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Monday, March 19, 2007

Another 50 Point Game for Kobe, Another Win for the Lakers

Kobe Bryant scored 50 points in a 109-102 L.A. Lakers win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night. He has now scored 115 points in his last two games, the third highest two game total in the past 40 years, surpassed only by his own 118 points last year (37 and then his career high 81) and Michael Jordan's 118 in 1990. This is the first time that Bryant has scored at least 50 points in consecutive games. The last Laker to have consecutive games with 50 or more points is Elgin Baylor, who actually had three straight games of 50-plus points in December 1962. According to ESPN, Bryant is also the first player other than Wilt Chamberlain to follow a game of 60-plus points with a game of 50-plus points; Chamberlain did this 14 times. I think that Bryant should change his first name to FPOTWC--granted, the lack of vowels would make that acronym hard to pronounce but it would be a convenient shorthand since it seems that several times per year Bryant is the "First Player Other Than Wilt Chamberlain" to do something or other (Quick aside: we are able to see Bryant in living color and then catch replays of his exploits on various highlight shows and he is amazing--so how good was Wilt, who did everything that Bryant is doing, only more frequently?). Bryant's 16th 50 point game leaves him one short of tying Baylor for third most 50 point games in a career (Chamberlain had 118 and Michael Jordan had 31); the Lakers are 12-4 in those games.

Bryant could have threatened the 60 point mark versus Minnesota but apparently the officiating crew was watching his follow through so closely for any errant elbows that they neglected to notice several occasions when he was slapped on the head or face when he was shooting and one time when Kevin Garnett hit Bryant's shooting arm while he was launching a three pointer; the shot went in, Bryant hit the deck and nothing was called. Bryant stood up, waved his hand dismissively in the direction of the nearest official (a gesture he delivered more than once throughout the evening) and got back on defense. Bryant seemed particularly hyped up during the game, enthusiastically congratulating his teammates when they made good plays and bellowing loudly after he scored a basket to put the Lakers up 97-92 with 2:28 left. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw for his 45th point--obviously, this was a huge play considering the score and the amount of time remaining.

Speaking of Garnett, nominally the other superstar who played in this game, he finished with 26 points, 15 rebounds and six assists. That is a very impressive stat line but if you watched the game Garnett was largely invisible. He did nothing to slow down Lamar Odom and when the T-Wolves made their run it was mainly Ricky Davis (33 points, six rebounds, six assists) who provided the scoring. This game was a classic illustration of what Scottie Pippen meant when he said last year, "He's very productive but unproductive. He gets you all the stats you want, but at the end of the day his points don't have an impact on [winning] the game. He plays with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm, but in the last five minutes of the game he ain't the same player as in the first five." The simple fact is that Garnett, despite all of his versatility and his gaudy numbers, cannot carry a team because he is unable or unwilling to plant himself in the paint and score, draw double teams or get fouled. He is like a glorified Rasheed Wallace; Sheed cannot lead a team anywhere but he is a great complementary piece for a squad that has several other All-Stars who are willing to shoulder the load in crunch time. The one good year that Minnesota has had in the Garnett era is when Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell were there to make all the big plays down the stretch of ball games. When I spoke with five-time All-Star Brad Daugherty recently he told me that one of the big differences between today's NBA and the NBA when he played is that Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Julius Erving shouldered the responsibility to lead their teams. In contrast, Daugherty said, "Now you have guys who are tremendous athletes but they might not be very good leaders. I see all the time that they talk about guys and say, ‘We need to get someone else to play with this guy so that he has a chance to win.’ Well, that’s ridiculous. If a guy is a superstar then he needs to lead his team to the best of his ability and make his teammates better. That’s the way I look at it. I think that there is a vast void because of this." Daugherty did not specify who he was talking about but I cannot think of anyone who Daugherty's critique fits better than Kevin Garnett.

Back to Bryant's magical performance. Minnesota tried various defenders on him, went to a zone for a period of time but achieved their greatest success (relatively speaking) in the fourth quarter by having one defender drape his body all over Bryant while holding on to Bryant's jersey and then sending another defender over to help when Bryant broke free and caught the ball. This "bump and run" defense "held" Bryant to 12 points in the fourth quarter; of course, Bryant did sit out for a few minutes to rest, so he might have had a 20 point fourth quarter anyway if he had played all 12 minutes.

Bryant's two game outburst has propelled him past Carmelo Anthony and into first place in the race for the 2007 scoring title. More significantly for the Lakers, they have now won two in a row after previously dropping seven straight contests. The Lakers are rounding into form just in the nick of time, aided by the return to the lineup of Lamar Odom (16 points, nine rebounds, eight assists) and Luke Walton (10 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds). Smush Parker had the game of his life, scoring 19 points on 8-10 shooting, adding nine assists and seven rebounds. Anyone who does not think that Bryant makes his teammates better should consider if those players would be putting up quite the same numbers if they were not playing four on three while two defenders shadow Bryant. The Lakers have moved up to the sixth spot in the Western Conference but that is actually a bit of a mixed blessing. If the top of portion of the standings remains unchanged then the Lakers would play San Antonio in the first round; the Lakers would actually be better off finishing seventh and playing the Suns, who they almost beat in the first round last year.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:39 AM

25 comments

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25 Comments:

At Monday, March 19, 2007 3:29:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

As a Laker fan, I'm secretly hoping that they'll lose enough to slip to 7th. Not only would the Lakers have a better shot against the Suns, but a rematch of last year's heated series would be lots of fun to watch.

