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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

No Flash in the Pan: Dwyane Wade Leads Miami to the Championship

Dwyane Wade (36 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocked shots) led the Miami Heat to a 95-92 game six win over the Dallas Mavericks, clinching the franchise's first NBA championship. Wade averaged 34.7 ppg in the series and was an easy choice for Finals MVP. Shaquille O'Neal had a quiet game (nine points, 12 rebounds) but is surely delighted to win a championship just two years after his contentious departure from the L.A. Lakers. Udonis Haslem (17 points and 10 rebounds) and Antoine Walker (14 points, 11 rebounds) came up big for the Heat, as did Alonzo Mourning, who had eight points, six rebounds and five blocked shots in 14 minutes of playing time. Dirk Nowitzki had 29 points, 15 rebounds and two blocked shots but most of his teammates had subpar games. Jason Terry (16 points) shot only 7-25 from the field, Josh Howard (14 points) grabbed 12 rebounds but shot just 5-16 and Jerry Stackhouse (12 points) shot 5-13.

Dallas led 26-12 with less than three minutes remaining in the first quarter. At that point, Nowitzki already had 11 points on 5-7 shooting and Wade had no points on 0-2 shooting. I mentioned in my post about game five that Dallas did a poor job closing out the third quarter and that problem happened again in the first quarter of game six: Wade scored seven points in the last two minutes and Miami slashed the lead to 30-23 by the end of the period. It takes a lot of energy and effort to build a lead over a 10 minute span and you cannot consistently squander such advantages and expect to win the game. Dallas gave away a sizeable portion of its game two lead but hung on to win. In retrospect, the series turned around in game three when Dallas blew a double digit lead late and lost; the Mavericks never figured out how to hold on to leads against the Heat. It is not so much that Dallas lost "momentum" after game three--the Mavericks played well for significant stretches in the subsequent games--but that the close of game three revealed a weakness that Dallas never corrected. The Mavericks had certain obvious advantages that they could exploit to get leads but, for whatever reason, Dallas could not maintain those leads. In the end, Miami must be given the credit for wearing down Dallas' will.

Dallas pushed the lead to 46-36 with 3:31 remaining in the second quarter but by halftime Miami led 49-48. Wade had 19 points on 6-10 shooting in the first half and Nowitzki had 17 points on 8-12 shooting. During most of the games in the series Dallas seemed fresher and livelier at the start of the third quarter and that happened again in game six: Dallas took a 53-52 lead less than two minutes into the quarter but after that Miami took charge and led by as much as nine before Dallas pulled to within 71-68 going into the fourth quarter. Walker had 10 points and eight rebounds in the third quarter.

Miami never led by more than five in the fourth quarter and Dallas pulled even at one point but in the end the Mavericks simply could neither make enough shots nor get enough stops. Wade had another strong fourth quarter with 11 points but he missed two free throws with 10 seconds remaining to give the Mavericks one last chance; Terry's three-pointer bounced harmlessly off of the rim, a fitting conclusion to a game in which Dallas shot 5-22 from beyond the arc.

There will be plenty of time to discuss the historical implications of this championship, both for the young (Wade) and the old (O'Neal, Mourning, Gary Payton), but for now it is sufficient to congratulate the Heat for winning their first NBA championship and the Mavericks for having the best season in franchise history.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:30 AM

18 comments

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18 Comments:

At Wednesday, June 21, 2006 8:22:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

Nowitzki is definitely no where near Bird. Wade is the best in the league right now....better than Bryant, James, whoever.

The Heat weathered the storm two times. Once they did that you knew it was there game. And the lead before the half took the crowd out of the game. It was great to the vets like Mourning and Walker come through.

A great season and playoffs.......my crack is gone til November.

 
At Wednesday, June 21, 2006 12:10:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

I'm glad we finally put to rest that absurd argument that Shaq should have stayed in LA to defer to Bryant. Wade is a brilliant player who is the equal of anyone in the league.

 
At Wednesday, June 21, 2006 12:25:00 PM, Anonymous Jarrett said...

I think the storyline for next year will be how much parity will exist in both conferences. The usual suspects will still be around, but with teams like Cleveland, the Clippers, Memphis, and the Bulls and Wizards, it will be a little more difficult to see right away who the front runners are for best in the league.

DF, what are your plans for the rest of the summer now that the Finals are over?

 
At Wednesday, June 21, 2006 1:13:00 PM, Blogger illest said...

And NBA can we see the champions celebrate in the locker room? When you see the trophy celebration on the court its garbage.

 
At Wednesday, June 21, 2006 2:52:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Illest, not only is Dirk not as good as Bird, he really does not play like Bird did. They will always be compared because they have the same skin and hair color, but Bird was a much better passer and a grittier player; he saw the same kind of coverages that Dirk faced in the Finals and did not have so much trouble getting open. I mentioned in my post about game five that Dirk made a Bird-like pass to Dampier but in no way did I mean to suggest that they are equals as players; I hesitated to even make that comment because I didn't want to feed into the Bird-Dirk comparison but if you look at just that one play it really was Bird-like. Dirk is more athletic in some ways--jumps higher and is probably faster baseline to baseline--but Bird was quicker in small spaces (getting steals, deflections).

