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Friday, May 30, 2008

A Performance for the Ages: Kobe Drops 39 as Lakers Eliminate Spurs

Attack like a cat when I'm trapped and I'm closed in
Sharp...claws, and I break all laws
In a while all jaws, cause I'm perfect, no flaws
Now I'm back to Farmers on some new improved
I'm makin' moves, not fakin' moves--"Farmers Blvd. (Our Anthem)," L L Cool J (and other artists)

Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 39 points while shooting 16-30 from the field as his L.A. Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs 100-92 to eliminate the defending champions 4-1. He had 26 points in the second half, 17 points in the fourth quarter and eight points in the final 2:22. This outburst capped off a remarkable Western Conference Finals for Bryant, who averaged 29.2 ppg on 64-120 (.533) field goal shooting, the best percentage he has ever shot in a playoff series. One basketball player can have a much greater impact on the outcome of a game than one baseball player or one football player but Bryant takes that concept to a whole other level that very few players have ever reached: he plays his best against the best competition and when the most is on the line. In doing so, Bryant infuses his team with confidence and instills fear, doubts and confusion in his opponents.

While Bryant was conducting his heroics against premier perimeter defender Bruce Bowen and premier interior defender Tim Duncan, I immediately thought of LeBron James' 48 point effort versus Detroit in game five of last year's Eastern Conference Finals. Remember that James scored 30 points in regulation and then added 18 points in two overtime sessions. Considering the context, Bryant's game has to rank right up there with what James did: the Spurs were the reigning champs and in last year's Finals they shut down James but they had no answers for Bryant in this series. I can't honestly say that this surprises me, because I have emphasized repeatedly that a big difference between Bryant and James is that Bryant has a fully developed offensive repertoire in terms of footwork, free throw shooting and being able to shoot all the way out to three point range; for those reasons, a team cannot guard Bryant the way that the Spurs (and the Celtics this year) guarded James, playing him so softly on the perimeter that he had great difficulty driving or passing. Bryant's deadly midrange jump shot meant that the Spurs had to defend him closely on the perimeter but that opened up lanes for Bryant to drive and/or pass. Bryant said after game one that he can score whenever he wants to and no one could disagree with that after this series--and this game in particular: in the fourth quarter, Bryant repeatedly worked his way free from Bowen's sticky defense, caught the ball and even when he was forced out well past the three point line he used his footwork and dribbling skills to maneuver his way into high percentage scoring areas. Bryant put on an absolute clinic in terms of midrange jump shooting, he managed to get to the hoop on several occasions despite the Spurs' best efforts to keep him out of the paint and he used the three point shot judiciously and effectively, shooting 2-6 from long range in game five and 10-24 (.417) in the series.

TNT's Kenny Smith said, "Watching Kobe Bryant down the stretch, that was a special performance. That is one, if you are a basketball fan, you put in as a demonstration to show kids what to do because the composure he had down the stretch...in the last four minutes of the game there has only been one other player in my lifetime who I have seen do what he did in the last four minutes and his name is Michael Jordan. And now the comparisons do start because I've never seen anybody be that composed in that stressed environment besides him...This is one of the greatest performances I've seen." Magic Johnson added, "He didn't take a bad shot." I never thought that Bryant's shot selection was as bad as some people said--and even on occasions when it was questionable, a "bad" shot for Bryant was better than the alternative of passing to players who couldn't catch and/or couldn't shoot. That said, Bryant's shot selection during this year's playoffs is off the charts; he is shooting .509 from the field while leading the league in playoff scoring average (31.9 ppg). I have studiously refrained from comparing Jordan and Bryant other than to say that I consider Jordan to be the more accomplished player but Bryant is playing at a Jordanesque level in this year's playoffs. There is still one more round to go, so I won't say anything further on that subject until after the Finals but when the best player in the game somehow takes his game up to yet another level that simply must be acknowledged; as great as Bryant has been previously--and I am on record saying he should have won the 2006 and 2007 MVPs--in this year's playoffs he is definitely "on some new improved," as L L Cool J would say.

Other than Bryant, the Lakers shot 22-55 (.400) from the field. Lamar Odom is not Scottie Pippen by a long shot but he had a solid, quintessential Horace Grant-type game, scoring 13 points on 5-10 shooting and grabbing eight rebounds, plus he did a good job using his length and mobility defensively. Both Collins and Johnson said exactly what I have been saying about Odom all along: he is much more suited to being the third option than to being the second option. Pau Gasol showcased his strengths and weaknesses in equal measure: he is versatile enough to haul in 19 rebounds (a playoff career-high), pass for five assists and block four shots but he was very soft around the hoop in terms of finishing his shots, shooting just 5-15 from the field and only scoring 12 points. Sasha Vujacic (nine points, three steals) and Jordan Farmar (eight points, three assists) provided good energy off of the bench.

Tony Parker had a good game (23 points on 11-22 field goal shooting, four assists) but it is interesting that he had his best playoff performances by far this year in the first round against the Phoenix Suns and two-time MVP Steve Nash. During the Western Conference Finals, Parker produced at roughly the same level that he did during the regular season. Tim Duncan had a triple double (19 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists) but he shot just 7-19 from the field. The Lakers continually used different defensive looks against him throughout the series, sometimes going with single coverage from Gasol, sometimes double-teaming on the catch and sometimes waiting to trap until he put the ball on the floor. Duncan averaged 22.4 ppg, 17.4 rpg and 4.8 apg versus the Lakers but he shot just .426 from the field and was never able to put his stamp on a game at will the way that Bryant repeatedly did. Based on how much everyone talked about Manu Ginobili's injuries I expect him to check into a hospital for about a week now that the series is over. Did you know that he has a sprained ankle and a torn fingernail? Apparently, TV announcers must think that we have short attention spans, because these facts were brought up almost every time Ginobili touched the ball. I began to think that it was a miracle that the guy could get up and down the court. In case you forgot--and it would be easy to do so since no one talks about it--Bryant is playing despite the fact that his mangled right pinkie finger will require surgery and he recently had some fairly intense back spasms. Ginobili finished with nine points, seven rebounds and three assists. He was a complete non-factor and it will be interesting to hear the "stat gurus" tell us that our eyes deceived us and that Ginobili really is just as good as Bryant. I don't care if you give Ginobili a bionic ankle, Flo Jo's nails and Karl Malone's Rogaine, the likelihood that Ginobili could lead a team to the Finals with Gasol and Odom as his primary helpers is exceedingly small. Ginobili is a solid All-Star player who the Lakers match up with very well--he averaged 10.8 ppg on .311 field goal shooting versus the Lakers during the regular season and I don't think that he was on his deathbed for those games the way that everyone acts like he was during this series, when he actually improved on those numbers (12.6 ppg, .358 field goal shooting).

The Lakers began the game with a very nice action, posting up Gasol on the left block and then having him deliver a bounce pass to a cutting Vladimir Radmanovic, who missed a layup; Gasol took advantage of the defense collapsing on Radmanovic, sneaking to the hoop for a tip dunk of the errant shot. TNT's Doug Collins said that Lakers Coach Phil Jackson must have anticipated that the Spurs would play pressure defense, so he ran what Collins called a "pressure release" play. Bryant can obviously score out of any offense, but the Triangle Offense does a great job of organizing the rest of the team, creating good spacing and presenting scoring opportunities to anyone who understands how to read the defense. Unfortunately for the Lakers, that opening sequence was the highlight of the first quarter. The Spurs shot 12-19 (.632) from the field to take a 28-15 lead after the first 12 minutes, while the Lakers shot just 7-24 (.292) from the field. Gasol shot 2-9 from the field and Collins kept a running tally of how many "soft shots" Gasol timidly offered. One time, Bryant drove to the hoop, collapsed the defense and fed Gasol a behind the back pass that should have led to a layup and/or a foul. Instead, Gasol kind of flipped the ball weakly at the rim. "That is one of those (soft) shots that Phil Jackson complains about," Marv Albert commented. "Could not agree with you more," Collins replied. The paradox with Gasol is that he is seven feet tall, he has long arms and good hands, he is very intelligent, he passes the ball well and he is obviously willing and able to battle for rebounds--yet he does not consistently finish aggressively at the hoop; he does it sometimes, maybe even half of the time, but not as often as he should.