Bryant has been amazing the past two games. I've never seen a perimeter player do so much while constantly being guarded by multiple defenders.

It is truly stunning how Wilt Chamberlain's records just blow everyone else out of the water. Yet during his entire life, and even after his death, people have always tried to deny him his due ("he played in a weak era", "he was a crude Shaq", "he was a foot taller than all other centers at the time").

 
At Monday, March 19, 2007 4:04:00 AM, Anonymous danny said...

While I'm with you on Kobe, I think you're doing yourself a disservice by quoting Brad Daugherty to call out Garnett. As if he can talk.

As Britt Robson (City Pages) put it:

"But toting it up, I would trade the Wolves second-best player (Ricky Davis) for the second-best player on every single Western Conference team, the third best player on half of those teams (7 out of 14) the fourth best player on two teams, and the fifth best player on Phoenix. That's the short-term supporting cast of these Wolves."

I don't think you can argue with that, especially when he's now a post player who has barely played with a capable point guard in his life, and when he did (Cassell) he went to the WCF.

 
At Monday, March 19, 2007 5:37:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Minnesota manhandled Kobe, particularly in the second half, and he still got 50 and made the key plays down the stretch, particularly the three point play that pushed the lead back to six, 98-92. That was an angry Kobe on that drive, mad about all the fouls that had not been called and determined to put the ball in the hoop no matter what. If you watched the game on TV, you could see what he was bellowing. I chose not to transcribe it verbatim but he was letting loose a string of expletives. There was no way that Kobe was going to let the Lakers lose, even if Minnesota draped five guys on him.

Daugherty never said that he was referring to Garnett but the situation that he described exactly matches what is always said about KG--that he needs to "play with this guy so he has a chance to win," as Daugherty put it. Whether or not you agree with Daugherty's point in general or my application of it to KG's situation, I thought that Daugherty's perspective is interesting. He was, after all, a five-time All-Star, so I think that he knows something about what it takes to lead a team.

As for KG's point guards, KG played with Marbury. I'm not a big fan of Marbury's but I think he is above "capable." Then KG played with Terrell Brandon, who Sports Illustrated once termed the best point guard in the NBA; whether or not you agree with that, again, he was more than "capable." Then KG played with Chauncey Billups. More than "capable," no? Next came Troy Hudson, who is erratic but had his moments. Next came Cassell, who had to have an All-NBA season and hit nearly every key shot to get Minn a good playoff seed and finally get KG out of the first round. I know that KG won the MVP that year--Shaq and Duncan were banged up during the regular season. KG did have the best year of his career but, in my opinion, his "value" is not as great as some people seem to believe it to be.

Granted, KG has never played with a Nash or a Kidd, but he's had several point guards who were "capable," to say the least. I don't think that KG makes the players around him significantly better. He doesn't have to be double teamed because he is not a big back to the basket threat. He has much more jumping ability than Duncan but Duncan always blocks more shots and is a much better defender. KG's best skill is his ability to rebound. He has no go to move on offense and I think that he accumulates assists more by monopolizing the ball than anything else. He is not "creating," in my opinion. He does not break down the defense by posting up or driving and then pass to an open man. He handles the ball all the time and some of his passes lead to baskets, so he gets assists. Even below average point guards can get 4-5-6 apg by being the primary ballhandler.

KG is very physically gifted and is certainly an All-Star level player but I'd take Duncan or Dirk any day of the week over him.

Pippen summed the whole thing up: KG's numbers are always good, but the impact is not there and the presence at the end of the game is not there.

 
At Monday, March 19, 2007 3:31:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

kobe is great,

but winning home games against portland and minn ain't going to illustrate your value, even if you score 90 points per game

beat someone good, or on the road (in 2007) and then get back to me

until then Nash is still MVP frontrunner -- by the way, his stats vs. Detroit were 8-9 FG, and something like 7 assists. the whole team was tired from their ROAD victory against the TEAM WITH NBA'S BEST RECORD

also, how valuable is kobe if they lost by 30 to denver?

his value depends on Odom & Luke and others, just like Nash's depends on Amare, Marion, and others. but who has the better record and more efficient stats?

on the other hand, I must concede, that Kobe is an absolutely sick player -- and probably would've been MVP if team stayed healthy & maybe still shd be MVP now

but your argument -- that Nash isnt even worthy and Kobe is clearcut MVP -- is weak. that's my overall point in this thread...pls dont say I'm not giving Kobe any props

 
At Monday, March 19, 2007 3:58:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

The last I checked, all the games count the same in the standings. If you beat a great team and lose to a bad team, you are still 1-1. If it is so easy to do what Kobe did against Minn and Port, then how come his stats in those games have not been matched since the likes of Elgin and Wilt? Nobody else played consecutive games against "bad" teams in the past 40 years?

Kobe had 25 points and nine assists against Denver but his recently returned teammates (Odom, Walton) ran out of gas in the second half. How come Nash's teammates (who haven't been injured) being "tired" is worth mentioning but Kobe's teammates being fatigued is not? Odom is actually playing hurt, because his shoulder is still injured.