I still think that there is a tendency to overreact to what we have most recently seen. Throughout the year I placed Wade below Kobe and LeBron, my reasoning being that even if their skills are comparable you would take the larger player. Wade's playoff performances--particularly the last four games of the Finals--put him on equal footing with Kobe and LeBron in my eyes. I don't see a reason to put him ahead of Kobe and LeBron--they can't take over fourth quarters of games and hit big shots, too? What Wade did was great, but we've seen Kobe do similar things in many playoff games as well. LeBron also had some pretty special playoff games.

Alternaviews, how does the outcome of the Finals prove that Shaq should not have left L.A.? Maybe if he would have been willing to defer to Kobe in '04--instead of fighting about it--the Lakers would have kept winning titles. Deferring to Wade worked out pretty well, so why wouldn't deferring to Kobe have worked? Shaq's unwillingness to do this in L.A. fractured the team; even he begrudgingly and indirectly is admitting this by saying that he decided to do things differently in Miami. He says that he did so because Wade is "humble" and earned everything that he got, but it is not Kobe's fault that he was drafted straight out of high school and that everyone expected him to be a star immediately. To suggest that Kobe did not work hard to get where he is at flies in the face of the truth and is very ironic coming from Shaq considering his less than diligent work ethic at times.

Jarrett, it's too soon to say who the contenders will be next year. Will the top teams stand pat or will there be a lot of roster moves? How healthy will Amare Stoudemire be? I don't like Memphis or the Bulls as serious title contenders unless they upgrade their rosters. Memphis got swept by Dallas; the Bulls gave Miami a little bit of trouble but did not have enough talent to win the series. As for my plans, as you will see in the coming days and weeks, there are plenty of basketball stories to write about even in the offseason. Of course, with no games to cover or watch, there is also some time to catch up on other things that get neglected during the season.

 
At Wednesday, June 21, 2006 3:41:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

Shaq & Kobe didn't get along. Let us list some of the NBA people with whom Kobe has publicly feuded, outside of Shaq: Raja Bell, Reggie Miller, Karl Malone (incident involved comments to Kobe's wife), Phil Jackson (as stated in his book), Chris Childs (on-court fight), Samaki Walker (team bus fight), Charles Barkley (20 text messages angry about Sir Charles' TV commentary).

Let us list all of Kobe's known NBA Friends. There, that was easy.

The two didn't get along, and at least part of the problem was Kobe.

Shaq was older and better than Kobe when they started playing together. Yet Kobe immediately declared publicly that he wanted to be the #1 offensive option. He never wanted to defer to Shaq and only stayed on the Lakers earlier in his career because he wasn't yet established or a free agent. And now you say that Shaq should be deferring to him?

Kobe is all about Kobe -- and you don't have to know him personally to say this. I don't know the politicians, but I don't hesitate to put their actions and words together and get a sense of them as people -- you have to do this, in a media culture.

On court, Wade is a better player. He plays within the team concept. He takes over when the situation dictates it -- not when he wants to prove a point. You say that you interview these guys? Well ask Gary Payton who is the better player or teammate. Ask anyone who has played with both. Wade is a winner. Kobe is a weird man, who has severe antisocial tendencies -- likely reinforced by his decision to go pro before growing up.

No one within 50 miles of the NBA would back you in your absurd contention that Shaq should've taken fewer years to play with a player who has no talent advantage over Wade, and with whom Shaq doesnt get along. Even if Shaq was partly at fault for the problems with Kobe, it doesnt matter -- there's no point in continuing that relationship. Neither of them enjoyed playing together...

Let me repeat that: Shaq & Kobe didn't get along. And they didnt like playing together. Shaq & Wade are now champions, and they coexist well. End of story. Finished.

No one who knows anything about sports, pyschology, or basketball would consider your viewpoint here to be even reasonable, much less correct.

 
At Thursday, June 22, 2006 3:22:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

How many NBA players have you personally spoken with regarding Kobe Bryant? On what basis do you conclude that he has no friends in the league? Frankly, I consider this issue irrelevant in discussions of his on-court ability, but I am fairly certain that you have no factual basis whatsoever for what you are saying. Jackson explained that his book was a diary (look at the title and format) and that it reflected his feelings on the day he wrote the entries. He and Kobe had a pretty good season this year, didn't they? Mentioning whatever disagreements they had in the past without pointing out that they made up makes no sense. As I said to someone else who made a similar statement to me, Alex Hannum once derided the ABA by saying that its tricolor ball belonged on a seal's nose. He later won a championship coaching in the league. People's opinions and relationships do not stay the same forever.

Kobe sending 20 text messages to Barkley proves that Kobe is a bad guy who has no friends? That is a weak argument. The other situations you cite are old, in some cases undocumented (as I asked you before, were you on the team bus?) and totally irrelevant to a basketball discussion. It's interesting that you said to ask Gary Payton about Kobe, who you call "weird." Payton once got in a fight with a teammate that involved throwing dumbbells at each other and that injured a third, uninvolved teammate (March 26, 2000; you can google this and verify it if you don't remember or believe me). He also went on trial in Canada for assaulting someone outside of a strip club in 2003 (I cannot find a story indicating how that case was ultimately resolved). If I do decide to look for "character" references for Kobe, Payton is not going to be the first guy I question.

