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NEW YORK — Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard played the race card last week and, despite the fact there was no one else sitting at his table, he couldn’t resist dealing from the bottom of a deck obviously not near full.

“I, too, am tired of seeing racism thrown like a Molotov cocktail into discussions where racism doesn’t exist,” wrote the newspaper’s incendiary tool while concocting, lighting and throwing a Molotov cocktail at an NBA media opinion poll (127-strong) that awarded this season’s MVP to Steve Nash over runnerup Shaquille O’Neal by the scantest of margins.

“How much of this has to do with race?” Le Batard pathetically pondered.

“A lot?”

“A little?”

“Zero,” Heat president Pat Riley said, “before the little white guy beat the big black guy for MVP?”

A one-word brush-off was more of a response than the loaded question deserved. Baited over the years by some of the best in Los Angeles and New York, Riley is quick to recognize when sensationalism-grabbers are trying to set him up and knows it when he hears it.

Still, I’m surprised Le Batard didn’t make one more sorry attempt to ambush/recruit Riley before carrying on such a crock by his lonesome.

Sick agendas cry out for celebrity coconspirators.

“I don’t pretend to know these answers,” Le Batard meekly proclaimed. “There is no good way to do these measurements with science or math . . .”

“But don’t you have to ask these questions when confronted with something unprecedented?

“Or do we just continue laughing and making noise at our playoff cocktail party while ignoring the pinkish elephant standing in the middle of the room in a Nash jersey?

“No one who looks or plays like Steve Nash has ever been basketball’s MVP. Ever.

“In the history of the award, a tiny, one-dimensional point guard who plays no defense and averages fewer than 16 points a game never has won it. But Nash just stole Shaquille O’Neal’s trophy, even though O’Neal had much better numbers than Nash in just about every individual statistical measurement except assists, so it begs the question:

“Is this as black and white as the box scores that usually decide these things?”

Before denigrating the above drivel I want to confess how much loathing I have for people who indict someone (in this case, Nash’s supporters as well) in order to endorse someone else. If you’ve got a solid argument you ought to be able to sell it on its own merit not at someone else’s expense.

Of course Shaq is deserving of MVP; that’s why the vote was only 34 points apart. With him as the Heat’s centrifugal force, last season’s playoff team all but breezed to a 17-game improvement.

Yet Nash is equally deserving. The Suns were a squalid lottery squad when he (and Quentin Richardson) arrived last summer. With Nash as their shrewd caretaker they increased last season’s 29-win mark to a league-tops 62.

Branding Nash one-dimensional and comparing his stats to Shaq’s shows how precious little Le Batard understands the game.

Magic Johnson didn’t have to score a basket and he still would have won MVP, or at least finished second to Kareem.

Bill Russell didn’t have to outscore or outrebound Wilt for the Celtics to win 11 championships.

Some things show up in the stats sheet and the standings and some don’t.

Nash averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 assists.

That’s one-dimensional?

Who says nobody who looks like him ever won MVP?

Did Le Batard ever see or hear of Bob Cousy?

Boston averaged a league-high 105 points per game in the 1956-57 season, the year Couz won MVP by averaging 20.6 points and 7.5 assists. Hence, he accounted for 35.6 points, 33.7 percent of the Celtics’ total.

Nash accounted for 38 points, 34.4 percent of the Suns’ league-leading 110.4 points per game this season.

Stole the MVP?

That’s such an ignorant assertion I gotta believe Charles Barkley ghosted the column.

There isn’t an active player who wouldn’t pay to have Nash, Cousy or John Stockton (if race is an issue how come he never won a single MVP?) feed them.

“A vote for Nash is a vote for the little guy, the underdog, the point guard, the assist, unselfishness and Phoenix’s breathtaking style of play,” Le Batard gerbils.

“And, by coincidence or not, the white guy, too.”

This just in: Le Batard’s logic is so stupid Jeff Van Gundy fined him $100,000.

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