Jackson gave Bryant his customary rest at the start of the second quarter. The bench players only scored one point in the first 3:27 as the deficit swelled to 33-16 but then Farmar scored six straight points for the Lakers to trim the lead to 33-22. Bryant returned to the game at that point and scored nine points in the final 5:33 of the quarter as the Lakers pulled to within 48-42 by halftime. Considering that the Spurs blew a 20 point lead in game one and had led by as many as 17 points in this game, even a team as resilient as they are had to be pretty demoralized. George Foreman, Muhammad Ali's opponent in the famous "Rope a Dope" fight, once recalled that after he pounded Ali with body shots for the first several rounds Ali asked him, "Is that all you got?" Foreman remembered thinking to himself, "Yeah, that's about it" right before Ali knocked him out. Although the Lakers' slow start was surely more a result of their young players' overconfidence in the wake of winning in San Antonio than a deliberate "Rope a Dope" plan, the first half was like the "Rope a Dope" in the sense that the Lakers took the Spurs' best body shots and were still standing unscathed; once Bryant started throwing his punches, the fight was over.

The Spurs still had some punches left in the third quarter, briefly pushing the lead back to 10 points before Bryant went to work, hitting a couple jumpers and then driving to the hoop, drawing the defense and feeding Gasol for a dunk to make the score 58-56 San Antonio. "Here is Kobe imposing his will on the game," Collins said. The Lakers took their first lead since Gasol's tip dunk on the opening play when Bryant drilled a three pointer to make the score 60-59. On the Lakers' next possession, Bowen closed out so hard at Bryant to deny him the three point shot that Bowen slipped and Bryant dribbled past him and hit a midrange jumper. A Radmanovic three pointer put the Lakers up 64-63 heading into the fourth quarter.

Bryant began the fourth quarter by making another three pointer and as he ran back on defense he gestured to the Lakers' bench as if to say, "Keep feeding me the ball." Jackson normally rests Bryant at the start of the fourth quarter but he did not do this in game five or in game one when the Lakers made their big comeback. Building trust in the bench players is fine but Jackson knows better than anyone that his team rides or dies with what Bryant does. Collins said, "Phil Jackson recognizes that this is a time to strike for his team." The Lakers repeatedly ran the Bryant-Gasol screen/roll play that was so effective throughout the series and Bryant hit a number of tough shots right in Duncan's face. Once when Bryant missed a jumper Gasol took advantage of being guarded by a smaller defender and easily tip dunked the ball into the hoop. Later, Bryant fed Gasol for what should have been a dunk but the much smaller Ginobili--apparently briefly healed--blocked Gasol's shot. However, the screen/roll play put San Antonio's defense into full rotation mode and Odom gathered the rebound and scored to put the Lakers up 83-76 at the 5:40 mark. The Spurs refused to die, cutting the lead to 83-81 after a Brent Barry three pointer and a Parker drive. Bryant then hit a tough floater over Duncan and a fadeaway jumper over Duncan to make the score 87-82 Lakers. Gasol blocked a Duncan shot and Bryant drove his way through the Spurs' defense to score a layup. Ginobili made a deft feed to Duncan for a layup to pull the Spurs within 89-84 with 1:41 remaining. Radmanovic missed an open three pointer that resulted from the Spurs rotating to stop Bryant but with the Spurs' defense scrambling Gasol got the offensive rebound. Bryant reset the offense and eventually drew a foul, making both free throws to put the Lakers up 91-84. While Bryant shot those free throws, Collins said, "I look at Kobe Bryant out there and I think: competitor, incredibly skilled, strong willed but Marv, is there a better conditioned player in the NBA?"As time ran down and the Lakers' victory was assured, Collins concluded, "The Lakers had the younger, fresher team and--more importantly--they had the best player on the floor in Kobe Bryant. When the game was in the balance, he took it and ran with it."

Hall of Famer Jerry West, who made the deal for the Lakers to acquire Bryant in 1996, presented the team with the Western Conference championship trophy. West said, "I would really be remiss if I didn't mention one player here. I've seen a lot of great players in my life but you people in Los Angeles are very privileged to see this young man here, Kobe Bryant. He's something special. For all you young kids out there who aspire to be something really special, look at his work ethic and dedication and what it does, the leadership ability he has."

If Bryant can carry a team to the Finals after losing one center early in the season (Andrew Bynum) and adding another center near the end of the season (Gasol), what would he have been able to accomplish the past several years if Shaquille O'Neal would have been willing to work hard and defer to Bryant the way that O'Neal deferred to Dwyane Wade in Miami? O'Neal may think that he one-upped Bryant in some fashion by winning a ring with the Heat in 2006 but if he had been as dedicated and focused as Bryant has always been then the two of them could have won three or four more rings together.

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:12 AM

42 comments

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42 Comments:

At Friday, May 30, 2008 9:18:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

I know its Magic but I cant take listening to him on TNT. What a disgrace that he is on there when he is involved with the Lakers. I know people dont have a problem with it but its annoying.

Bryant had a great fourth quarter. But you knew that was going to happen. Its easy to compare players. I dont do it because the eras are different and we should just enjoy players. Bryant wants to be Mike or better. He has designed his whole life to be that. (I dont have a problem with that. Why not be the best)
Hes not doing anything that I havent seen before. Not to say that I dont enjoy watching it...and todays youth can see what greatness is. It just that the NBA is not as good as it used to be and everyone wants the next Jordan. Its been that way for years. Everyone is so quick to compare without analyzing everything. And you have to break down everything if you are going to be compared to the best ever. Bryant never had to endure a team like the late 80s Pistons ever. Hes had it very very easy because he has had one of the best centers ever. As you know, David, I think Bryant is one of the best to play. And I know that when we see performances its easy to bring up Mikes name when watching Bryant play or James's game 5 last year. Everything is the here and now so we tend to forget what just happened or happened 5 years ago. But when you break down Jordans career step by step its laughable how great he was.

The Lakers will probably win the title. The main difference that no one mentions between Mike and Bryant are that Mike was the main guy on all the championships. This is Bryants first time as the main guy. And a bad shot is a bad shot. Thats why I cant listen to Magic.

I think its absolutely amazing that with the addition of Gasol that the Lakers are this much better. They are a good team, not a great team by any stretch. But without Gasol the Lakers wouldnt be in the Finals. But sometimes it takes just one piece...like Wallace to the Pistons.

Maybe Kenny never saw Larry Bird who in the last four minutes has done the same many times. And how was the environment stressed? They are up 3-1 with the best player against an old team. Thats not stress at all, Kenny. I think Kenny living in LA is getting to him a little.

I bet the Spurs could have used Scola this series. They are a very old team.

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 9:28:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

And how much hiphop do you listen to? If you tell me you like Pete Rock then I dont know what to say after that.

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 9:50:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

You are right that there is a conflict of interest with Magic commentating while being a part-owner of the Lakers but you also have to look at all of the guys who are color analysts one minute and then coaches the next (or vice versa). The analysts meet with coaches before the games and talk about strategies, matchups, etc. If I am not mistaken, Van Gundy does not participate in those meetings because he feels uncomfortable doing so because he may coach again. Of course, he still gets to hear Jackson and Breen tell him what was said.