This is a basketball blog, not People magazine. I could care less how many friends players have, in the league or out of the league, and I certainly don't waste my interview time asking about such things. My interviews are about what goes on on the court.

Provide me the documented quote from early in Kobe's career when he stated that he wanted to be option number #1 over Shaq. I don't recall him ever saying that publicly in his first years with the team.

I think that you are confusing two different points that I made. My primary point is that the Lakers made the right choice by offering Shaq less than max years. If they offered him max years then they would have had to let Kobe go because Buss is not willing to pay max dollars for max years to both guys. There is no way that an old Shaq could win a title without a Bryant or Wade alongside him, so the Lakers would have been foolish to re-sign Shaq for max years and max dollars. I did not say categorically that Shaq should have stayed in L.A. What I said was that if his primary concern was winning more titles, it made more sense to stay where the championship infrastructure was in place--Jackson, Bryant and role players who were seasoned playoff vets. Maybe you and Shaq are psychics who knew that a perfect storm would occur (Larry Brown leaving Detroit, New Jersey going up 1-0 and imploding, Dallas going up 2-0 and imploding) and that Miami would win a title but in 2004, when Shaq was making the decision, L.A. was coming off a Finals appearance and looked more title ready than Miami. That said, I also conceded that it is easy for me to talk about turning down extra money when it is not my decision and that none of us knows what he would do if placed in that situation.

Shaq won a title by deferring to Wade this year. Why couldn't he have won titles by deferring to Kobe in previous seasons?

Again, my point of view looked primarily from the perspective of what the Lakers should have done, not what Shaq should have done. When the Lakers traded Shaq, the mainstream media spin was that Kobe broke up the team and that everything was his fault. My point at that time and since then is that Jerry Buss made a financial decision and, given the reality of his budget, he made the right choice.

 
At Thursday, June 22, 2006 1:50:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"Provide me the documented quote from early in Kobe's career when he stated that he wanted to be option number #1 over Shaq. I don't recall him ever saying that publicly in his first years with the team."

From 2001, "O'Neal and Bryant . . . each believing he should be the first option in the offense."

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/
basketball/nba/2001/playoffs/
news/2001/06/15/lakers_sixers/

This wasnt the very beginning of Kobe's career, but it was still a time when Shaq was dominant: 28.7 ppg, on 57.2% shooting, with 12.7 rpg, not to mention 3.7 assists and 2.8 blocks -- those latter statistics especially speak to the all-around player that Shaq was.

Kobe wanted to be the #1 option not for the sake of winning but for the sake of ego. He has pretty much admitted this.

Kobe has publicly admitted that championships are not his main goal, at this stage in his career. In the Stephen A Smith show ESPN interview this season, Kobe said that he wanted to prove that he could succeed without being in Shaq's shadow. That's why he opted out of his contract, and would've gone elsewhere if Shaq had stayed in LA.

Let me repeat that: the Lakers had to deal Shaq very quickly after the 03-04 season, in order to re-sign Kobe.

That's right: Kobe wouldn't have stayed, if Shaq had.

Why do you think LA traded Shaq so quickly -- for Lamar Odom?

Why do you think the Lakers didn't wait longer & get value in return?

MAYBE Kobe would've stayed with Shaq, if Shaq would have literally bowed at his feet. (Literally.) Otherwise, Kobe was leaving, if Shaq stayed. That was clear.

BUT let's pretend that (per your advise) Shaq would have had kissed Kobe's shoes publicly, and given Kobe his jersey #. Kobe then would have tried to place guys like Mihm & Smush ahead of Shaq on the pecking order, once it became Kobe's team. Kobe has admitted that Shaq's shadow was a factor that he needed to escape. Kobe couldnt have escaped Shaq's shadow, with Shaq on the team, unless Shaq would've carried Kobe's bags, and treated him as his master. It wasnt enough that during the title years, Shaq called Kobe the best player on earth. Kobe needed to get rid of Shaq. Just like how new kings generally behead old rulers. (Julius Caeser wasn't asked to stay on in a secondary role, was he?)

Compare assist figures: the last 2 years, D Wade has had 6.8 and 6.7 -- meanwhile, in 9 years in the pros, Kobe averages 4.5, and has NEVER (including the Shaq years) gone over 6.0. (In fact, 6.0 was a post-Shaq year.)

Kobe's modest assist #s are amazingly modest, considering his shot attempt #s. Last year, he AVERAGED 27.16 shots/game.

Bottom line:

SHAQ LOST NOTHING WITH WADE. Wade passes the ball more, and is every bit the scorer that Kobe is, when the situation demands it.

SHAQ WOULD'VE LOST A TON WITH KOBE. If Kobe's admitted goal is to prove that he can succeed on his own, then Shaq would've had to eat dirt to mollify him.

BUT HERE'S WHAT IT REALLY BOILS DOWN TO ... GRATITUDE.

Shaq helped make Kobe. Everyone talks about Kobe's 3 rings, but he'd have none without Shaq. Shaq helped Kobe more than vice versa. Shaq was the league & Finals MVP, all those years. Shaq has taken Penny & Wade to the Finals, too. Kobe has taken no one.

