The best answer to that is “tradition,” although “revenue” is actually the more accurate answer. With all of the teams having completed at least 50 games of their 82-game schedule, we can gleam a lot about this season so far, although some pronouncements made earlier in the season, such as “There is no way Miami is repeating!” might not be no-doubt-about-it, take-it-to-the-bank true. Photos NBA All Star “It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.” Those words were said to me by not one, but three NBA-ers during the first half of the season. Dwyane Wade, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown and Sam Cassell all made that point – in those words – and if indeed the NBA season is a marathon, then why are 82 regular-season games necessary before the most fun – the postseason – comes? As far as the individual stuff, here is a look at what the NBA’s awards should be, if they were handed out this weekend in Las Vegas. Most Valuable Player: Steve Nash My initial feeling when he won the MVP two years ago was that it was a borderline pick with Shaquille O’Neal still dominating the game. With Phoenix struggling horribly with Nash out with a shoulder injury, his worth is being underscored, and he could become the first player since Larry Bird in 1985-86 to win the award three times in a row. LeBron James might be the best overall player in the league, and Kobe Bryant is the best competitor/closer. But Nash is the MVP. Coach of the Year: Avery Johnson There are a lot of ways to look at this award, but the fact that the Mavs have such a great record and Johnson righted them after their poor start when they were ripe to implode makes him the choice. Another way to look at the award is who has made the most with the least — and that might be Jeff Van Gundy in Houston. The Rockets lost Yao Ming for 25 games and Tracy McGrady for eight games, and they are holding steady as the top-ranked defensive team in the league. Rookie of the Year: Brandon Roy The Portland Trail Blazers guard would have been an easy pick, but he missed 20 games due to injury. Still, he averages a rookie-high 14.6 points per game with no other rookie close to his production. Defensive Player of the Year: Kevin Garnett This is a wide-open category, and Garnett gets the nod because his defense often goes underrated. He is an athletic wonder, who rebounds, blocks shots and gets steals. The only problem is that Minnesota probably isn’t going anywhere this season, and that’s happened too much in Garnett’s career. Sixth Man of the Year: Leandro Barbosa Barbosa probably is the fastest player in the league, and his production – 16.8 points per game – is just too high to overlook as the best sixth man. Plus, as such a speedy guard, he is a bear to guard by anybody, especially other reserves. Most Improved Player: Josh Howard Sacramento’s Kevin Martin has made bigger leaps statistically than Dallas’ Josh Howard, but the Kings haven’t made any leaps at all. J-Ho got on the All-Star team, although that’s a borderline pick in the loaded Western Conference, but he and his 19.3 points and 7.3 rebounds have been huge to the Mavs. Out and aboutA lot of talk this week has been about John Amaechi becoming the first former NBA player to come out of the closet. However, I’ve realized that beyond that fact, not a lot of people know that much about Amaechi and his story. Excerpts from “Man in the Middle” by Amaechi on ESPN.com are enlightening, entertaining and well-written. He makes a lot of strong points in the book, including the antigay sentiment of players in the league. “Over time, I realized their antigay prejudice was more a convention of a particular brand of masculinity,” Amaechi writes. “Homophobia is a ballplayer posture, akin to donning a ‘game face,’ wearing flashy jewelry or driving the perfect black Escalade.” Amaechi, who was the first player raised in Great Britain to play in the NBA, also has written some funny excerpts about nearly coming out late in his career. “Every time I did something eccentric, like bringing my fabulously flaming friends to games, people would quip, ‘Oh, he’s just English. Leave him alone.”‘ The fact that Amaechi was coming out was first reported by Outsports.com, which was co-founded by former Press-Telegram sports editor Jim Buzinski. A shameAmaechi’s outing has spurred a national debate on gay rights, and that could be positive. However, Tim Hardaway’s antigay comments also got a lot of play this week. Those comments were full of hate and were a shame. In case you missed it, Hardaway said, “I hate gay people, so let it be known. I don’t like gay people, and I don’t like to be around gay people. I’m homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the United States.” Commissioner David Stern responded in a fast and smart way, banning Hardaway from All-Star weekend. Hardaway was scheduled to make several public appearances on behalf of the league. Mr. Style Roscoe Nance deserves credit for an illuminating story in USA Today on Cleveland Cavaliers shooter/fashion star Damon Jones. Jones says he owns 450 suits and 150 pairs of shoes and claims to not only be the best shooter in the world, but the best dresser in the NBA. As for the keys to being a well-dressed man, Jones says to avoid mismatching belts and shoes and wearing oversized clothes. He added, “The biggest fashion mistake is trying to reach my level. “That cannot and will not happen. No one will ever be able to put clothes on the way I do.” Joe Stevens can be reached at [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Miami sure doesn’t look like it will repeat, but if the Heat and a healthy Shaquille O’Neal make it to the playoffs as any seed, they will have a reasonable chance to get through the weak Eastern Conference. Hardly anything is ever a certainty in this league, and that was shown in last season’s playoffs. In hindsight, many will say they expected Dallas to win Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals in San Antonio. Many also will say they expected Detroit to fall to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals. But hardly anybody was talking about Miami as a title contender during last year’s regular season, and though that Dallas/San Antonio series was as wacky as can be, it’s hard to bet against a home team in a Game 7. Anyway, the biggest thing that we’ve seen this season is that, yes, Dallas is darn good. The Mavericks stand at 44-9, and this came after an 0-4 start. They are the obvious favorite to win the NBA title, but getting through the ridiculously tough Western Conference is no gimme. Plus, if Dirk Nowitzki goes down, the Mavs will be done.