I like to hear what Magic has to say and I think that he offers honest opinions even though he has an obvious rooting interest. His insights and memories about championship level play are interesting. He was dead on target when he expressed concern that the Lakers would come out flat and just expect to win because they were at home.

As much as Kobe "had it easy" with Shaq it can also be said that Shaq "had it easy" with Kobe.

I don't say that Kobe is better than MJ in terms of some kind of all-time ranking but in this year's playoffs he is playing at a Jordanesque level in terms of efficiency and impact.

Kobe is just a little older now than MJ was when he started winning championships. Of course, Kobe has been in the league longer because he came in straight out of high school but if he and the key Lakers players stay healthy it is not outside the realm of possibility that Kobe could end up with as many rings as MJ. It probably won't happen but each time Jackson has had a championship team that squad three-peated--and I think that this team is going to win the title.

The Lakers are a good team that has the best player in the NBA. The addition of Gasol was significant also because of the subtraction of Brown. I have thought for the past 2-3 years that Kobe would need less help to win a ring than any other NBA star and we are seeing that this year (pending the result of the Finals, of course). Kobe has one one-time All-Star, a capable third option, a crafty veteran point guard, a space cadet at small forward and a good bench that is overrated by every commentator in America. Jackson rolled with the bench in the second quarter but he sure didn't try that in the fourth quarter in game one or game five. Jackson had Pip and four bench players on the court in an NBA Finals game in 1992; I don't think he's going to try that with this group unless the Lakers are up 20 with two minutes to go. The bench is good in spot minutes, particularly when Kobe is on the court with them, but the Lakers made their big run in the second quarter once Kobe came back in the game; they treaded water with the bench but that's not such a bad thing--it just doesn't qualify this bench for the status that some give it.

I think what Kenny meant is that Kobe is helming a young team that has never been in this situation and he was going against one of the best defensive teams in the NBA--not to mention the reigning champion. If the Lakers had lost then they faced the real possibility of defeat in game six and then having to play a winner take all seventh game against a much more experienced team.

There does seem to be something that is subtly different about Kobe in this year's playoffs. He has scored more points on other occasions but his shot selection and accuracy are really amazing right now. He's really using the three pointer as a selective weapon and not shooting a ton of them, other than the game in Utah when his back went out.

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 10:10:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

I like the raw energy of hip-hop and there is obviously a connection between music and sports (and music and a lot of other endeavors as well, including math and chess). Certain lyrics pop into my head when I am thinking about/analyzing these games and they provide a poetic shorthand to my lengthier and more technical analysis. For instance, "I make outs/I make other rappers have doubts" pretty much sums up Kobe's impact in a very concise way, so that is a memorable hook to my analysis of his game. Watching Kobe during these playoffs--particularly in the WCF--I definitely think that he is on "some new improved." I expected Kobe to average about 28 ppg and shoot .460-.480 from the field in the playoffs and I thought that would be good enough to lead the Lakers to the title. He's scoring nearly four more ppg while shooting well over .500. I mean, 32 ppg on .500+ shooting plus the rebounds, the assists and the off the hook second halves/fourth quarters--that is Jordanesque. Previously, Kobe was the closest thing to MJ in terms of his work ethic, competitiveness--his general approach. This year, Kobe is actually putting up MJ-like numbers in the playoffs for a championship contender. That does not make Kobe better than MJ--MJ did that for years and years--but it is still impressive.

Pete Rock produced a lot of great hip-hop acts :)

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 10:40:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

Bryant is definitely impressive and putting up the numbers. His consistency is great and he is trusting his teammates.

Ginobili definitely hurt his team in a few of these games. He did nothing. The Spurs shouldnt of lost two big leads on the road that in the past they would of won. If Ginobili was healthy (of course no excuses except for this statement) the Spurs would of won. But they didnt because Bryant had as you put Jordan type second halves.

True indeed it can be reversed with the Shaquille/Bryant scenario but we are talking about Bryant here. As you know if you are a great center most likely you will get to at least a Finals, which ONeal did before Bryant. Bryant never had to endure wht Jordan did at any stretch. Does it make what Jordan did greater? I think so but it doesnt lessen what Bryant has done.

Magics conflict of interest is a conflict. I realize the color commentators become coaches but its different with Magic. Last week after game 2 when it Magic asked what is a day in the life of Bryant when Bryant was on the set. That was a little too much for me.

Maybe Kenny meant that. It sounded like he meant he never seen anyone be so composed in the last four minutes besides Mike. My point is you and I knew the Lakers werent going to lose because Bryant wasnt going to let them. No one can guard him and he was going to get any shot he wanted at any time. Thats why when I was watching the game I was saying the Spurs need to keep this lead going into halftime at at least 10-15 and 15-20 going into the 4th. Because anything less Bryant is going for a 20 point 4th quarter. Once the Lakers cut it to 6 before halftime I knew it was over then. Im sure you did too.



Ahhhh....PETE ROCK IS THE ILLEST. Hiphop is definitely that vehicle of raw energy, although I hate todays music. Just the jazz was the music of the NBA in the 70s and 80s, hiphop has become the soundtrack to the NBA. It amazes me how Grover Washington did songs for the Sixers and used to be in the tunnel before games on the sax. You will never see that now.

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 10:54:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

I think Phil Jackson is the luckiest person in sports. The fact that he came from North Dakota from parents who were penecostal minister and didnt let him watch tv to this basketball zen figure is amazing. (Reading Maverick really depicts Phil and I see why the way he is)

The fact that he was on the Knicks title teams (I know a photographer who was hurt on the 1st one), coached MJ, coached Bryant and Shaq and won 9 titles as a coach and 2 as a player is unbelievable. Now if its the Celtics (which is unbelivablely ironic) he has the chance to past Auerbach for most titles as an NBA coach something that he has wanted to do especially for his mentor Red Holzman. I know if the Lakers win this will be one of the first things he mentions.

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 12:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i enjoyed reading your post. i am a lakers fan and i am hoping, one day kobe would reach the greatness of MJ. I usually stay away from kobe vs mj comparison as well.

i agree with you on the comment that lakers' bench is overrated. there is no complete players in lakers' bench, meaning each player has weaknesses in his game as much as strenghs he brings to the game.
as an individual players, they are weak. but when they play together, they bring their strengths. without phil jackson or kobe, i can't see how it can be orchestrated. i can't see them playing as good as they are if they are in a different team.

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 1:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forget about the Spurs being old...that is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. They have a full day off between games and play for two and a half hours with rest. These guys are professional superbly trained athletes. LA is just better.

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 1:38:00 PM, Anonymous blastorm said...

madnice wrote:

"Hes (Kobe) not doing anything that I havent seen before. "

Remind me when was that other 81 pt game you saw before.

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 2:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David,

I love this post. I watched Game 5 and you captured its flow gracefully and accurately. I love you also put in the story of Ali and Jerry West to put the game into the appropriate perspective.

Keep up your good work.

Eric
Princeton, NJ

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 3:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

not to skip over the finals but........the addition of a healthy bynam makes the lakers scary good. They will still be one of the youngest in the league. A front court of bynam, gasol, and odom would have to be the longest in the league. and they can all run like gazels. Include koby and anyone else with a pulse. hands down the best starting five in basketball. they could have a legit chance of winning a couple more to enhance the legacy of koby and phil.

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 4:12:00 PM, Anonymous warsaw said...

Its funny that Gasol went to LA as a pure scorer with soft rebound and bad defense, and now he's looking like the opossite: A soft scorer that rebounds well and is able to guard a star like Duncan.