There are FAR MORE perimeter guys who could've won with Shaq than there are big men who could've gotten Kobe titles. Guys who are in the league now, like Ginobli, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Iverson, Gary Payton, Grant Hill, Nash, Cassell, Jason Kidd, TMac -- in their primes, each would've been capable of winning titles, playing alongside Shaq. (There are a number of others who could also be added to this list.)

Wade-the-great did it this year, with an over-the-hill Shaq.

Meanwhile, how many big men are there in the league who could've won with Kobe, at the stage in Kobe's career when the Lakers won -- or even now, when he's a ballhog? Duncan. And who else? For Kobe to have 3 rings, at this stage in his career, what other big men could've accomplished this for him?

Kobe was far more replaceable than Shaq, at the time when the Lakers were winning. And yet Kobe didnt want to defer or even show any goodwill. And now Kobe wants to prove himself without Shaq.

There is no way Shaq should have -- or even COULD HAVE -- stayed there. End of story. If Shaq had wanted to be even the 2nd or 3rd option, Kobe would've declined to re-sign with the Lakers. That is why LA dealt Shaq so quickly. Pat Riley was fortunate enough to know all of this -- because he had been interviewing for the Lakers' head coaching job -- so he was in a position to exploit the Lakers' desire to deal Shaq very quickly.

Shaq was dealt far below his market value, very quickly, because LA knew that Kobe was gone if Shaq stayed (deferring or not). Short of publicly licking Kobe's shoes, there was nothing Shaq could have done to alleviate Kobe's desire to escape the shadow. Coexistence in LA (on any level) was not an option for Shaq.

 
At Thursday, June 22, 2006 4:24:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

I read the article that you cited. Here is the relevant part: "Although they are not close friends, their differences have always been more professional than personal, each believing he should be the first option in the offense."

That is a direct quote from the author, who is stating his opinion. You said that Kobe stated publicly early in his career that he wanted to be the number one option and when I asked you to provide that quote you cite the opinion of a sportwriter from a game recap after Shaq and Kobe's second championship, a 15-1 title run that is still the best in league history.

You are seriously twisting Kobe's words regarding winning championships. I believe that what he and Jackson have both said is that the team is not a championship contender now. Kobe has certainly never said that it is not his primary goal to win a championship. He defines succeeding without Shaq precisely to be winning a championship. This is what he wrote in Dime Magazine: "A challenge was issued to me by everyone who said I would never succeed again, that I would never win another ring or enjoy another parade. I accepted their challenge. I accepted the doubt of everyone who spoke of my downfall and used their words as fuel. I have a franchise to resurrect, a city of fans to uplift. " Kobe's primary goal is win another title.

You have misrepresented everything that happened with the breakup of the Lakers. Shaq screamed at Buss in a preseason game (before the '04 season) to pay him his money, meaning a max deal for max years. Buss did not like having his star player publicly making demands of him. At the end of the season, Kupchak indicated that the Lakers would not give Shaq a max deal for max dollars. That is when Shaq asked out. The Lakers did not have a lot of leverage at this point and the Odom/Butler/Grant package was the best that they could get. Kobe opted out of his deal later to explore his options before re-signing with the Lakers. Shaq asked out before he knew what Kobe was going to do.

I never said that Shaq should have kissed Kobe's feet or given him his jersey. I said that it is my opinion that, in 2004, if Shaq was thinking primarily about winning titles and not making money then he should have stayed in L.A. where a championship level infrastructure was in place. I certainly can understand deciding to take the max guaranteed money and Shaq ended up having his cake and eating it too since he won a title this year. But if he would have stayed in shape in '03 and '04, he may have won five titles with Kobe, with more to come--and if he would have done that, the Lakers may very well have offered him the contract he wanted. He could have conceivably won his sixth title this year instead of his fourth. Read what Tex Winter has said about Shaq over the years; the downfall of the Lakers was Shaq getting out of shape. That intensified the problems between he and Kobe because Kobe is a hard worker.

Kobe led all of the Lakers' championship teams in assists and fed the post better than any of the perimeter players on the team. Again, read what Tex Winter, the inventor of the Triangle Offense, says about Kobe.

It may be true that by the summer of 2004 the Lakers could not salvage the O'Neal-Bryant relationship. But the reason that Shaq was not re-signed was financial. If Shaq had displayed a more diligent work ethic, then the Lakers may have won more titles and Buss may have been willing to offer more money. I never said that Shaq should have stayed, so I don't know why you keep harping on that. I said that if his primary goal was winning more championships to boost his place in history--which is what Shaq says--then he should have worked harder his last two years in L.A. I fully understand why he took more money to go to Miami, but, in essence, by not staying in shape in L.A. he traded a chance to be a part of the second greatest dynasty in NBA history (if the Lakers could have won with him and Kobe the previous three years, which I think they could have if he stayed in shape) to have an ego battle with Kobe. Of course, to people who only look at this situation superficially, Shaq smells like a rose now because he won a title without Kobe. I give Shaq credit for how he played this year, but it would have been nice to see him have such dedication 2-3 years ago.

