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Monday, March 26, 2007

The Old Bait and Switch

Not surprisingly, I never received a direct response when I pointed out that Kobe Bryant's recent scoring binge is much more historically rare than Steve Nash's 32/16 or 28/22 points/assists combos (which came in different seasons, not consecutive games). Instead what I got was the classic "bait and switch," shifting the discussion from consecutive 50 point games versus points/assists combos to whether Nash has ever done something as historically rare as what Bryant just did. The answer is that Nash has done some pretty nice things in playoff series, such as posting double figures in assists in seven straight games (only Magic Johnson and John Stockton have done that) and being the only player ever to have four straight playoff games with 25 points and 10 assists.

There were a couple others, but the main idea is that Nash has done some things in the playoffs that are allegedly as rare and significant as Kobe Bryant's recent scoring run. I wouldn't think that playoff accomplishments are where Nash advocates would want to go in the Bryant-Nash debate, because then they have to address the fact that Bryant has three rings plus one other Finals appearance. Yes, Kobe played with Shaq--and Nash played several seasons with MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki and is currently playing with All-NBA caliber players like Amare and Marion.

Kobe Bryant led the Lakers in assists each of the three championship years. He made the All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams each year. In the '01 playoffs, Kobe averaged 29.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 6.1 apg, leading the team in assists and ranking second in scoring and rebounding (Shaq averaged 30.4 ppg). This is a shooting guard leading a championship team in assists and ranking second in rebounding while scoring almost 30 ppg.

You want great individual playoff games by Kobe Bryant? OK, how about leading his team in scoring, rebounding and assists (25, 11, 7) in a game 7 come from behind win over Portland in the 2000 Western Conference Finals? Without that win there might not have been a Lakers dynasty. Two years later in game seven of the Western Conference Finals Kobe had 30, 10 and 7. How about game four against Sacramento in 2001? All Kobe had was 48 points and 16 rebounds. In his next game he had 45 and 10 versus the Spurs in the first game of a Western Conference Finals sweep.

I know what comes next. The "bait and switch" happens again, all of the above is ignored and the discussion moves straight to game seven last year against the Suns. What happened there? Kobe scored a ton in the first half to keep the Lakers close. In the third quarter he tried to get his teammates involved, they kicked the ball all over the place and the Suns blew them out. By the way, check out what happened to LeBron James and the Cavaliers in game seven versus Detroit: almost exactly the same thing. The Suns had the better team but somehow Kobe and the Lakers took them to a seventh game.

A couple other things to consider:

1) If scoring a lot against losing teams is so easy how come no one other than Wilt has scored that much in the history of the NBA? Also, Kobe had 62 points in three quarters last year against eventual NBA Finalist Dallas. By the way, since Nash advocates are so fond of W-L records, check out the Suns' record against the top teams this year (Mavericks, Spurs, Jazz): 2-6.

2) The same person who confused Jeff Foster with Greg Foster and thinks that Phil Jackson used to hide Michael Jordan on defense claims to remember several games in which Larry Bird had 40+ points but sat out at the end of blowouts rather than going for 50 or 60. That may be true, but I'd like to know which specific games that he is talking about. Meanwhile, here's a game to think about: Bird's career high 60 versus Atlanta. Check out the end of the game: it's a blowout and the Celtics are fouling the Hawks to get the ball back so that Larry can go for 60. Classy. At least Kobe's 50+ games came in competitive contests.

I know that the only likely response to this post from the person in question is mustache jokes, the "bait and switch" and so forth--but the good thing about all of this is that readers can digest all of this information and see that things are not quite the way that they are often presented to be. Why should we just accept that Steve Nash is "better" than Kobe Bryant? On what basis? There is not a statistical justification for this, nor is Nash more of a winner than Bryant. Nash is a great point guard in the 80s/90s mold. Bryant is the best player in the game today and will go down in history as one of the very greatest who ever played. If/when the Lakers assemble a better supporting cast around him he will again be in the thick of the hunt for a championship. Even this current Lakers team could still pose a challenging matchup in the playoffs, particularly to the Suns, who struggled against the Lakers in last year's postseason.

posted by David Friedman @ 4:43 PM

6 comments

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6 Comments:

At Monday, March 26, 2007 5:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, y'all two need to hug it out over a lager.

Foster's

 
At Monday, March 26, 2007 6:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Screw hugging it out, that was a well-deserved butt-whipping.

Well administered.

 
At Monday, March 26, 2007 11:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Greg Foster(s) or Jeff Foster(s)?

If someone says that the MVP should go to the best player on the best team and makes a case for Dirk this year, that is a valid position to take. If someone says that the MVP should go to the best player on the best team and picks Nash this year, that case is somewhat suspect because Phx has not been, to this point, the best team and has lost 2 of 3 to Dallas. Nor was Phx better than Dallas last year, either in the regular season or the playoffs.