I've been following Gasol since he was 20 in Spain, -back then he was flying over the court faster than any other center in Europe- and I thought then that he was not a great defender/rebounder simply because he didn't care about it, or he didn't need to. I used to say "He has the skills but no the will"

Now that he has the will, I wonder if he will have the stamina to do everything.

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 5:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

lebron game was better than kobe he scored 25 straight points when nobody on his team wanted to shoot the ball in spectacular fashion on the road in a hostile enviroment kobe does this all the time there was no stress in this game he played well but he always does he a great player you overhypeing it a little the game the spurs was old team that didnt have the firepower to beat the lakers who are a crafty good team no doubt without gasol 12 19 5 4 blocks they wouldnt of been close too finals even thoughe he is incredibly soft player but everyone needs they cogs.

shaq made it easier for kobe than he kobe did for him he did it with wade and penny too shaq would of been shaq anyway kobe had a diffrent role on the 3 championship teams than he does now this is his first time takeing a team to the finals were shaq was the guy takeing the lakers those other years. kobe was a big piece he wasnt the piece like shaq was he is now and if he he wins the rings he can one up or laugh at shaq afterwards.

reality is kobe didnt want to play with shaq in los angles anymore he knew he would always be looked at like scottie pippen was and people wolud always say he was only great because of shaq so he wanted to prove he could win a ring without shaq and enhance his legacy and he has a chance to do that now since he in the finals.

mj played aginst tougher teams in a tougher era and more physical era with no good big man he had nuthing like shaq and not even a big like gasol or as versatile as gasol cartwright was good with knicks averaged 21 and 20 his first two years and 15plus his next 3. with bulls he averaged 12 9 8 5 and grabbed 6 boards horace grant averaged 11 and 8 for career he was a 3 or 4 option player at best luc longley averraged 7ppg for his career his peak was 11 ppg, rodman was a specialty player he just grabbed boards and played good d he averaged like 5ppg for carrer nobody did more with less than mike.

kobe is playing great basketball right now but he is not mike first he got to win the fourth ring and 2 more and total accomplishment he will never matc him he was jordan esque in playoffs but this is one playoff if he do it a few more than you have to consider maybe he as good. but he is a mile bettter than anyone on boston or detroit he is a s good as garnett and pierce to me.

and that is the reason the lakers will hoist the trophy.

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 5:49:00 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

David, I think you're probably right that the Laker bench is overrated, but I attribute that to the reputation they earned back when everyone was healthy. It's easy to imagine next year that when they have Bynum and Ariza healthy that they could have one of the deepest teams ever. They could even keep their starting lineup the same and bring Bynum and Ariza off the bench if they wanted to, I guess. I won't be surprised to see Phil Jackson use Odom, Gasol and Bynum in a sort of rotation where for most of the game only two of them are on the court together, although given the quality of those three players the Lakers may be able to get away with always having two of those players on the floor together.

A potential rotation with those guys could be to start all three, then take Gasol out about halfway through the first period and slide Odom from 3 to 4. Play Bynum & Odom together for the next 3-4 minutes, then take Bynum out and put Gasol back in, then start the 2nd quarter with Bynum and Gasol at the 5 & 4. Clearly the Lakers wouldn't need to do this kind of thing during the regular season, but they might be able to pull that off in the playoffs. If the Lakers didn't want to do this to maximize the minutes of those guys, they also will have the option of having a full second 5-man unit to go with, taking out the starters and putting Turiaf, Radmanovic, Ariza/Walton, Vujacic & Farmar in the game.

The Lakers don't have a pure scorer like Barbosa or Ginobili in their bench crew, but when fully healthy they will have rather incredible depth, out to 11 players or more, and that is probably why their bench is so highly rated.

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 6:10:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Warsaw:

That is why I consider Pau to be a real paradox. Soft players don't grab 19 rebounds in a WCF game against the greatest power forward of all-time--and yet Pau does shoot softly sometimes, as his own coach, Doug Collins and others have noted. I can't really explain it; I'm just reporting what I see. I do appreciate Pau's skill level and versatility, as I mentioned in the post. Kobe and Pau complement each other well as a tandem because Kobe is a great closer and loves to be in that role, while Pau is perfectly happy to play an all around game and will not "compete" with Kobe for shots the way that Shaq did. In that sense, Kobe and Pau are well matched in a similar way to MJ and Pip, because MJ was a great closer while Pip was a great all around player but not a closer the way that MJ was (Pip was obviously a much greater player than Pau; I'm simply comparing how his skill set meshed with MJ's the way that Pau's meshes with Kobe's).

Pau is not the greatest big man in the NBA right now nor is he even one of the 15 top players overall (i.e., All-NBA Team level) but he is a skilled player who fits in perfectly with Kobe and the Lakers.

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 6:20:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

Grover Washington's "Let it Flow" is absolutely, positively the greatest song EVER written about an NBA player. Have you seen the episode of Greatest Sports Legends about Dr. J (hosted by Ken "White Shadow" Howard) that uses "Let it Flow" as the soundtrack for a Dr. J highlight reel? I didn't see the episode when it aired but when I saw the VHS tape of it in a store I said I've got to have that. My dad did not really understand the significance of it but I kept saying, "I've got to have that tape" (it was the last copy left and it wasn't like there was EBAY back then to order it if the store sold out). I don't know what the Sixers' record was when Washington played the National Anthem but I've heard it was very good (of course, they had great teams, so their record was very good regardless).

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 8:18:00 PM, Anonymous Brandon Hoffman said...

David,

Excellent analysis.

I don't know if Bryant's performance last night is comparable to the one LBJ put up against Detroit last year.

LeBron scored 29 of his teams last 30.

I think that was the greatest playoff performance of all-time.

Your thoughts?

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 1:55:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

blastorm....ok he had 81. thats fine. i was at wilts 100 point game.

anonymous...spurs being old is the dumbest thing you have heard? how about this: barry is 36, bowen is 36, horry is 37, finley is 35, oberto is 33, stoudamire is 35, thomas is 35, vaughn is 33, duncan is 32 but has played so many games that in nba years hes about 35-36, ginobili is 30 but has been a pro since he was about 18 in argentina and has played a lot of playoffs games. is that enough for you? i didnt say la wasnt better i said the spurs are old. pay attention to what you are watching.

dave...yes i have seen that episode. i wish those were still aired. here is a link to that one:
http://www.mixmakers.net/forums/large-clips/120627-greatest-sports-legends-series-tvrip.html

i think it still works.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 2:11:00 AM, Blogger Allen said...

Good work, again.


Using stats without basketball judgment is like trying to learn about how to live your life by reading about it. You get it, David.

I would love to just be happy that people are acknowledging how good Kobe is as a player, but it still sticks in my craw when they say how good his is now, emphasizing the "now", as opposed as to how he "used to play". Yes, I agree Kobe has matured somehwhat, but I've always believed that if you put him with a modicum of good players, everyone would see how good that team would become. I almost wish I could have taken a poll of people immediately after the Pau Gasol trade, to see how many of them believed that the Lakers would now be title contenders. I highly doubt the "haters" would have thought that automatically put the Lakers over the top.

Anyway, I'm just venting.

Looking forward to your Celtic-Lakers Finals breakdown.

I've never thought that Phil Jackson was ever outcoached in any series, and I doubt that Doc Rivers will be the first to do so.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 2:29:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

I agree with madnice that Ginobili performing a normal level would have allowed the Spurs to hang on and win Games 1 and 5. It is very uncharacteristic of the Spurs to lose leads like that in playoff games.

It looks like the Spurs' age finally caught up with them. In addition to the lack of a consistent threat from Ginobili, the Spurs' role players were slow to the ball and just weren't able to contribute much in the way of scoring and rebounding. Between Bowen, Horry, and Oberto, the Spurs usually had two complete offensive liabilities on the floor. I blame their front office for failing to capitalize last summer and bring in some new, young talent. The Spurs may very well be back if they add some new pieces, and in a year we might see the first few lines of "Mama Said Knock You Out" at the top of a 20secondtimeout post.