You talk about gratitude. Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant played important roles in Shaq winning his first three titles; don't forget that before Jackson arrived Shaq's teams frequently got swept out of the playoffs. Now, Shaq keeps saying that Riley is the best coach that he ever had and that Wade is the greatest player of all time. He used to call Jackson his second father. You can say that he is showing gratitude to Riley and Wade but to me he is being a big phony. Shaq played a bigger role on the championship teams than Kobe, just like MJ did with Pip, but neither Shaq nor MJ would have won one title without having a strong number two guy. It is easy to say that a lot of other guys could have filled that role but you don't know that.

 
At Thursday, June 22, 2006 5:30:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

I don't have the Kobe quotes on being 1st option, but that was the story back then, in the media.

Where is the Tex Winter commentary -- is it a book or an article? Haven't seen it yet...but I'd be interested.

Shaq's words on Riley don't harm Phil; maybe Riley is the better coach, but Phil is more like a father -- a closer personal relationship. But on the court, I've never seen Shaq put his best interests over those of the team. By contrast, Bryant often does so -- engaging in ill-advised shots, late in games, and generally taking too many shots (impeding the developmnt of teammates). LA sportswriters were amazed at how he played within the team concept in Games 3&4 vs. Phx, this year -- it was such a novelty. Usually, Kobe does what he wants. On the court, Shaq is a team player -- and also avoids fights, even when he would be justified in starting them (Stackhouse this year).

Either way, people skills matter. Kobe went personal on Shaq -- with the weight loss comments that might've been true but also DIDN'T BELONG IN THE MEDIA. Maybe if Kobe were more of a human being, he would've realized that for all of his flaws, the big guy was a championship meal ticket -- and Kobe would've told him to lose weight away from the media, in a much more friendly manner.

The onus was on Kobe, as the younger guy & perimeter player, to take the high road, even when Shaq was out-of-shape or flawed otherwise. That's how you succeed in most businesses -- you take the high road, when someone else irreplaceable. Shaq is irreplaceable, despite his fitness and other flaws -- a dominant big man in the NBA is a vanishing commodity. If Kobe had taken the high road, he might have been able to make it work in LA. Instead, he's just another spoiled athlete, who has to go around changing his uniform #, and texting Sir Charles 20 times, to get attention -- meanwhile, a grown-up like D Wade, who actually had the wisdom to go to college for a few years, is the winner...

The winner is usually either the behemoth, who can say whatever he wants, because he overpowers you with his size (Shaq) or the smaller guy with guile & smarts who keeps his thoughts to himself until he's got his foot on your throat (D Wade).

MJ was smart enough to keep his trash talking on the court generally, and say the right things in the media -- he took the high road. He was a perimeter player, not a big man.

Shaq's people skills are great too -- but as a big man, he talks more.

The great ones know how to play the mind games & deal with people -- it's not just about technical bball ability.

Peace.

 
At Friday, June 23, 2006 3:11:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

It is one thing to say that the media said that Kobe wanted to be the number one guy and quite a different thing to assert that Kobe said this publicly. You stated the latter, so you should have some quotes from Kobe to back that up. Just because someone else said that this was the case doesn't make it true. You can't believe everything that you read in print; incorrect information is often presented, intentionally or by mistake. The whole way that the breakup of the Lakers has been presented in most media outlets is not correct. Shaq and Buss were feuding, publicly at times, about money during Shaq's entire final season in L.A.--but it is much juicier to report that Kobe drove off Shaq. The reality was more complicated.

Tex Winter's comments about Kobe Bryant can be found in last year's Lindy's Pro Basketball Preview and sprinkled throughout the book The Show by Roland Lazenby.

Kobe played team ball well enough to win three straight titles. That speaks for itself. This year he did what Jackson asked of him. Early in the year the team needed him to shoot a lot because other guys did not know how to function in the Triangle; later in the year, his teammates stepped up and he willingly stepped back. I asked Kobe and Jackson about this during the season and reported their quotes either in posts here or articles for other websites.

Kobe certainly forces shots at times, but this is true of almost every great player who ever played the game. They are confident in their abilities and shoulder a heavy offensive burden.

I agree that Kobe should not have gone public with his criticisms of Shaq's weight but we don't know what was said privately between them and how much frustration built up in Kobe that he was fully dedicated and Shaq was much less dedicated. In any case, the public sniping was hardly one-sided, but so many years after the fact and with the two of them on different teams I am not particularly interested in figuring out which one sniped publicly at the other first.

It is the way of the world that the younger guy, the junior partner so to speak, should defer to the veteran. But couldn't you also make the case that as a veteran that Shaq should have looked at Kobe's amazing talent and incredible dedication and cut him some slack?

I still don't understand what texting Barkley or changing uniform numbers (Jordan did that once, too) has to do with anything on the court. Barkley himself said that the text messages were private and that he shouldn't have mentioned that on the air; I would think that your advice to Kobe regarding Shaq's weight applies here to Barkley.

Yes, Wade is a champion this year and may win more titles--and Kobe is a three-time champion. Kobe was not Stacey King or John Salley just along for the ride; he played a critical, indispensable role on those teams.

 
At Friday, June 23, 2006 3:29:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

Here is a taste of what Winter told Lazenby, taken from The Show:

"“The other players on the team wanted to make sure [Kobe] earned everything he got, that the coach didn’t just give him something just because the fans wanted to see this young phenom play,” recalled Del Harris, Bryant’s first coach with the Lakers.

