’t start. Of course, they get starter minutes, starter money, starter fame, and starter respect. Barbosa doesn’t get the money, but gets those other nice startery things to a respectable degree.

If you defined this award as a means to credit the guy that doesn’t get those nice starter things, and helps his team win in the most ways, you’d have a totally different list of top candidates. There’s a lot of reasonable alternative explanations out there, but this post is already too long and I am far too lazy to think of them.

Admittedly, this started as an attempt to justify why a Blazer deserves an award he otherwise has no chance of getting. But the question that comes out of this could be more valuable. Of course, the MVP is the biggest deal as far as regular season awards go. It follows then that it would dominate debates both on TV and at fine wings serving establishments throughout the universe. But this gets old, real old. We have blogs and twenty four hour TV to talk about these things. Lets not be afraid to open it up and talk crazy talk about what the seemingly self-defined Sixth Man of the Year Award really means. And we won’t stop there, just wait until you see guys screaming at each other over the Citizenship Award.


Anonymous said...

I can tell you what the definition of the MVP award is not, that would be - Kobe Bryant. A travesty in the game, and something that should serve as notice that maybe the selection process should be re-evaluated.....I digress. Good shout out to the spot, random ass servers just stopping by asking random trivia, like who did PHX give DAL for Nash? I would agree with you about 6th man, but Manu's pers are ridiculous, plus he plays for the Spurs and everyone knows the writers love to vote for Spurs to win awards....not that he doesnt deserve it, Terry has faded slightly from his torrid start. and I think Barbosa numbers are skewed from his spot starts this year, 26ppg in those 6 games, with a couple of 30pt games. Therefore if he can keep it up, Travis deserves mention.

-agent brrrrrrrrr!

Jack Brown said...

Kobe got two first place votes for MVP last season, so there are at least two people that disagree. But thats what its all about. Bringing the same philospophical debate to the other awards would at least make things more interesting.

Blog Archive