It seems like Duncan is the most underappreciated superstar in recent history, and the Spurs the most underappreciated team. Kobe has had a better playoff run this year, but I still think that over the last few years Duncan has been as good a player overall. As a big man, Duncan has more impact on the defensive end, and though he can't match Kobe in pure scoring, the Spurs' offense depends greatly on him. For all the talk of how little help Kobe needs (which is justified), many people have overlooked Duncan's success. He led the Spurs to a championship in 2003 with no other all-star caliber player on the roster (Robinson on his last legs doesn't count). Even in 2005, Ginobili was all-star caliber but Parker was not a proven performer. Only last year was there truly a "Big 3." The Spurs have won 4 titles in 9 years and most of the years they lost, they were at least second or third best in the league. They've endured some really tough breaks (.04, Ginobili's foul, injuries to Duncan and Ginobili) that kept them from repeating, and that should not be held against them. Still, it's as if everyone wants to sweep what they have accomplished under the rug because they were "boring." The guys at ESPN won't even entertain the though of the comparing them to the 80s Celtics (even though they have more titles), and some even ranked them below the 80s Pistons. I really admire the way the Spurs play, along with their business-like, no-excuses attitude. If the Lakers can't win in the future, I hope the Spurs win and finally get the respect they deserve.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 2:33:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

"Let It Flow" is the perfect soundtrack for Dr. J. It really captures the smoothness and elegance of his play. I think the video you are referring to can be found here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJaGSDa93dg

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 6:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David,

I want to congratulate you for correctly predicting the outcome of the 12 series out of 14 so far and also forecasting the NBA Finals though it was expected by many. Do you still think that this is Kobe's year? I think it would be so, because when you made these predictions the Celtics were the favorites to win it all, but after witnessing how they struggled through the playoffs, for me it's an even series now. I hope the strength of their frontcourt will not be a big problem for the Lakers and Kobe will not play(in fact i expect some legendary performances from him in two or three games) like he did against Boston in the regular season.

Here in Turkey, many basketball fans are excited to be able to see the greatest rivalry will be revived, but there are some others who still think that this was meticulously planned by the NBA. So, what is the general reaction to this finals in the United States?

Lastly, my prediction is that the Lakers will steal either game 1 or game two, but the Celtics will also win one in LA, and they will unfortunately(since i'm a Laker fan) win the series in seven. It can be the other way around, but one thing that i'm sure is that this will be one of the two best NBA finals i have seen live the other one being the unforgettable '98 finals.

Engin

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 7:17:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember right after the Gasol trade that everyone was complaining that Jerry West just handed the Lakers the championship. You said repeatedly that the Lakers, even with a healthy Bynum and Gasol would not be the favorites. I remembered a discussion we had about that and I said that the Lakers are the most talented team.
I don't know exactly when, but you changed your pick from the Suns/Spurs to the Lakers. Did the Lakers start playing better than you thought or did the Suns/Spurs seem more vulnerable down the stretch?

I also remember that we had a discussion about the Lakers/Spurs supporting casts, and I argued that I'd take Gasol over Ginobili/Parker because of the position he played. I also said that I'd take Lamar Odom over Peja any day of the week because of Peja's history in the clutch and because most importantly, that Lamar Odom can rebound, while Peja is useless if he has an off-night. I have noticed that you keep on minimizing the contributions of the other Lakers. The Spurs game plan agains Kobe was to keep him off the line. They could live with Kobe getting 40 points on 30 attempts, but they were absolutely killed on the boards in the last 2 games. Make no mistake what Kobe did was downright amazing, but he had more help than Duncan got.

I'm not overrating the Lakers bench. I think Farmar, Vujacic, Walton, VRad, etc. are not as good as Thomas, Barry, Udoka. But they are much, much better than Horry, Finley, and Oberto.

You kept on harping that Horry and Finley are better shooters than the Laker bench, but Horry shot 25% this season. Finley needs 10 shots to score 9 points. They can't run, they can't defend, and like Oberto, they can't rebound.

Stop comparing Ginobili's ankle with Kobe's pinkie. Neither player made excuses for their injuries but I'm pretty sure that both Bryant and Ginobili would rather have a mangled pinkie than a bad ankle. I completely understand how infuriating some of the commentators' "observations" are, but don't try to counterbalance it with a Waltonesque quote yourself.

I am seeing a lot of similarities between Gasol and Garnett. Both are great passer/shooter/rebounders. Both are decent shotblockers. Perfect second bananas!

Oh, and great job, keep up the good work!

Z

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 10:45:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

It is true that Jackson has had some good fortune but I would not call him lucky; in both Chicago and L.A. other coaches had the opportunity to coach MJ/Pip and Shaq/Kobe respectively and did not reach the Finals. After Jackson's arrival those teams not only quickly became champions but they each won three times in a row. Flip Saunders inherited a team that had gone to the Finals two years in a row, winning one title, and he has yet to get them back to the Finals again. Winning championships is not easy.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 11:08:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Eric:

Glad to hear that you enjoyed this post.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 11:13:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Wild Yams:

I agree that with Bynum and Ariza the bench could be very formidable but what I am criticizing are the commentators who talk about how great the bench supposedly is right now, not how great it could potentially be in the future. Barkley acted like the bench made the big run in the second quarter but most of that run took place after Kobe checked back in to the game. If those bench players were on a different team then they would be coming into games trailing instead of leading and they would not have the opportunity to play alongside Kobe during some stretches. The bench had some really big games against some poor teams (Clippers) during the regular season. I think it is more accurate to say that the bench has improved than to say that it is great. Part of the improvement is that Walton is a reserve instead of being a starter and part of the improvement is that the young players continue to develop.

It will be interesting to see how Jackson manages the frontcourt next year both in terms of allocating minutes and designating positions.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 11:48:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

Somehow I knew that you would reflexively say that LeBron's game was better than Kobe's. Obviously, this is a largely subjective consideration and you are entitled to your opinion. My point is that Kobe did this in an elimination game against the defending champions, a team that completely throttled James in last year's Finals. LeBron never put up 39 points on 16-30 shooting versus the Spurs. Why do you say that Kobe "does this all the time" as if that diminishes his accomplishment? If anything, that makes him even more amazing than LeBron because he can be this great on a more consistent basis and against tougher opposition. The Spurs won 56 games this year and knocked off Phx and Utah. If LeBron played against them right now in a seven game series he'd shoot .350 from the field and commit 5-6 TOs a game.

Kobe has just taken a team to the Finals as the number one guy, so a lot of the arguments that you have made against him are no longer valid. Shaq was not the number one guy in Miami.

We've already talked about why the Lakers traded Shaq; Buss did not want to pay the luxury tax to keep a player who did not stay in shape. It was not Kobe's decision, as Buss has said more than once.

I'm not saying that Kobe has accomplished more than MJ overall but in this year's playoffs Kobe is putting up Jordanesque numbers and having Jordanesque impact.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 11:54:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

Yes, that is a clip from the GSL video I mentioned. Poetry in motion.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 12:02:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Brandon:

As I indicated, I think that the two performances are comparable. It is a subjective determination to say which one is "better." Reggie's points that LeBron did it on the road and scored so many consecutive points are valid considerations but Kobe scored nine more points in regulation than LeBron did and Kobe accomplished this against a team that stymied LeBron in last year's Finals. Both performances were great.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 12:06:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

Yes, that link goes to the GSL episode about Dr. J.