We both have Kobe and Nash in our top 3 for MVP this year, so we really don't have a big disagreement. I'm not saying that Nash is not worthy. I just think that some people are looking for some "magical" moment to say Nash has "clinched" it. My points in the recent posts are two-fold: if the MVP is supposed to go the "best" player, Kobe should get it. He is more well rounded (offense--meaning ability to score from anywhere in any way, plus the ability to pass and handle with either hand--defense, rebounding, etc.) than anyone else and is basically unguardable. If the MVP is supposed to go to the best player on the best team, it should go to Dirk (again, barring a collapse by Dallas). If Nash can "clinch" the MVP with his game against Dallas, particularly the last minute of regulation, why can't he "unclinch" it when they lose the next two? My standards have remained the same throughout and I have not been shuffling the candidates around on a game to game basis like other media members seem to be doing (I know that your view has stayed constant as well). Dirk made big plays down the stretch to beat Detroit, which just routed Nash and the Suns. Why didn't that "clinch" the MVP for him?

We all know who the three main candidates are and, as Coach D'Antoni said to me, it's not like the other two can say they have been robbed if the third guy wins it.

 
At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 12:15:00 AM, Anonymous danny said...

David, sometimes I think you push a barrow more strongly than the evidence suggests.

Marbury's postseason FG% is around 35, and in any case he forced the trade from Minnesota because he was homesick. He was hardly someone the team could be built around at that stage.

Billups was not the Billups of today, he was a combo guard who bounced around many teams.

It's true that KG/Brandon had potential, though it would have been nice if they had a coach.

Please don't put Hudson and capable in the same sentence. We both know he is capable of losing as many games as he wins depending on what side of bed he gets out of.

Bill Simmons believes that KG has only played with six quality players in his 12 seasons: Joe Smith, Marbury, Terrell Brandon, Cassell, Sprewell and Wally Szczerbiak. Not a Pippen-esque list is it? Wally and Joe Smith were the only ones who were around for more than two seasons, and Cassell, Spree and Marbury by my account only gave one good season and started sulking. And as Robson suggested, the current unit is just abysmal.

I don't really feel sorry for KG because he signed his own mammoth contract with a lame organisation. But I do think that we need to see more of KG in a situation with better talent (maybe Foye will get there) and a decent coach before he's deserving of the character assessments you're making in this article.

My feeling is that if you swapped him and Duncan neither team would be much different.

Thanks for the interesting articles as always.

 
At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 2:28:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

As I said, I am hardly a big Marbury supporter but I think that KG's advocates tend to exaggerate when they speak about his teammates over the years. You correctly point out that KG's huge contract became an albatross for the franchise and is part of the reason that he has not had a better supporting cast over the years. Marbury did not leave because he was homesick; he left because he could not stand the idea of KG being the main guy. He wanted to be the main guy and get the big dollars. Marbury ended up in Phx, not back east, and only arrived east after he failed out west.

I saw the Simmons article. I don't completely agree with his take, as I alluded to in the first paragraph. I do agree that the current (and recent) Minnesota squads are pretty weak. I also agree that he has not benefited from playing for a truly great coach; Flip Saunders is an OK coach but not a great one, in my opinion, and he is part of the reason that I said Detroit would not win the title last year in spite of their record and part of the reason why I don't think that they will win the title (or even the East) this year.

Rather than going through a case by case evaluation of the members of KG's supporting cast, though, I'd rather simply state why I don't rank him quite as highly as many others do. The first problem with KG is that he is a 7 footer who has no back to the basket game in the paint. When he posts up he almost exclusively shoots a fadeaway turnaround jump shot. Sometimes he makes this shot, sometimes he doesn't, but I wouldn't want him shooting it if my life were on the line. He doesn't have a real go-to move, period. He has length and athleticism and just kind of wings it. Also, he is not a great shot blocker considering his height and physical gifts. The one thing that I like about his game is that he is definitely a top notch rebounder.

My other two critiques of KG are subjective and I realize that others may have different subjective impressions. One, I think that his stats are the most meaningless collection of numbers this side of Marbury's. KG's numbers look good but rarely have I watched him play and felt like he was taking over and dominating the game. Bill Russell used to always say that it's not how many points you score but when you score them. I would apply that notion to all of KG's stats, not just his points. Two, I don't think that he is a great leader. Why is there always turmoil in Minnesota? Why does it seem that the best players who have played with him don't want to stick around? He seems to feud with some guys (Wally World) and did not command enough respect to keep Cassell and Sprewell in the fold. Those guys held out, demanded more money and let the team fall apart. There hardly seemed to be a thought of let's stay together and win a title. KG's monster contract probably has something to do with this, as his supporting cast wants to get paid and there is no money left.

One more thing that has nothing to do with the game but suggests something about the man. KG has plenty of time for national media people who want to interview him but generally brushes off the beat writers who cover his team on a day to day basis. Naturally, by being good to the big time media KG receives a lot of positive national coverage but what does that say about a guy who cops such an attitude? Hey, some guys are just plain surly or shy or don't want to talk to anyone. I can understand that better than a guy who picks and chooses who he talks to in order to improve his image. For the record, I have interviewed KG and did not have any problem, so I do not have a personal ax to grind.

It's not like I'm saying that he is a terrible player; I just don't think that he is an elite player on the level of Kobe, Dirk, Nash, Duncan, LeBron and one or two others. He is in that next group of All-Stars.

I completely disagree that if KG and Duncan were swapped that the result would be the same. Duncan has a back to the basket game and is a far superior defender; he anchors a defense that is always among the league leaders in defensive field goal percentage. I think that the Spurs would not have won a single title with KG. Minnesota would not have won a title with Duncan, either, but they would have gotten out of the first round more than once in a decade.

 
At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 5:38:00 AM, Anonymous danny said...

I see no reason to rate him under Dirk or Nash, neither of whom take over games more frequently than KG does, and neither of whom have won championships with much more solid supporting casts. If that's the criterion then I agree he rates below Kobe, Lebron, etc.