But if someone says that 32+16 (x2) is more than 65 and that 28/22 is more rare than 50+ in four games and that all of that nonsense proves that Nash is a better player than Kobe--nope, I'm not buying that for one second.

 
At Tuesday, March 27, 2007 12:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol yea it was. Nash ? Nash Who ? lol the only reason he is winning mvps is because the reporters wont vote for Kobe let the fans vote for mvp and see who wins lol we see how much the fans respect nash by leaving him out of the all star team. lol when we are talking about players like kobe don't even mention nash, lol what have u been drinking?

 
At Tuesday, March 27, 2007 4:41:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

hey Kobelover,

I've come around & decided that you're right, Kobe is the greatest non-religious person in world history

to back up your point, let's remember how terrible the rest of the Lakers are without Kobe. remember the other night's dominating homecourt trouncing of that powerhouse, Golden State, behind the marksman's deadeye 45% shooting?

and remember how -- as you frequently emphasize -- the Lakers stumble & bumble without him.

so now, via a time machine, let's go back to the 12/8 game against the Hawks, where the injured GREATEST (non-religious) PERSON EVER sat out. here's the boxscore: http://www.sportsline.com/nba/gamecenter/recap/
NBA_20061208_ATL@LAL

look at that boxscore!

look at how the Hawks shut down walton, farmar, evans, and kwame -- holding each of them to shooting percentages below 95%. And look at how they held Odom below 20 boards!

your frequent characterizations of the rest of LAL as stumbling bumbling fools are well supported.

in that 12/8 game, Smush only shot a mere 50% from the field! (is that even good enough for the CBA? ... b/c I think he belongs on the East Jefferson Lady's junior high school junior varsity bench, if he can only shoot 50% in an NBA game, without the GREAT ONE there to deflect defensive attention)

over the course of the year, I'm sure it doesnt impede the development of these other wannabes -- having the GREAT ONE shoot 35 shots a game.

you're right, GREAT ONE's ppg is an all-important stat.

heck, that's why the GREAT ONE himself publicly admits that he shoots too much. http://www.dailynews.com/sports/ci_5439460 (" If somebody wants to criticize me, at least make it something that's somewhat realistic. Say I shoot too much. "). oh no! did he say that?! it was out of context! yes! out of context!

but based on that atrocious Atlanta game -- without GREAT ONE, who was injured -- I'm ready to conclude that GREAT ONE has false modesty and HE SHOOTS TOO LITTLE.

his recent scoring streak clearly negates a 7-game losing streak and 6-game losing streak in '07. the problem in those games was that other players took shots

plus, every time that Kobe scores 50, the lakers get 4 wins for that one game, right? so that negates the losing streaks, correct?

just watch that atlanta game over and over and ask why the lakers don't contractually bind all other players to never shoot with GREAT ONE on the floor

mea culpa, Kobelover. my arguments against GREAT ONE were made due to my ignorance of that Atlanta game, which really tells the whole story

mea culpa, Kobelover

now please go find another strawman to shoot down (like your Nash statistics basketbawl blog, that nobody else in the free world read) ...

(have I mentioned about how his quote above, about shooting too much was taken out of context? well i'm sure you'll bring that one up, if i forgot!)

that boxscore says it all -- without kobe, LAL should forfeit a game, rather than showing up

 
At Wednesday, March 28, 2007 3:22:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

Take a deep breath, relax and look at the Lakers roster. Look at how the team has performed overall for the entire season, plus last season. Parker's stats are worse than just about any starting point guard in the league. There are no other All-Stars on the roster other than Kobe. Walton is a nice complementary player but he plays the 3, which is a position that supplies a lot of scoring power on most good teams. When Kobe does not score heavily, this team is lousy. They may win one or two here or there when he doesn't score a lot, but the overall trend is pretty obvious. This team is dependent on his scoring to win. If you look at the five game winning streak, Kobe shot roughly four more times per game than his season average but raised his production by more than 20 ppg! As you would say, that is pretty efficient. The problem for the Lakers, of course, is that Kobe cannot sustain 50 ppg or 54% shooting for a whole season; no one other than Wilt has that kind of constitution, plus teams will throw two and three defenders at Kobe due to the poor shooting of his teammates. Whether by fatigue or triple team, the 50 ppg streak and 40 ppg streak must end--but they gave the team new life and a chance to get the sixth playoff seed.

Kobe is the most skilled player in the NBA, combining fundamentals with great athletic ability. Even most of the people who gravitate toward Dirk as this year's MVP based on his team's record acknowledge that Kobe is the best player. Over and over I hear the talking heads say "Kobe is the best player but his team's record is too bad for him to qualify for the MVP." It is the latter part of that statement that I dispute. Now, the whole business with Nash not only being "more valuable" than Kobe--which is an interesting debate--but simply "better" based on funny math (32+16x2) was good for a laugh. Even Steve Nash does not believe that he is "better" than Kobe or some of the other top candidates who are bigger, stronger, faster and can do more things. "Value" can be debated based on how one defines it but "better" is a whole different thing.

 

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