Were you really at Wilt's 100 point game? Wilt used to joke that 50,000 people say they were at the game even though it was played in Hershey, Penn. and only about 4000 people were actually there.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 12:22:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Allen:

During the regular season I thought that Kobe pretty much did what he has always done and that people called him "new and improved" rather than acknowledge that he should have been the MVP in 2006 and 2007. However, in the playoffs I think he has, incredibly, taken his game to another level. He's scoring over 30 ppg while shooting over .500 from the field.

I have been saying for years that with just a little help Kobe could lead a team into the Finals. He has more than a little help but his supporting cast is still not as good as a lot of people think; Kobe is carrying a lot of weight for this team. There is exactly one All-Star selection on the team other than Kobe and that belongs to Gasol from 2006. I think that a Gasol-Odom nucleus without Kobe would not have made the playoffs in the West.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 12:27:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

I definitely appreciate the Spurs and I have repeatedly said that Duncan is the greatest power forward of all-time.

However, as great as Duncan is, when Kobe takes the floor with a team that is not a complete rag tag unit he is able to show that he is in fact the best player in the game. Although Kobe is getting a lot of overdue recognition now, I think that most people do not really fathom how great of an accomplishment it was for Kobe to lead the past two Lakers' teams into the playoffs.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 12:32:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Engin:

It certainly looks like this is Kobe's year. As Doug Collins said, he could end up with the MVP, the Finals MVP, the championship trophy and an Olympic gold mendal in one year, something that only MJ did.

That said, I'm sure that Celtics fans think that it is their year, too.

There are always some people who believe in conspiracies but I think that most people in America who follow basketball are excited about the matchup.

Your prediction is plausible; mine will be up within the next couple days.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 12:45:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Z:

I still don't think that the Lakers are the most talented team from top to bottom. Take Kobe out of the equation and compare the roster to Phx, NO, Utah, the Spurs, even Dallas. One on one, is Gasol better than the first or second best players on those teams? Is Odom better than the second or third options? Fisher was a backup for Utah last year. Radmanovic is nothing special. The Lakers look great because Kobe is the best player in the NBA and the rest of the players understand their roles and are well suited for them; once I realized that this was the case, my estimation of their chances increased.

Does Gasol get so many offensive rebounds without Kobe running screen/roll plays and drawing Duncan away from the hoop? Gasol had not won a single playoff game prior to this season and now he is the starting center on the Western Conference champions. We heard all year that Chris Paul made David West better but West's game includes a lot of one on one moves in space that he could do with or without Paul being on the court. Gasol's shooting percentage with the Lakers has skyrocketed due to all the easy shots he gets because of playing alongside Kobe and if Gasol finished some plays with more force then his percentage would be even better.

I've said for years that Odom is better as the third guy than the second guy. Now Doug Collins and Magic are saying the same thing in the wake of Gasol's arrival. I am not downgrading Gasol, Odom or anyone else on the team; I am just accurately assessing what they can and cannot do and how much they are benefiting from playing with Kobe.

Kobe's finger will require surgery. It has to be taped to his ring finger because otherwise it would flop to the side like a dead fish. Kobe told me during the All-Star break that it doesn't hurt because he has no feeling in it; he had to change his shooting stroke to compensate for that lack of feeling. I have no idea how serious Manu's injury is but it only gets talked about during his bad games. As I mentioned, Manu put up even worse numbers versus the Lakers in the regular season than he did during the playoffs.

There is a similarity between KG and Gasol in that neither one has the mentality of a closer, so that role falls to Pierce and Kobe respectively.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 6:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jordan wouldn't have won any championships without pippen, puckers.

Quick, name me one player who lead his team statistically i.e rebound, scoring, steals AND block shots?

Yep, pippen did.

Portland would've won if not for Rasheed's unreliable sorry ass. He has always been that way, always will be, as was shown in DE's defeat.

Pippen is the goat player, not jordan. Atleast for 1 person in NY he is.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 8:46:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Julius Erving ('76 Nets) and Dave Cowens ('78 Celtics) also led their teams in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocked shots but you will get no argument from me about the tremendous value of Pip's versatility. Pip is one of my favorite players of all-time, although I can't quite go along with the greatest of all-time designation that you used; nevertheless, I agree that the Bulls would not have won one title without him. MJ and Pip's skills complemented each other's very, very well.

 
At Saturday, May 31, 2008 9:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still don't think that the Lakers are the most talented team from top to bottom.
- only if you take out Kobe and measure the team against Utah,Phx, and Dallas, but top to bottom includes Kobe. Against the Spurs Kobe's supporting cast is more talented than Duncans'. I'd put Gasol, Ginobili, Parker, Odom in that order.
Ginobili is very streaky and wouldn't fare better than Gasol in a Memphis level team. Ginobili averaged 20ppg off the bench against bench players. His numbers look good to stat gurus precisely for that reason.
Add to the fact that he backs up Finley, the numbers become even prettier. If Bonzi Wells was playing alongside Tim Duncan he'd look great too.
Gasol got 18ppg against starters and double teams. He plays more minutes and is more consistent. He also plays at a pace where he is far less likely to get injured.
Basically Pau Gasol for 36-38 minutes is greater than Manu Ginobili for 28-32 minutes.

Parker is better than Odom but the gap is not as wide as you think. 9+ rpg is huge especially since Gasol and Kobe are good rebounders too.
Parker's jumpshot is still awful. Just look at his freethrow numbers, literally Duncan-like! They both travel and commit charging fouls at inopportune times.

You can call it one way or the other, but the reason why I said "top to bottom" the Lakers were more talented than the Spurs because the Spurs had been playing a lot of useless players.
Finley needs 9+ attempts to get 10 points. He doesn't contribute anything else. The only player who attempts more shots with less points than him is Sebastian Telfair.
Horry is shooting 25%. He also doesn't bring anything else. Vaughn shot 27% in the playoffs. Oberto doesn't score, defend, or rebound as well as Thomas, yet they're splitting time.

Does Gasol get so many offensive rebounds without Kobe running screen/roll plays and drawing Duncan away from the hoop?
- because Oberto wasn't there. That's why I was so against playing him. The Spurs have been killed on the boards. Bowen guarding the best perimeter player ensures that he will never get more than the league average for SFs.
Parker is also a below average rebounder for his position. Finley is atrocious. Oberto can't even box out. Duncan has to do too much. That's why I wanted Udoka, Barry, and Thomas to play.
Have you ever played basketball where there were 2 bigmen on the other team, while you were the only rebounder on yours? You'll have a harder time rebounding, and your team rebounding goes way down.

That said, I don't think the Spurs' future looks as bad as the Suns/Mavs. During the playoffs, Duncan was every bit as good as he was during his "peak years." Ginobili just came off his best regular season, and Parker is still young.
They are also one of the cheaper "big three's" in the league, so I'd expect them to still be in the hunt next year.

Z

 
At Sunday, June 01, 2008 6:19:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Z:

I agree that "top to bottom" includes Kobe--that is why I picked the Lakers to win the title before the playoffs started. My point is that roster spots 2-12 on the Lakers are not quite as great as some people make them out to be.

As for your criticisms of the Spurs' rotation during the WCF, as I indicated before I think that health/conditioning issues probably had a lot to do with that, specifically regarding Barry and Thomas. Guys who have not been playing heavy minutes cannot usually just all of a sudden be thrown out there for extended periods and be effective. Barry's minutes did pick up as the series progressed.

I think that you are a little harsh regarding Oberto. He can't rotate to pick up Gasol without leaving Odom wide open. All of these matchup problems stem from how much manpower it takes to deal with Kobe. As you said, the Spurs put sf Bowen on him, which leaves a guard checking sfs Radmanovic or Walton. Whenever there is a Kobe/Gasol screen/roll, Duncan has to jump out or Kobe will just feast on midrange jumpers but after Duncan jumps out Gasol is rolling to the hoop plus Kobe can also string Duncan out and then attack him off the dribble. Put somebody else out there instead of Kobe and Oberto and the rest of the Spurs would look a lot better and Gasol, Odom and the Lakers would look a lot worse.