Isn't his turnaround jumper a go-to move? It's pretty unguardable. Other than that, his face-up game works pretty well.

As for leadership, I think that has to be seen in context. Firstly, there has never been a coach who gives the team an identity and structure. I think that's the most important issue - you can't tell what sort of leader KG might be under a Jackson or a Popovich. Secondly, Minnesota is, frankly, not the kind of place a whole lot of NBA players want to live. Finally, the turmoil in Minnesota starts in the front office.

KG's not my favourite player in the world, I just don't trust an analysis that individualizes it to that level. KG hasn't been in a situation where we could reasonably compare him to the others you mention. That might be his own fault, but it's the truth, his team sucks and the Wolves are one of the most ham-fisted organisations in all sports. Who else has four combo guards in their rotation?

 
At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 3:22:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

you say Kobe is best player period

Dirk is best player on team w/best record

Those are anecdotal. First, there is a razor thin margin b/t records of Phx, Dall

Secondly, I'd have to see sabermetrics about adding value -- I don't know how you can dismiss Nash as best player, with 47% threes and his assist level. Clearly, he is the MOST EFFICIENT player on the team w/ SECOND BEST record.

FURTHERMORE, IN GAMES WHEN NASH PLAYS, I think Phx has better winning % than Dallas. And pls dont raise durability as an issue -- he hasnt missed that many games, to raise that issue.

Again, I'd argue that Kobe is the better player for most teams, but Nash is like that gourmet food or fine art that very few people apprciate but still sells for a very large #. Nash is the fine motor oil that makes Phx run.

I agree with you on the top three but think that your Kobe/Dirk dichotomy is lacking -- b/c Nash is more efficient than either of them statistically and Phx has the best winning % in league in the many games where Nash plays

I think it'd be hard to pick against Nash unless Kobe leads LA to a terrific close of the season (with Odom & Luke). Dirk would be hard to pick against too, w/his efficiency and rebounding. But I think that no one means more to an elite level team than Nash.

 
At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 4:23:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"Marbury did not leave because he was homesick; he left because he could not stand the idea of KG being the main guy. He wanted to be the main guy and get the big dollars. Marbury ended up in Phx, not back east, and only arrived east after he failed out west. "

marbury went from Minn to NJ b/c of the ego/salary issues with KG

then he was shipped to Phx for Kidd

then came to NY for personal reasons

(look it up)

 
At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 4:31:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Danny:

Dirk took over the seventh game in last year's series with the Spurs and has taken over many other games as well. While some say his game has "evolved," he actually has been an outstanding playoff performer for several years. A few years ago he had the longest run of 30 point, 15 rebound playoff games since Kareem. I bet that most people don't know/remember that. Dirk has been a better player than KG for several years--Dirk scores better and from more places on the floor; he is not quite as good a rebounder but still gets 9.5-10 rpg and often more than that in the playoffs; Dirk takes over games. Granted, Dirk had some problems in the latter stages of last year's Finals, but that does not completely wipe out how well he played all season and in the previous playoff games. Nash has also demonstrated on many occasions that he can take over games, either by scoring or passing. KG is just out there collecting stats and watching his team lose. When his teams win, it's because someone else hits key buckets.

His turnaround jumper may be unguardable but it takes him out of offensive rebounding position, is unlikely to be awarded with free throw attempts and is not as effective as an up and under or other post moves--the kind of in the paint moves that KG does not consistently employ. His face up game is not as good as Dirk's, nor can he shoot from as deep as Dirk can.

The context I see is that no one seems to want to play with KG, his teams don't win in the playoffs and he rarely takes over games. We can wonder about how he might do in other situations but I won't rate him above players--Kobe, Duncan, Dirk, Nash--who have more impact on a game to game basis and who have greater playoff resumes. Does LeBron right now have that much more help than KG had when he had Wally and T. Brandon? Would the Cavs be better with KG in place of LeBron? No and no.

You might not think that the comparisons are "reasonable" but KG has been around for a long time and the only comparisons that can be made are based on what has actually happened. I realize that many people are mesmerized by KG's "20-10-5," as he memorably stated during one of his commercials but I think that is a better advertising slogan than a true representation of his value.

 
At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 4:33:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Danny:

Dirk took over the seventh game in last year's series with the Spurs and has taken over many other games as well. While some say his game has "evolved," he actually has been an outstanding playoff performer for several years. A few years ago he had the longest run of 30 point, 15 rebound playoff games since Kareem. I bet that most people don't know/remember that. Dirk has been a better player than KG for several years--Dirk scores better and from more places on the floor; he is not quite as good a rebounder but still gets 9.5-10 rpg and often more than that in the playoffs; Dirk takes over games. Granted, Dirk had some problems in the latter stages of last year's Finals, but that does not completely wipe out how well he played all season and in the previous playoff games. Nash has also demonstrated on many occasions that he can take over games, either by scoring or passing. KG is just out there collecting stats and watching his team lose. When his teams win, it's because someone else hits key buckets.

His turnaround jumper may be unguardable but it takes him out of offensive rebounding position, is unlikely to be awarded with free throw attempts and is not as effective as an up and under or other post moves--the kind of in the paint moves that KG does not consistently employ. His face up game is not as good as Dirk's, nor can he shoot from as deep as Dirk can.

The context I see is that no one seems to want to play with KG, his teams don't win in the playoffs and he rarely takes over games. We can wonder about how he might do in other situations but I won't rate him above players--Kobe, Duncan, Dirk, Nash--who have more impact on a game to game basis and who have greater playoff resumes. Does LeBron right now have that much more help than KG had when he had Wally and T. Brandon? Would the Cavs be better with KG in place of LeBron? No and no.