That was especially true of Shaquille O’Neal, the game’s dominant young center who felt immense pressure to win championships. Each season his dislike of Bryant had grown.

“What surprised me about Shaquille during our early days in Los Angeles was how frustrated he got,” said former Lakers GM Jerry West. “He was not fun to be around. The shortcomings of our team and his teammates made him angry because he knew he was going to be judged on how much we won.”

How angry?

Just months before Jackson arrived, O’Neal had slapped Bryant during a pickup game at the Laker practice facility.

“It would not be forgotten,” former Laker guard Derek Fisher said of the incident.

When Jackson and his coaching staff began work in Los Angeles, they were caught off guard by O’Neal’s level of animosity toward Bryant.

“There was a lot of hatred in his heart,” Tex Winter said of O’Neal. “he would speak his mind in our team meetings. He was saying really hateful things. Kobe just took it and kept going."


Here is another passage:

"As he was cleaning out his office, a jilted Jackson did his best to portray Bryant as the villain in the breakup of the team, and soon that perception became the reality, simply because so many people believed it. Jackson made sure of it, phoning reporters as he drove from Los Angeles to his summer home in Montana. He dialed up columnists and radio talk shows to offer his version of events. Sports columnists everywhere who had no idea why the Lakers had fallen apart simply began reporting as fact that Bryant had schemed to make it happen.

Despite the blame game Jackson was playing so deftly, he would later admit the truth. Despite all his success in Los Angeles, he had failed in his handling of Bryant. And that was one of several factors in the breakup of a very successful team.

“in the final analysis, it’s the coach’s responsibility to manage the team in the proper manner and not have those things happen,” Winter said.

It was simply a huge mistake to not keep Bryant in the loop, Winter said. “I think Phil realizes that now.”


And:

"Jackson and Bryant finally had that first serious meeting at Laker offices in July. According to Winter, Bryant wasted no time in making his feelings known about certain things Jackson had done to him. It was first step in the two trying to re-establish some sort of trust.

Jackson had endured a similar meeting several years earlier. In 1991, Jackson had served as an anonymous source for Sam Smith’s explosive expose, The Jordan Rules, a book that infuriated both Bulls GM Jerry Krause and Jordan for its unflattering portrait of them.

Seeing their anger, Jackson blamed the anonymous leak on his mentor and assistant coach, Johnny Bach, a sweet old guy and basketball lifer.

Eventually, Krause, Jackson and the Bulls fired Bach for “leaking” the Jordan Rules info, although they never explained that. He had a heart attack in the weeks after his devastating release. In 1998, Jackson’s treachery became known, and sometime later Bach and Jackson had a meeting. Bach wouldn’t reveal what he said to Jackson in the meeting that day, although the elderly coach said he made it clear what he thought of Jackson’s lowdown ways."


Winter has been an assistant coach and confidant to Jackson for years and is also very close to Bryant as well. He is a straight shooter who has no reason or need to sugarcoat his comments about either man.

 
At Saturday, June 24, 2006 11:27:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

Thanks for turning me on to Lazenby' THE SHOW. That book is hardly pro-Kobe and anti-Shaq, and THE SHOW confirms my take on things more than yours:

p336-37: Shaq consoles Kobe after Kobe's airball in playoffs vs. Jazz, in Kobe's rookie year

p338: in Kobe's 2nd year in the NBA, Kobe felt he was the best scoring option -- no quote, but you're the one who endorses this book...

p349: Lazenby prefaces the slap incident by stating how abnormally rough Kobe plays in practices...also says the slap ocured in a 2on2 game in which they were both tired

p350 none other than D Fish says that Kobe was disliked by EVERYONE on the team, due to selfishness, at least in the first few years

p351 D Fish says Shaq was not jealous of Kobe -- rather, Shaq wanted only TO WIN

p375-76 You;ve said all that matters is what happens on the court. Well, Scot Pollard disagrees -- he says that players, coaches, & refs all follow the media... (& that's why Phil Jackson's success is partly attributable to his handling of the media)...do you think you know NBA psychology more than Pollard?

p383 you blast Gary Payton (for off court stuff, even though you claim oncourt is all that matters)...but Lazenby cites GP's tutoring of Kobe on screen&roll defense, at an AllStar Game, WHEN GP was still on Seattle, as a pivotal turning point in Kobe's learning how to defend NBA Guards (how did Kobe repay GP when they were both Lakers...?)

You propose that Shaq could have deferred to Kobe -- actually Lazenby points out that Shaq DID defer in Game 6 of FInals vs. Pacers -- Shq set screens for Kobe (p393) .. also, Shaq deferred in '01 vs. Kings (p403)

At most Lazenby presents it as a complex situation with two sides; either way, Kobe's aloofness & oncourt selfishness, early on, are undisputed by teammates ...

The Lazenby quotes you offered were out-of-context & unrepresentative of the overall points, which do not favor Kobe

 
At Sunday, June 25, 2006 1:52:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I never said that The Show is pro-Kobe or anti-Shaq. I think that it provides a more reliable and balanced account of the history between the two players than most other sources.

1) I'm not sure what Shaq consoling Kobe about the airballs proves.