I would not be surprised if the Spurs are contenders again next year. Actually, I expect that they will be. That said, they do need to add some offensive firepower.

 
At Sunday, June 01, 2008 10:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

lebron scored 25 straight points in that game and he carried his team which is alot worse than kobe team is. how james played aginst last years spurs is irrelevant to what happen in that game he carried his team to the finals on the road in a hostile enviroment when clearly noone on his team wanted to shoot the game was better than kobe scoreing 39 points at home up 3-1 aginst the spurs when the lakers have a better team than the spurs anyway and many predicted they would do this to them. no disrespect the game was nuthing special he a great great player and he played great in the game but it wasnt better than lebron game aginst the pistons a great team that is tough defensively as well and tayshaun prince is a tougher defnder than bruce bowen and he said that lebron a tougher cover than kobe is.

granted kobe is slighly better than lebron as a player but not by much remeber kobe at his peak he in his 12th year lebron in his fifth year and not much of a diffrence other than outside shooting lebron will get better at his outside shooting and freethrow shooting and get better teamates like kobe got than i think he will defintely be the best lebron has room for improvement kobe doesnt and he almost as good as kobe is like mike did later on in his career.


shaq was with the lakers by far in 99-2000 shaq averaged 30ppg kobe 22 ppg in the playoffs shaq averaged 30 15 3 kobe 20 4 4 shaq was by far best player kobe was comeing up at that time but no question shaq was by far best player in league he averaged 38ppg in finals kobe averaged 15ppg kobe was a second team all nba player shaq was first team all 3 years in 01 kobe averaged 28 in regualr season shaq averaged 29 shaq averaged 30 15 and 3 agins in the postseason kobe averaged 27 7 6 in postseason in final shaq averaged 35 kobe 24 he dominated philly i remeber that ai said there was nuthing they could do with shaq. kobe made 2nd team all nba agiain he made first team in 02 shaq averaged 27 12 kobe 25 5 in regualar season in finals shaq averaged 36 kobe 26 he had 40 12 and 8 in game 1 i remeber all nj said was there was nuthing they could do with shaq and there was nuthing. whole point of this there was no doubt during the championship years shaq was clealry best player and by far in 2000 and was as well in 01 and 02 thats why he won all the finals mvp and everybody built they team to stop shaq not kobe kobe was great at time but he wasnt shaq at the time is my whole point there is no questioning it now i just wanted to get facts out there weve went back and forth on this numerous times.

about shaq not being number 1 option in 06 i know he said it was dwayne wade team which it was dwayne wade team shaq was still the number 1 for 3 so it doesnt diminsh him if he wasnt for one like it wouldnt if he win one with phoenix plus he was 34 years old at the time i dont think kobe will be number 1 option at 34 either only mike was number 1 option and still best player in league at 34 acually 35 in 98.

kobe got to finals i said that now he got to win it and i think he will. kobe had contract leverage he was not going to sign with lakers if shaq was still there on the team he would of signed with chicago or clippers if the lakers refused to trade shaq. thats why he waited to make sure shaq was gone before he signed with lakers everybody knows that he didnt want to play with shaq anymore.

he is playing jordan ess for this playoff jordan did for his whole career if he does it at this level for a few more years and win rings you got to put him up there with him. if you take away a star like lebron or duncan from they team there team wouldnt be as good as well you overate kobe acting like every rebound and every shot gasol or odom make is becasue of kobe etc but you dont say that for lebron and you overate micheal jordan teamates. ive always thought of you and know your a fan of kobe which is your right to be but why dont you just admit rather than playing like your a fair analyst everybody has there favirotes your favirote players are pipen and kobe.

 
At Monday, June 02, 2008 1:04:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

How LeBron played against the Spurs in the 2007 Finals is very relevant to this discussion; the Spurs defended James by playing him soft on the outside because of his subpar jump shot and as a result LeBron shot a poor percentage, committed a ton of turnovers and his Cavs got swept. The Celtics played a similar defense against LeBron in this year's ECF and largely held him down, though LeBron hit some jumpers and had a great game seven. Kobe scored his 39 points against a defense that stymied LeBron and in a manner (hitting midrange jumpers) that LeBron cannot match.

Detroit is not as good defensively as the Spurs or Celtics and the Pistons repeatedly allowed LeBron to get into the paint. LeBron's performance was great and I am not taking anything away from it; I am merely putting it in its proper context and pointing out that what Kobe did against the Spurs is also very impressive. The main reason that the Lakers were up 3-1 is how well Kobe played, so I find it amusing that you hold that against Kobe when you compare these two performances. I don't think that Kenny Smith is biased toward Kobe and he said after Kobe's game that it was one of the best performances he's ever seen--and he was a college teammate of Jordan's who of course also played against Jordan for years in the NBA. I'm not really interested in insisting that Kobe's game is better than LeBron's; all I'm saying is that the two games are comparable.

We are making progress here in that you now acknowledged that Kobe is indeed a better player than LeBron. Sure, you immediately threw in some superfluous comments about the age and experience difference but at least you have come around on this point. Kobe is playing better in this year's playoffs than he ever has, so how do you know whether or not he can improve more? LeBron has been in the league several years now and although his defense has markedly improved his free throw shooting and outside shooting have not. Until he improves in those areas he will not be better than Kobe was at his peak, even though he will naturally eventually be better than Kobe as Kobe ages.

I've never diminished what Shaq accomplished on the championship teams and I am the last person who needs to hear a recitation of his stats and honors; I am very familiar with what he has achieved and that is why I included him along with Kobe, Duncan and LeBron as the active players most worthy to be considered as future members of the basketball Pantheon that I discussed in a series of articles about the greatest players of all-time. However, the fact that Shaq was great individually does not prove that he could have won titles without Kobe nor does it indicate how much Kobe had to do with Shaq's ability to put up those numbers. Kobe led those teams in assists and he was an All-NBA and All-Defensive Team player. That means he created easy scoring opportunities for Shaq with his passing as well as by drawing defenders to him when he broke the defense down, which often led to baskets for Shaq even on plays when Kobe did not get the assist. Kobe guarded the top perimeter player on the opposing team and that defensive contribution gave the Lakers a better chance to win.

You threw a lot of numbers out there for Shaq and Kobe without providing any context. Obviously, Shaq was the primary focus of the offense, so he got more shot attempts and scored more points. However, it is easier for a post player to score when he has an All-NBA wing player as a teammate. What about the argument that Shaq made it easier for Kobe, too? There is some merit to that, but with Shaq firmly anchored in the paint that meant that one or two big defenders were also down there so in a sense it was tougher for Kobe to get all the way to the rim to score. In other words, Kobe's presence took some defensive attention away from Shaq, while Shaq's presence brought more defenders into the paint; that opened things up for spot up shooters on the Lakers but not as much for Kobe, who was primarily a slasher back then.

It is tiresome to continually repeat Kobe's playoff resume to you but here are a couple examples of some of the context that you left out (this is not the sum total of Kobe's contributions to those title runs but just some facts to place the numbers you cited in a more complete context):

In the 2000 Finals, Kobe sprained his ankle early in game two and scored just two points in nine minutes, so that is why his average for that series is lower than normal. However, in game three he came up big with 28 points and he took over the overtime after Shaq fouled out. Kobe did not put up big numbers in that series but he absolutely had a big impact. Also, in game seven of the WCF versus Portland he had 25 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four blocked shots, leading the Lakers in all three categories--yes, he outrebounded and outblocked Shaq in an elimination game. Obviously, if the Lakers lose that game they don't win the title, so Kobe had a major, major role in that title run.