You might not think that the comparisons are "reasonable" but KG has been around for a long time and the only comparisons that can be made are based on what has actually happened. I realize that many people are mesmerized by KG's "20-10-5," as he memorably stated during one of his commercials, but I think that is a better advertising slogan than a true representation of his value.

 
At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 4:44:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

Your recap of Marbury is exactly what I said. Danny said that he left Minn. because he was "homesick" and I replied that he left because of the money issue versus KG. Then he failed in Phx and when they shipped him to NJ he said that he was happy to come home. The expression of happiness came after he was shipped off. I'm sure that he has expressed an interest throughout his career in playing back east but that was never the determining factor in these moves.

I have already explained why I say Kobe is the best player. I evaluate "best" based on skills. Kobe has no weaknesses in the fundamental areas of the game: shooting (from all ranges), passing, rebounding, defense, dribbling. From a fundamental standpoint, his game is as close to flawless as is possible. Even the other elite players have weaknesses in at least one fundamental area: free throw shooting (LeBron, Duncan), defense (Nash, despite Coach D'Antoni's protestations; Dirk, despite improvements).

There may be a razor thin margin, but barring collapse, Dallas will finish with the best record. I believe that the Mavs are also 2-1 head to head with Phx. I guess for those who vote on MVP based on best player on best team the upcoming Dall-Phx game is very important. If Dall wins (and Dirk plays at least reasonably well) and Dall has the best record at the end they cannot possibly justify voting for Nash, based on their own criteria.

The gourmet food analogy is nice, but the "best" player is the "best" player regardless. Kobe is more "skilled" than Nash and is "better." If the award is based more on overall team success, then it is a race this year between Dirk and Nash, but Dirk has the clear upper hand.

"No one means more to an elite level team" is a very narrow category. Since the NBA does not specify criteria for the MVP I suppose that we are free to develop our own, but that one seems very tailored (I could say biased). I could say that the MVP should be the "player who is unguardable and does more things that haven't been done since Wilt Chamberlain than anyone else." That, of course, would be Kobe. Shouldn't MVPs be doing things of a historic nature?

 
At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 6:01:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"If the award is based more on overall team success, then it is a race this year between Dirk and Nash, but Dirk has the clear upper hand."

as I said, in games when Nash plays, Phx has better winning % than Dallas

 
At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 6:06:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

as per Kobe, MVP is not to be confused w/skills competition

team value is judged by wins. they've had too many blowout losses, long losing streaks. it's not his fault -- but you can't give MVP to a player on a team hovering around .500, unless there are no other deserving candidates

 
At Wednesday, March 21, 2007 1:13:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

The stat that you keep citing is (1) wrong and (2) irrelevant. The Suns are 48-12 (.800) with Nash and 2-4 (.333) without him. The Mavericks are 55-11 this year. Dirk's season stats at ESPN.com and NBA.com indicate that he has played in 64 games but his game logs only show him missing one game, a Dec. 31 win over Denver. Let's say that Dallas won another game without him also, just to strengthen your case, although I cannot find the other game that he "missed." That would make Dallas 53-11 (.828) with Dirk, which is still better than Phx with Nash. So please stop repeating this mantra as if it were gospel since you clearly did not look it up. While every Nash supporter is thrilled that Phx beat Dallas once in double overtime, Dallas still has the edge in the season series, 2-1. So Dirk's team has the better record and the edge in the season series. For those who base their MVP voting on who is the best player on the best team, Dirk clearly has the edge over Nash. Even if Phx wins the next showdown, that just ties the season series and Dallas will still probably have the best record.

I don't necessarily buy into this best player on the best team business but I wish that the people who say they do would get their story straight and stop acting like Nash's performance in the last Dall-Phx game "clinched" something.

I'd like to explore a couple other points. Nash's advocates say that he has made Amare and Marion better. I don't deny that--but those guys are All-NBA caliber players with or without Nash. He's not helping them get 8-9-10 rpg and they could score without him in the lineup. Meanwhile, Dirk has apparently been "made better" by playing without Nash for the last three years. How is this possible? How do we know that Marion and Amare would also not have improved during this period without playing with Nash? Maybe they would be MVP candidates just like Dirk is.

I think that Nash is a great player. I think that he is a worthy MVP candidate. I also think that his advocates go way overboard in making it like he is the only worthy candidate and in doing so they give him credit for far too much. Amare and Marion are tremendously skilled players. Nash is not the only guy who can throw them lob passes.

OK, so why does Phx have a 2-4 record without Nash this year? One, it is important to understand that six games is a small sample. Phx also had a 1-4 record with Nash at the start of the season. Teams go through peaks and valleys (yes, Amare was not 100% early in the year).

Let's look at the four losses. The first one came by three at Utah. That pushed Utah's record to 9-1. The second loss without Nash came at Atlanta. OK, that one does not look great. But Atl has beaten Cleveland and Detroit this year. Bad teams sometimes beat good teams in the NBA. The next loss without Nash came against Chicago. Diaw missed this game, so the Suns were without two starters against a solid Bulls team that has beaten other upper echelon teams this year (Det, Dall, Spurs, Mia w/Shaq and Wade). The fourth loss without Nash came at Seattle. Phx was again missing Diaw as well.

