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Monday, May 19, 2008

Jack McCallum on Kobe and the Bench Mob

Veteran NBA scribe Jack McCallum just wrote an interesting article titled "Kobe and the Bench Mob." It describes the relationship on and off the court between Kobe Bryant and Lakers reserves Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Ronny Turiaf and Jordan Farmar. Here are some highlights from the piece:

Vujacic: "If we win a championship we know it will be mainly because of Kobe. But we will have something to say about it too."

Vujacic on how he feels when Bryant yells at him for making a mistake: "I will give you an honest answer even if it sounds like a diplomatic answer. I know it looked like it was bad when Kobe was hollering and everything. But the idea that it was a big deal is just so overreacting that I can't even describe it. My relationship with Kobe was great from Day One."

Turiaf on the same subject: "It's very hard for people to know exactly what's going on inside a family. We don't look at things like people in the media do. Maybe that's why we're in the NBA and you're not."

McCallum writes that Bryant and Vujacic formed a bond in Vujacic's second season (2005-06) when they started working out together early in the morning. Vujacic says, "I have always been a fanatic about basketball and I had been frustrated in my rookie year. I wanted to get better. So did Kobe. Kobe always wants to get better. We are much alike."

Although national TV commentators have said that Vujacic dubbed himself "The Machine," Vujacic denies that he created that nickname.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:46 AM


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At Monday, May 19, 2008 4:09:00 PM, Blogger Horus said...

Hey, nice Lakers posts. I really enjoy your blog, and it's good to know there are other free-lance sports journalists out there. I've got my own Lakers page on Blogger; you should check it out some time


At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 2:18:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

This isn't directly related to this thread, but I'll post it here anyway since you don't have a post about the WCF up yet (understandably).

The guys at ESPN seem to think the Lakers will beat the Spurs because they have superior firepower and depth. I think the Lakers have a chance to win, but not because of those reasons.

I find such analysis very puzzling, and it is in line with the year-long trend of overrating the Lakers' role players. Would you really take Farmar (who did absolutely nothing against Utah), Turiaf (an energy guy without much skill), Walton (huge defensive liability), and Vujacic (solid) over Udoka, Finley, Thomas, and Horry? It sure doesn't look like the Lakers have a superior "supporting cast" or bench to me. It seems like it has become trendy to talk about the improvement of the Lakers' supporting cast, and lots of people are overlooking their glaring shortcomings. Of the Lakers' role players, only Fisher and Vujacic have the combination of skill and iq to get playing time on a team like the Spurs. Farmar, Walton, Turiaf, and Radmanovic would be hanging out with Matt Bonner.

How about "firepower"? The Spurs have three proven big-time playoff performers. The Lakers have one proven guy in Kobe, and one guy who may eventually prove to be a big-time playoff performer but hasn't had a chance to do so yet in Gasol. What about Lamar Odom, who will supposedly give the Spurs fits and prove the be the key ingredient to a Laker victory? The mainstream media seems unaware how useless he is in close games and clutch situations, and how inconsistent he is in general.

The Lakers have a shot at winning, but that comes from the brilliance of Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson, not supposedly superior talent. Personally, I think the Spurs will triumph because the Lakers have no one to check Parker, and Duncan will have a MUCH easier time scoring on Gasol/Turiaf than he had against Shaq or Chandler.

At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 6:57:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


My WCF preview post will be up later today and will talk about some of the subjects you mentioned. I'll save my series prediction for that post and just make a few brief comments about some of the issues you brought up.

I agree with you that a lot of commentators overrate the Lakers' depth. Barkley said that the current Lakers are a better team than the Shaq-Kobe Lakers, to which Chris Webber retorted that Shaq and Kobe from back then could beat the current Lakers two on five and that he'd take one Shaq over five Gasols. Although he said it with a smile, I think CWebb took Barkley's comment a little personally since CWebb's teams could never get past the Shaq-Kobe Lakers.

The current Lakers are a good, solid team that has the potential to win a championship because they have the best player in the league and the best coach in the league. They are nowhere nearly as good as the Shaq-Kobe Lakers. Barkley later backtracked and said that he meant that the current team has the potential to win multiple titles. Perhaps that is true but the Shaq-Kobe Lakers bagged three rings, so there is no need to rush to elevate this team over those squads.

Although the Lakers' bench put up good regular season stats I think that it is overrated and we saw some signs of this in the Utah series. I make my evaluations based on skill sets, not just numbers, and I am not overly impressed with the skill sets of the Lakers' reserves. Part of the reason that the bench is better than it was last season is that Walton moved from the starting lineup to the bench and Vujacic and Farmar have developed a bit (though Farmar did not play well in the Utah series).

Odom is a solid rebounder and defender who is overrated by both "experts" and fans alike. The best thing that happened to him was the Gasol trade, because now he can operate in the shadows, so to speak, while defenses key on Bryant and Gasol.


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