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Will LeBron James win fifth MVP award?

Will LeBron Jameswin fifth MVP award?

Not surprisingly, the Cavaliers’ LeBron James has moved into the lead pack of candidates for this season’s NBA MVP award.

James, a four-time MVP winner (twice with the Cavaliers, twice with the Heat), has made a profound difference since he returned from injury on Jan. 13. The Cavaliers (33-22) have won 14 of 17 games since; this season, they are 31-14 with James, 2-8 without him.

James, 30, was averaging 25.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 7.4 assists entering Thursday’s game.

The other three players receiving a lot of attention are worthy of the award, too, though they haven’t done as much as James to improve their teams.

Warriors point guard Steph Curry is averaging 23.6 points, 7.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds and, most important, his team is 42-9, the best record in the league.

James Harden, who has flourished since the Rockets acquired him from the Thunder in 2012, is averaging 27.4 points, 6.8 assists and 5.7 rebounds, proving he’s not just a shooter. And the Rockets are 36-17, tied with Portand for the third-best record in the Western Conference.

The Pelicans’ Anthony Davis is another name mentioned prominently, and he certainly has the numbers (24.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.7 blocks), but his team is 27-26 and he’ll miss Sunday’s All-Star Game with a shoulder sprain.

James, playing much better now with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love after the Cavaliers’ 5-7 start, could deliver a promised NBA title to Cleveland sooner than anyone expected.

And a fifth MVP award would tie him with Michael Jordan and Bill Russell, behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won the award six times.

– Tom Couzens


What to watch

NBA, Rising Stars Challenge, 6 p.m., TNT: Watch some of the league’s exciting, young players.

What to do

College baseball, Utah at Sacramento State, John Smith Field, 2 p.m.: It’s the opener for the defending WAC champions.

On this date

1995: Connecticut is voted No. 1 in The Associated Press men’s Top 25, becoming the first school ranked No. 1 in the men’s and women’s basketball polls at the same time.