Then Nash returned and Phx went on a five game winning streak--all against losing teams. Nash is a top player, so I would expect his team to be worse without him. But look at Houston without T-Mac. They are awful. Look at Boston without Pierce. Look at the Lakers try to play three minutes without Kobe when he rests. These four games don't convince me that Nash means more to his team than any other top player means to his. That "2-4" number is just superficial "analysis" by people who are determined to give Nash the award no matter what.

You say "team value" is judged by wins. OK, then Dirk should get the award this year, not Nash. You say that the MVP cannot go to a player from a team that is hovering around .500. Why not? Moses Malone won two of his MVPs while playing on teams that won 46 and 47 games. The Lakers had a better winning percentage than that before their whole starting frontcourt got hurt. Now Odom, Walton and Kwame are back, Kobe is playing off the charts and the team seems to have righted itself. If the Lakers go 10-5 or something like that down the stretch and wind up in the vicinity of 45 wins, why should Kobe be punished in MVP voting because Odom and the others missed a lot of games? That just makes no sense.

The NBA has not specified MVP criteria. I think that the award should go to the best player.

Also, in reference to one of your comments, when I say that Kobe is the most "skilled," I'm not talking about dribbling through cones. I'm talking about skills applied in games, under duress, against the world's best athletes.

Getting back to numbers that you often cite, you have repeatedly deemed Nash to be the most "efficient" player in the NBA. I've kind of let that pass because it doesn't address my point, which is that Kobe is the most skilled player. But let's look at things on your terms. Nash unquestionably shoots well and gets a lot of assists--but I don't think that any statistical system places him as the most "efficient" player in the NBA. Hollinger's PER system has Wade first, Dirk second, Yao third, Kobe fourth--and Nash ninth. The NBA's "efficiency" stat ranks KG first, Wade second, Dirk third, Kobe fourth--and Nash tenth. On what objective, numerical basis do you say that Nash is the most "efficient" player? The numbers don't back you up.

I look at the game from a scout's point of view--Kobe tops the charts in all skill areas and does not have any weaknesses. I go by what I see first and supplement that with the numbers. If you are using a "sabrmetric" approach, then you will be forced to rank Nash lower than even I would; I doubt that any "numbers guys" would put Nash in the top three.

 
At Wednesday, March 21, 2007 4:58:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Danny:

Here is a link to an interesting Charley Rosen piece about KG:

http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/6552724

Rosen assesses KG's impact in a recent Minn. game and relates it to his overall career trajectory.

 
At Wednesday, March 21, 2007 1:15:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"If the Lakers go 10-5 or something like that down the stretch and wind up in the vicinity of 45 wins, why should Kobe be punished in MVP voting because Odom and the others missed a lot of games? That just makes no sense."

if Lakers win 45 or more, then Kobe probably is the MVP, hands down. I'll believe it when I see it, though. (That 30-point embarrassment at Denver wasnt long ago, although it was without Luke, Lamar.)



"The Suns are 48-12 (.800) with Nash.... That would make Dallas 53-11 (.828) [w/Dirk]"

you're splitting hairs. it's 1 & 1A. Not worth differentiating on that margin. the real difference would be between either of those 2 teams and LAL, if Lakers don't win more than 42 or 43 (or 44) games (around .500).


"On what objective, numerical basis do you say that Nash is the most 'efficient' player? The numbers don't back you up."

points per shot and per possession, for a player in the 15 ppg and up range. No one with any shot volume gets more points per offensive attempt than Nash, based on FG %, 3pt %, FT %. Then add in assist-turnover ratio. Real basic stats

 
At Wednesday, March 21, 2007 2:24:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

If the Lakers get at least 42-43-44-45 wins, will you post a comment here that Kobe should in fact win the MVP?

You say it's "splitting hairs" but you sang a different tune when you left the erroneous impression that Nash has the better w-l record; did you think that his record was better by a greater margin than the actual one that is in favor of Dirk? Furthermore, Dirk has the head to head advantage (pending the last game between the teams, of course) and Dallas has a much better record versus the leading West teams (Phx, Spurs, Utah) than Phx does against Dall, Spurs, Utah. If you are evaluating the players based on the best player on the best team standard, the record against the top teams should matter--those are the teams you have to beat to make it to the Finals (which Nash has yet to do).

The problem with your stats is that you are cherrypicking the categories that favor Nash. The people who actually do this kind of analysis factor in all of the statistical categories and none of these systems--to the best of my knowledge--has Nash as the MVP or even a top five player. If you go strictly "by the numbers," Nash is not even in the discussion.

I don't buy the best player on the best team thing or a strictly "by the numbers" analysis but if you choose to go either route then you have to stick to the standards that are implied by such a choice. You can't say that the MVP should go to the best player on the best team and then try to award it to the best player on the second best team. You can't say that the MVP should go to the most "efficient" player and then award it to someone who generally comes up ninth or tenth in efficiency systems.