2) Again, there is a difference between someone else saying that Kobe thought that he should be the first scoring option and Kobe saying it. I'm not sure why that is so hard for you to understand. Think of it this way: If I say that you think you are the best basketball analyst in the world that does not mean that you think that of yourself. You said that Kobe said early in his career that he should be the first offensive option ahead of Shaq; if this is true, it should not be hard to find a documented quote of it (meaning a TV clip or a press conference transcript). This is very simple: one, you have not shown any proof that Kobe ever said early in his career that he should be the first offensive option ahead of Shaq; two, even if Kobe did say it, why is this important? If a young, upcoming player believes in his own talent, is that a big problem? Shaq and Kobe won three titles together, which few duos in NBA history have done. Shaq decided that he wanted to leave the Lakers after he won three titles playing alongside Kobe, not in the wake of some Kobe quote that is more than likely a figment of your imagination. This whole issue that you keep returning to is a red herring and diverts attention from the reality of why Shaq left the Lakers.

3) So Kobe plays rough and both were tired. Now you are defending Shaq for slapping Kobe when you previously dogged Kobe for his alleged acts of violence toward Samaki Walker and others. No double standard there. Like I've said all along--NBA basketball is a rough game and there are physical confrontations in practice and in games. Kobe is not "weird" because he has been involved in a few such scrapes (nor is Shaq or Jordan). You also completely ignore the fact that Shaq showed his hatred of Kobe right from the start of their relationship, before Kobe allegedly "wronged" him. Shouldn't a veteran like Shaq have eased the transition of a young player coming straight out of high school instead of being against him from the start?

4) Whatever Fisher thought of Kobe or thought that others thought of Kobe off the court does not interest me in the least. I am interested in what happens on the court--three championships. Also, just because Fisher says that Shaq was not jealous of Kobe that proves it to be true? Fisher can read minds? Do you know Shaq, Fisher and Kobe well enough to know if Fisher is tighter with Shaq or with Kobe? Since you are so interested in who everyone is friends with, wouldn't that be important to know? If Shaq and Fisher are best buddies, maybe he has a reason for taking Shaq's side. I don't doubt that Shaq wants to win, but that doesn't mean that Kobe wants to win any less. Also, actions speak louder than words. Kobe shows how much he wants to win by working out, staying in shape and practicing hard.

5) I must have missed the memo that Scot Pollard is now an authority on psychology, great players and championship teams and that one quote from him has some relevance regarding Shaq leaving the Lakers.

6) I mentioned the off-court stuff about Payton because you asked if I had questioned Payton about how many friends Kobe has or what kind of person he is. If I were to ask an NBA player about such things--which I wouldn't, because I am not interested--I would not ask Payton. I don't follow your point about how Kobe "paid back" Payton. Payton could never win a ring as the main guy and was the star player on the first #1 seed to lose to a #8 seed in the playoffs. His poor play in the '04 Finals--and Malone's injury--hurt the Lakers as much as anything versus the Pistons.

7) You cite two examples of Shaq deferring to Kobe. In both cases the Lakers won the series and ultimately the championship in those seasons. I'm glad that you have come around and seen the light that (1) Shaq deferring to Kobe is an excellent strategy at times and (2) if Shaq would have been willing to do so even more as his skills declined then perhaps he would be in L.A. working on his seventh title next year.

The Lazenby quotes that I presented are from the chapter excerpt in Lindy's Pro Basketball and I prefaced them by saying that I was giving you a taste of the book (my comments here may be lengthy, but I'm not going to type out the entire book longhand...). They are not "out of context"; they address realities that you are either unaware of or continue to ignore in your comments and were meant to balance your completely one-sided view of the Shaq-Kobe relationship. When you say "out of context," what you mean is that the quotes do not support a reality that you want to believe. Finding other quotes in the book that you believe to be more "pro-Shaq" does not "refute" the quotes that I cited. To refute something means to prove that it is not true. You have not proven that Shaq did not have animosity toward Kobe from the beginning or that Jackson turned the media against Kobe or that Jackson did a similar thing with the media during his tenure with the Bulls; you simply went through the book and found some quotes that you think uphold your cherished belief in the importance of having friends to winning titles. In fact, your belief in this is easily refuted: Shaq and Kobe won three titles together despite not being good friends.

I agree that Lazenby's book presents "a complex situation with two sides." That is what I have been trying to say to you about this all along. You are the one who continues to paint Shaq as a saint and Kobe as some kind of villain. Who has more friends, psychology, pride and all of the other stuff that you are so fond of bringing up are irrelevant to the discussion at hand. If Shaq would have stayed in shape then the Lakers would have been much more likely to win championships, in which case Buss may have opted to offer Shaq a max deal for max years.

I noticed that your rundown of the quotes that I cited and the quotes that you found completely ignores how Phil Jackson deliberately manipulated the media into believing that everything was Kobe's fault. Does reading about that not change your view of the situation in any way? The whole media onslaught against Kobe for allegedly breaking up the team was created by Jackson.

The good thing about our exchanges regarding this issue is that it gives other readers the opportunity to consider for themselves the idea that maybe the mainstream, sound bite version of reality consists of more heat than light.

 
At Sunday, June 25, 2006 3:12:00 AM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"The good thing about our exchanges regarding this issue is that it gives other readers the opportunity to consider for themselves the idea that maybe the mainstream, sound bite version of reality consists of more heat than light."

