The Beacon Journal contacted 35 likely MVP voters to take the race's temperature. There are roughly 125 voters, so this is a healthy sample, and it was spread around to all areas of the country to avoid any Eastern or Western Conference bias.
So how many think James is the MVP right now?
The answer, if you are a James fan, might surprise you. If you've followed the NBA for any period of time, though, it probably won't.
James got just four votes, and even some of those were tentative and came with caveats from the voters. It's the
same number of voters who believe New Orleans point guard Chris Paul, who just became an All-Star for the first time, is the MVP of the moment. That tied him for second with James in the poll, ahead of Bryant, who got three votes.
New Boston Celtics arrival Kevin Garnett is the leader right now, getting 63 percent of the vote. Garnett's game numbers (19.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists) can't match James' and, obviously, he's gotten way more support from his teammates than James has. It would seem that calling him most valuable would be counterintuitive.
Of course if MVP races were decided by only stats, that would be true. However, thankfully it sounds like a number of voters understand that Defense matters some too.