In the 2001 Finals, Iverson had a big game one as Philly stole homecourt advantage. In a must win game two, Kobe had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists (Shaq had a big game, too, with 28 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists and eight blocked shots). Kobe had 32 points in game three as the Lakers retook homecourt advantage.

Jerry Buss has repeatedly said that he had no intention of giving Shaq max dollars for max years due to Shaq's age and questionable conditioning habits. Even Shaq has come out and said that he does not think that Kobe had anything to do with the decision. That means that everyone involved in the process--Buss, Shaq and Kobe--has said that Kobe did not chase Shaq away. You are wrong about this; please let it go.

I wrote about "The Accelerated Growth Curve of LeBron James" and I have documented his greatness in many articles and posts. I rank him as the second best player in the NBA right now, so to suggest that I don't evaluate him and analyze his game exactly the same way that I evaluate and analyze Kobe's game is wrong. Kobe has a better, more complete skill set than LeBron and that is why I rank Kobe ahead of LeBron. I thought that LeBron gained some ground this year by improving his defense but Kobe's performance so far in this year's playoffs has widened the gap again. Kobe dominated a Spurs team that stymied LeBron and if Kobe does the same to a Celtics team that held LeBron down in the ECF then the gap between Kobe and LeBron should be glaringly obvious to all.

I don't say that every shot that Gasol and Odom make comes from Kobe. What I do say is that I don't understand why Chris Paul gets so much credit for David West's scoring when West creates most of his points off of one on one moves, though the fact that Paul apparently is wrongly awarded assists on these plays anyway certainly began to clarify matters for me. In contrast, Gasol's field goal percentage--which has always been good--absolutely skyrocketed since he started playing with Kobe and any intelligent observer of the games can see that Kobe is creating tons of easy scoring opportunities for Gasol, both by giving him great feeds and also by drawing defenders. Odom is best suited to being the third option, so Gasol's arrival really helped him. Odom has some one on one skills but in general he is overrated in this regard, because he has a tendency to get out of control and turn the ball over, commit offensive fouls or fail to finish at the hoop. He has his best games when he comes in from the weakside and fills the voids created by Kobe and Gasol.

 
At Wednesday, June 04, 2008 11:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

im talking about game 5 of pistons series and game game 5 of the lastgame lebron game was clearly better. if you wanna say kobe played better vs the spurs than lebron fine i never debated that the 48 on the road vs pistons in game 5 was better to me especially when you score the last 25 points of the game and make game winning shot and 29 of 30 actually.

lebron averaged 27 7 6 agianst celtics they held him down not he shot bad the first two games misses alot of layups he should of made he shot 35 percent not great but after the first two games he was like 18 and the last 3 he shot 50 percent almost plus even 3 and even though he didnt shoot great he was a stat stuffer and almost carried his team past them on the road when they got 3 hall of famers and he play with bums.

kobe a great player lebron is right with him though kobe has better people around lebron will be better at his peak than kobe experience and how long you play is big reason if a guy play 10 years and a guy play 5 he has the advantage you refuse to acknelodge cause you a kobe fan.

everybody knows shaq is in the pantheon of all time greats you gotta say that that doesnt mean you like shaq or give him his due. my whole point was shaq was better than kobe when they were shaq and kobe he was the number 1 option it was his team and his game 2 2001 finals was better than kobe ask ai why they lost who was the biggest reason why he was say a whole lotta shaquille oneal like he said after game 3 of the finals. dont take nuthing away kobe he was great at the time not as great as shaq was my point and and in it wasnt close kobe averaged 15 ppg in series shaq 38 he didnt put up great numbers shaq did without question he was a second team alln nba player shaq was sfirst team and best player in league all 3 years i know your a kobe fan and all but the facts dont change kobe was a big contributor but he was defintely sidekick to shaq who was superman.

 
At Thursday, June 05, 2008 7:08:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

I did not say that Kobe's game five versus the Spurs was better than LeBron's game five versus Detroit last year; I said that they were at least comparable. Kenny Smith said that Kobe's performance is the best he's ever seen, so I am not the only one who thinks that Kobe did something special in this game.

You are failing to understand the larger distinction that I am making between Kobe and LeBron. Kobe has a complete game, while LeBron is a poor jump shooter and an inconsistent free throw shooter. Because of LeBron's subpar shooting skills, defenses can guard him in ways that they cannot guard Kobe. LeBron's performance against Detroit in 2007 was a remarkable showcase of his raw athletic talent. However, the Spurs (in the 2007 Finals) and the Celtics (in this year's playoffs) walled off the paint much better than Detroit did and LeBron had no counter for that. Kobe just faced that same Spurs defense and he destroyed it with his midrange jump shot; he shot much better than LeBron did in the 2007 Finals and also turned the ball over at a much lower rate.

I expect that we will see something very similar in this year's Finals, as Kobe will have more success--and with greater efficiency--than LeBron did against the Celtics' defense.

Through the first several games of the Celtics' series LeBron set numerous records for lowest field goal percentage in the shot clock era, since the NBA-ABA merger, for a scoring champion in a playoff series, etc., etc. Obviously, with his excellent game seven he raised his series average significantly--but the Celtics built their series lead and ultimately advanced in no small part by forcing LeBron to shoot poorly and commit a lot of turnovers. LeBron shot a terrible percentage in a very close game one, so it is silly to blame that loss on the so-called "bums" that he plays with when those guys played enough defense and made enough shots to keep the game competitive.

You consistently accuse me of pro-Kobe bias and you consistently reference Kobe's age compared to LeBron's age. Your accusation of bias is absurd because I have clearly and logically explained exactly how I evaluate players--based on skill sets--and I have stated precisely why Kobe is better than Lebron (and why LeBron is the second best player in the NBA, a statement that you apparently have not noticed or else you would not act like I dislike LeBron). Moreover, the results of this year's playoffs have confirmed the accuracy of my earlier statements regarding both players. As for the age/experience issue, I am not talking about who might be the better player down the line--that is pure speculation. All I am talking about is who is better now. Also, if you are going to give LeBron the benefit of the doubt based on his age then you have to do the same when you talk about Kobe during the championship years. You can't have it both ways. Kobe was 21 when the Lakers started winning titles, two years younger than LeBron is now.

Furthermore, you predictably completely ignored the context that I supplied and instead blindly repeated Kobe's series averages without noting the impact that he had.

What about Kobe's performance in game seven of the 2000 WCF versus Portland when he outscored, outrebounded, outassisted and outblocked Shaq? Kobe was 21 then. Without that performance the Lakers don't make it to the Finals.

As for Shaq, I don't understand your statement that I "have to" say good things about him but that it doesn't prove that I like Shaq. My articles are not about who I like or don't like; I am evaluating players' strengths and weaknesses. When Shaq went to Phoenix a lot of people said that it wouldn't work and the Suns would miss the playoffs but I said from the start that the Suns would definitely make the playoffs and that they had a better chance now to beat the Spurs. If I were just writing articles based on liking or disliking certain players then I would have jumped on the bandwagon with everyone else and bashed Shaq.

The irony of your accusation of bias on my part is that you are so far in the tank for LeBron that you are unable to see and acknowledge your own very obvious bias. You once made a big deal about Kobe's shooting percentage but you have yet to mention one time that Kobe is shooting over .500 from the field in this year's playoffs, including over .500 in 10 of 15 games--and you completely gloss over LeBron's terrible shooting percentages versus Boston, which were worse than Kobe (or just about any other great player) ever did in a playoff series. So it is quite amusing to hear you say that I am biased.

 

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