Agreed -- I assume you didnt intend a pun at the end about the "heat" (Miami)?!

 
At Sunday, June 25, 2006 3:46:00 AM, Blogger alternaviews said...

one separate point is that I think people stagnate if they stay in the same place/situation for too long... Next Town (Larry) Brown is an example of this taken to an extreme.

But it's true for others as well. Look at Jordan needing a sabbatical, to go play baseball.

The pressures in media towns like LA & NY are too great -- & maybe that's part of what fueled the rift b/t Shaq & Kobe.

No one was more about titles than MJ, and he wasnt even in NY or LA, and Scottie deferred blanketly -- and yet MJ still needed a sabbatical from the pressure.

So I have to question your assessment that "if Shaq would have been willing to do so [defer] even more as his skills declined then perhaps he would be in L.A. working on his seventh title next year."

Bill Russell did it in an era w/fewer teams & less media scrutiny. I think Shaq's going to Miami helped prevent him from becoming stale, burning out -- & because he was mentally fresher in Miami, he got in better shape there, as a result... Miami is probably a lot less of a pressure-cooker than LA, & it's closer to Shaq's Louisiana roots and his roots from his Orlando Magic playing days...

Again, these are factors that dont show up on stat sheets, but these players face intense pressures -- & maybe going back to the Southeast US helps Shaq handle the pressures ...

So I'm not convinced those latter titles would have been so easy to come by...especially as the Spurs became more balanced, and the Pistons became a power... The Lakers peaked w/their 2nd title -- their first didnt come easy (down 3-1 to Portland, and down in 4th quarter Game 7), and their third barely came at all (Kings 7-game w/highly questionable officiating)...

it's more of an art & less of a science than you suggest...

these guys arent machines -- we just expect them to be, because we watch them on our TVs, which are machines!

 
At Sunday, June 25, 2006 1:03:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

another point...

if Kobe were only about winning titles and if, as you correctly say, Buss wasnt going to re-sign Shaq & Kobe, then...

as a free agent, Kobe would have signed with the Clips, and perhaps he would be in L.A. working on his fifth title next year.

of course, this would have meant taking $100m over 6 yrs, instead of the Lakers' $136m over 7 yrs (due to league rules)...

and it would have meant having to share top billing to some extent w/Elton Brand (although Kobe still wouldve been the top cat)...

this would've been the path to more titles. (& pls dont invoke Donald Sterling -- ON THE COURT, the CLips had the far better team, when Kobe made his free agent decision.)

...and Kobe wouldnt have even had to buy a new house.

 
At Sunday, June 25, 2006 1:42:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Actually, I thought the heat pun was halfway decent, because that phrase--though perhaps a bit cliched--is not really a reach in the context that I used it.

Pat Riley has talked about how players will tune out coaches after a certain period of time. I suppose this can happen among players as well.

Jordan's situation was unique, though. His father had just been killed and playing baseball was something that the two of them had always talked about. Jordan only came back to basketball because of the MLB work stoppage; Jordan had moved up in the minors but would not cross a picket line and so did not see the point in contiuning to play in the minors when he didn't know how long the labor strife would last. If MLB had not had a work stoppage, Jordan very possibly would have continued playing baseball. Most people just remember Jordan hitting .202 in Birmingham but he actually also played in a tougher league after that--I believe in Arizona--and hit something like .280. With his work ethic--and the publicitiy that could have been had by calling him up--it is not impossible that he could have had a least a cup of coffee in the majors at some point. I always say that the best thing about the MLB labor problems is that they brought Jordan back to the NBA.

There is no question that Shaq had a different attitude when he got to Miami. Riley threatened to deactivate him if he didn't lose weight. Buss himself has said that if Shaq would have lost so much weight that he probably would have paid Shaq what he wanted. Only Shaq knows why he listened to Riley and didn't listen to Jackson, who also wanted him to lose weight.

I'm not suggesting that titles 4-6 would have been easy if Shaq had stayed in shape but it's a shame that he did not do so and at least have a chance at them. Shaq will never get those years back and will never have an opportunity to win that many championships in a row--nor will Kobe, and I think that Kobe understood that and that was the reason for his comments about Shaq's weight.

I don't think that Kobe and Brand would have led the Clippers to a title this year. If the Clippers had signed Kobe then they would have gotten rid of other players and/or not retained certain players. So you would have Kobe but maybe not have Cassell. The net effect of adding Kobe and subtracting others would definitely have been a plus for the Clippers but not enough to get them past the Mavs or Spurs--whichever team they ran into first would still have beaten them. It would have been enough to get them past the Suns, because Kobe almost led the Lakers past Phoenix and Brand almost led the Clippers past Phoenix. By the way, check the standings--your "far better" Clippers won exactly two more games than the Lakers this year. Add Kobe and the Clippers probably go from 47 wins to 57-60--but subtract Cassell and maybe one or two others and then you're back down to 53-55.

As for the possibility of winning a string of titles with the Clippers, the history of Sterling's ownership does not suggest that is very likely. Why should Kobe take less money to go to a team with questionable management instead of staying with Buss, whose teams are perennial contenders and have made Finals appearances in the 80s, 90s and 2000s?

 

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