 
At Wednesday, March 21, 2007 4:49:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"If the Lakers get at least 42-43-44-45 wins, will you post a comment here that Kobe should in fact win the MVP?"

huh? Phx or dall might win out with monster performances by Nash/Dirk. That's why I used the word "probably" in my post on Kobe

Also 42 or 43 wins is hardly impressive. if he gets them back to 45 - 48 wins, then there will be a strong argument for his MVP candidacy. but it'll depend on how phx/dall do, and how their stars play.

as far as Nash's stats, he's a PG, not a rebounder. What other stats could hurt him -- he has the best shootings % in every category among elite non-centers, and leads the league in assists. the only criticism would be volume of shots (ppg), but for a true PG, you don't want more shots.

here are my stats

phx won 29 games the yr before Nash. with him 62. this year, 2-4 without him ... and I'm not interested in reviewing the game tapes; Chicago beat them soundly out on their home ct -- their first double digit loss of season, soon after Nash went out. Nash is worth a ton of wins to Phx

Dirk and Kobe are also defensible picks; but right now, I'd take Nash

best player on best team is stupid -- but that doesnt mean you ignore team performance; you look for a top player on an ELITE team, i.e., a top-four seed (home ct in 1st rd) at least. in extreme cases, such as when there is no top player on ELITE teams, you go down in the standings

but how is the MVP on a team that had two 6 game losing streaks, and lost by 30 to denver teh other week, and lost to teams like Tor and Port? that troubles me, because how are you measuring value?

let LAL finish 8 or more over .500, and then that might be close enough to elite to give it to Kobe

otherwise, debate Dirk & Nash but not based upon a few more wins -- both teams are elite. end of story

it's like you need to be 35 to run for president but you dont debate who has the better age after that; to me, usually you must be on an ELITE team to be MVP, but you dont need to start differentiating among a few wins among elite teams

 
At Wednesday, March 21, 2007 11:08:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I thought that you listed 42 as the lowest number of wins that you would consider for a viable MVP candidate; that is why I included that number in my rhetorical question.

I agree that we have to see how all three teams/players finish but, barring injury, I expect things to stay about how they are: Dallas will have the best record, Phx will be close behind and the Lakers will close out the year playing like they did at the start of the season, ending up with 44-45 wins. Kobe will probably win the scoring title. I don't expect to see something in the next three weeks that will dramatically change things. People who like the best player on the best team idea should end up voting for Dirk and people who go for the best player period should vote for Kobe. Nash is a candidate under either system but I don't think that he is the best candidate in either system.

"Efficiency" includes factors besides shooting and passing. Wade just gets 1.4 rpg more than Nash but he ranks much higher overall in the NBA's efficiency stat. As I said, I don't base my MVP choice on "efficiency" but you keep citing it as a reason to choose Nash. The people who actually calculate "efficiency" do not agree with you that Nash is the NBA's most efficient player--or even that he is more efficient than Kobe. Most statheads are scratching their collective heads that Nash has won two MVPs and may win a third. I actually rate Nash higher than they do.

Here is the link to the page with the NBA's efficiency stat ratings:
http://www.nba.com/statistics/player/Efficiency.jsp
Nash has dropped to 12th now.

Here is the page with Hollinger's stats (I think you have to subscribe to ESPN Insider to get this, though):
http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/statistics

You dismissed Kobe's skills by saying that the MVP is not determined by the skills challenge but I could just as easily say that the MVP and/or the efficiency leader is not determined solely by shooting percentage and assists.

We both have Kobe and Nash in our top three, so we really don't disagree drastically. My main problem with Nash's advocates (not you, but others) is that they take the view that he "has to be" the MVP and that the Dallas game "clinched it." Then they go silent after Phx loses the next two. I think that the MVP should go to the best player. If he plays on the worst team, but his skills are evident, so be it.

I think you've changed your tune slightly since I pointed out that Phx w/Nash does not in fact have the very best record but I understand your larger point. You want the MVP to be chosen from among the top four teams per conference unless none of those teams has one outstanding player or there is a player on team 5/6 who really stands out. That is a reasonable position but I look at the MVP as an individual award more than a team award. I don't think that MJ would have been less valuable or less skilled if Pip had never come along. He would have won fewer titles but would still have been deserving of several MVPs.

As for debating purely Dirk vs. Nash, this is an interesting question. Dallas has Dirk plus a competent, non-All-Star pg (Terry), an All-Star sf (Howard) and other talented, non All-Stars (Harris, Stackhouse). Phx has Nash plus two All-Stars--who may very well both make the All-NBA team as well--the possible sixth man award winner (Barbosa) and some talented, non All-Stars (Bell, Diaw). Nash and Dirk together never made the Finals. Since they split up, Nash has the more talented teammates (two All-NBA caliber players) but Dirk has made the Finals and Nash hasn't. Both are very valuable but if I had to pick one, I'd pick Dirk, narrowly. Dirk plus one All-Star made it to one Finals and currently have the best record in the league. What if Dallas had a second All-Star to pair with Dirk? They are better than Phx now even though they have less "talent." This gets back to my point about Kobe from last year's playoffs. Phx clearly had the better team, but Kobe's Lakers took them to game seven and had a very good shot to win the series in six. Imagine if Nash were passing to the Lakers, while Marion and Kobe were teaming with Barbosa, Diaw, etc. If Kobe had been on the Suns they would have beaten Nash and the Lakers in five, easily.

I don't buy the idea that Nash has "made" Amare and Marion into All-Stars. They are very talented players. Yes, they benefit from having a great point guard but he also benefits from passing to guys who can catch and finish. That is not as easy as it sounds; just watch Kobe's passes bounce off Kwame's hands. Phil Jackson said recently that Kobe should aim for Kwame's nose or his groin and that then Kwame will be forced to catch the ball. I see no reason to think that Kwame would catch Nash's passes any better than he catches Kobe's or that Smush and the other Lakers would shoot open shots better after getting the ball from Nash.

By the way, have you been keeping track of your man Smush? All the talk in L.A. is how the Lakers need a better point guard. Charley Rosen, a Jackson confidant from way back, says that if Jackson were not so patient (and desperate) that he would have gotten rid of Smush a while ago. Smush did have a nice game against Portland but he has been playing horribly for quite some time, compounding the Lakers' woes when they had so many injured players. He is the worst starting pg in the West and quite possibly in the entire league. You like efficiency, right? Hollinger has Smush 41st out of 57 qualifying pgs. Other than occasional starter Steve Blake, I don't believe that any of the pgs below Smush in his system start. Smush ranks 66th among guards in the NBA efficiency stat (they don't differentiate between pg and sg). Since each team in theory has two starting guards and there are 30 teams, 66th pretty much means you are the worst starter (and worse than some bench players, too).

 
At Thursday, March 22, 2007 12:39:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"By the way, have you been keeping track of your man Smush?"

Smush isnt my man -- I just said that he's an NBA player (not even a starter) !

 
At Thursday, March 22, 2007 4:30:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Smush is an NBA player--for now--but he is one of the worst NBA players who is starting at pg, if not the worst. Prior to coming to the Lakers he never had an extended run in the league, let alone as a starter, and once the Lakers let him go, which I think is highly likely after this season, I will be interested to see if he remains an NBA player or ends up on an odyssey through the minor leagues.

Kobe is taking a team with the worst pg and the youngest player (Bynum) in the league--and a team that lost its starting frontcourt for significant stretches--to the playoffs. That does not show his "team value"?

I know that, in theory, one would only consider this season's accomplishments when talking about this year's MVP. But if we are going to talk about Dirk and Nash like they have such great "team value" and are such winners then it must be noted that neither has won a title--and they played together for several years. Kobe has three rings. I know that people like to forget that or gloss over it but Kobe Bryant has three rings. He is a winner; he's gotten the job done in pressure situations. Bryant was an All-NBA player and an All-Defensive Team player on those championship teams. He had some monster playoff games. He led the team in assists throughout that time. Last year his undermanned Lakers almost toppled the Suns in the playoffs.

 
At Friday, March 23, 2007 12:13:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

pls change name of this site to Kobeshrine.blogspot.com

"Kobe is taking a team with the . . . youngest player (Bynum) in the league . . . to the playoffs."

yeah, age is really relevant. that's why Lebron took a team with the youngest player to the playoffs a few yrs ago. oh, wait, I forgot, as the league's youngest player, Lebron was one of the top 25. yeah, Bynum's age definitely makes Kobe MVP. good argument

"I know that, in theory, one would only consider this season's accomplishments when talking about this year's MVP. But if we are going to talk about Dirk and Nash like they have such great "team value" and are such winners then it must be noted that neither has won a title--and they played together for several years. Kobe has three rings. I know that people like to forget that or gloss over it but Kobe Bryant has three rings. He is a winner; he's gotten the job done in pressure situations. Bryant was an All-NBA player and an All-Defensive Team player on those championship teams. He had some monster playoff games. He led the team in assists throughout that time. Last year his undermanned Lakers almost toppled the Suns in the playoffs."

I agree, and that's why I actually have Kobe 4th in my MVP voting, behind Oscar Robertson, Magic, and Cousy. Wtf? how do you vote for MVP based on 3 rings that happened 8 yrs ago? Do you have Gary Payton on your all-NBA first team?

look, Kobe is a great MVP candidate, one of top 3. if Lakers win 45-48 games, he might be the best candidate. he's on an absurd run now. but pls stick to the facts, and at least try to fake impartiality. otherwise, why not go into marketing or some other field besides journalism? the agenda thing has already gotten tired real quick -- and it's a shame, b/c otherwise the bball analysis is interesting

i'm done w/this Kobe sh-t for now, though. Yes, he's absurd and maybe MVP. No he's not hands down MVP until LAL is well over .500. and no, I dont want to hear more biased arguments. You want to talk about the past, take out your tape of 2003-04 finals, when in all 4 losses he ran LAL into ground with terrible shot selection & misses. just pls stick to the relevant facts & PRETEND you don't carry Kobe's picture in your wallet

 
At Friday, March 23, 2007 3:55:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I tried to follow that link. Is there not really a "Kobeshrine.blogspot.com"?

Anyway, you are taking my comments a bit out of context. I brought up Bynum's age (and Smush's status as perhaps the league's worst starting point guard) to point out that Kobe does not have much of a supporting cast. LeBron is better than Bynum ever will be and he did not take a team to the playoffs in his first or second year. Kobe does not have a lot of talent around him, so the fact that the Lakers are sixth (at the moment) in the tough West is really a tribute to his abilities. If he had the teammates that Dirk and Nash do then the Lakers would have the same kind of record, if not better--and that is why Kobe's three rings are relevant to this discussion. You say that being MVP revolves around winning. Kobe can't win--at least not a championship--with his current teammates but he has them in the playoff hunt. When Kobe had better teammates, he won three rings. Dirk and Nash have great teammates, but they have no rings between them. It seems strange to me to assert that they are "winners" and Kobe is not when one considers their entire careers.

My "argument" for Kobe is quite simple, it is not "biased" and it does not change game to game--although each great performance by Kobe reinforces the strength of my "argument." Kobe is the most skilled player in the NBA: footwork, shooting, faking, dribbling, passing, rebounding, defense. He has no serious weaknesses in any fundamental area. His skills are the primary reason that a team with a 19 year old center, a point guard of dubious NBA quality--and a team that has been racked with injuries--is still in the playoff hunt. I don't base this on one game or two games, but Kobe's body of work throughout this season. On the other hand, the fact that he can go on runs that are paralleled only by Wilt, Elgin and MJ certainly adds force to my "argument."

 

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