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Friday, July 11, 2008

Smush Parker, Kwame Brown and the Kobe Bryant Effect

Yesterday, the Clippers gained some salary cap room by renouncing their rights to Smush Parker, who has played for six NBA teams since 2002-03.

One of the best testaments to Kobe Bryant's greatness is that he led the Lakers to the playoffs twice despite having Parker as the starting point guard and Kwame Brown as the starting center. Point guard and center are arguably the two most important positions on a basketball team and while it is not necessary that the players at those positions be the two best players on the team it is usually vital that a team receives a certain amount of consistent production from those positions.

Parker started 162 of the 164 games that he played as an L.A. Laker but hardly played--let alone started--prior to or subsequent his time with the Lakers. Check out his career statistics; those middle two years should have an asterisk, followed by this designation: "performance enhanced by playing alongside Kobe Bryant."

As for Brown, the statistical story is not quite so dramatic but check out his year by year field goal percentages: they are never above .489 in his non-Laker seasons and they do not drop below .526 in his Laker seasons. Playing with Bryant had a similar positive effect on Pau Gasol's field goal percentage this season; this is because Bryant draws double-teams that lead to wide open shots for his big men, whether or not Bryant makes the final pass that is credited with the assist.

People often talk about which superstars "make their teammates better." I'd like to know which other NBA superstar could carry a team to the Western Conference playoffs twice with Brown and Parker as starters. It will be interesting to see if Brown or Parker ever become regular starters again in the NBA, let alone start alongside each other on a playoff team.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:17 PM

29 comments

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29 Comments:

At Friday, July 11, 2008 3:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie'

kobe should get credit for carrying smush and kwame no doubt in my mind the king could carry them as far so could tim duncan. smush was a streetball player got a nba deal kwame a player who couldnt catch and finish. kobe made the playoffs with them other all time greats could make the playoffs with them in there prime as well if he would of won a couple of rounds that would of been diffrent. they won 42 and 45 games i think only a couple players today could do it though.

 
At Friday, July 11, 2008 9:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

joe

kobe is the second greatest player ever behind jordan i concede jordan nobody else none could carry a team like kobe can bird and magic arent close they had 3 or 4 hall of famers.

kobe only played with one hall of famer in his career shaq and without kobe on those teams the lakers could not win one ring i know shaq was best player on team and like and respect shaq alot but based on skill kobe is second best player ever he has 10 all nba 10 time all star 8 all defensive teams in 12 years 5 final apperances 3 rings, carid teams to playofsnobody not lebron or wade can carry.

he has not played with a multiple all star post shaq. and got to finals, lebron had big z made two all star d wade had shaq he was a multiple all star and gary payton and alonzo mouring, tim duncan had tony parker 2 all stars apperances manu ginibili all nba player, kevin garnett pierce 6 allen 8 all star, those are the players who won rings and detroit has sheed 4 time all star hamilton and billups 3.

kobe has had less than any other player and went pretty far pau gasol is soft and averaged 19 for carrer but 14 aginst boston and sa antonio and he is soft lamar odom is not a great player never been in contention for all star team or all nba and is very in consistent for his career. the rest are players that are just okay farmar, turaif, walton, sasha, the mainstram media acts like he playing with great players he is not and still doesnt get credit he deserve he is best not named jordan nobody better than mike but kobeis number 2 and none is close not russell, or wilt, or kareem.

 
At Friday, July 11, 2008 9:51:00 PM, Anonymous checkyourmath said...

Why hit people when they are down? What an easy trend to attack Smush Parker after he has a difficult year with Miami. How about you consider the fact that Rajon Rondos numbers may have been inflated because of playing with the big 3. They still got a championship out of it while having their weakest players starting at what you called the most important positions. The difference is players like Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett have patience and are willing to help along guys like Rondo, and willing to build a team throughout the season. Kobe became visibly upset whenever Smush or Kwame made a mistake late in their tenure, causing both players to lose confidence. No one is saying a change wasnt needed at both positions but someone is saying stop beating up on Smush and Kwame when they had nothing to do with the loss of the Lakers championship
this season. Those days are over, but I guess Lakers fans are done beating down Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol and have to rewind the tape for some more material.

 
At Saturday, July 12, 2008 2:15:00 AM, Anonymous Randy said...

Hey bro, I absolutely love your blog. You are one the very blogggers that seem to respect Kobe and his greatness and you manage to keep his off court issues(which are extremely overblown) out of your analysis of him as a player. God bless you and keep up the good work.

 
At Saturday, July 12, 2008 3:20:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

It's one thing to think that there are a few other players who could also have made the playoffs in the West with a D-League pg and a center who can't catch but are there any other examples of someone leading such a motley crew to the playoffs twice? KG, Pierce and Allen just won a title together but the year before when each was on his own none of them made the playoffs. KG had been out of the playoffs for several years in a row.

 
At Saturday, July 12, 2008 3:27:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Checkyourmath:

I am not beating up on Smush or anyone else. Throughout the time that he was with the Lakers I consistently made the point that he is a subpar player and that the Lakers were a playoff team despite of him and Kwame, not because of them. Phil Jackson plucked Smush off of the scrap heap and tried to mold him into an NBA player but Smush foolishly decided to not only tune him out but mouth off to him.

Kobe has worked very well with his younger teammates--just ask Bynum, Vujacic, Farmar, etc. The idea that it is Kobe's fault that Smush and Bynum have failed is ridiculous--and that is precisely the reason that I keep pointing out that these guys are barely even rotation players on other teams, let alone being starters for a playoff team. Those two should have been thrilled to play with Kobe and for Jackson and they should have worked their butts off to stay on the team.

If Kobe was holding them back then how come both players are having markedly less individual and team success elsewhere?

 
At Saturday, July 12, 2008 4:00:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't Luke Walton also start one of those 2 years?

 
At Saturday, July 12, 2008 4:36:00 AM, Blogger The Dude Abides said...

David, to expand on just how little the statistics tell the whole story regarding Kwame Brown: his turnover rate was 18.1 last season--in other words, 18.1% of his possessions ended in a TO. That 18.1 TO rating was the 10th worst in the league among all players. Now, we all know that his butterfinger hands are his biggest problem. You'd think that all those dropped passes would be the primary contributor to that abysmal TO rating, right?

Wrong. Turnovers on dropped passes are always credited to the passer. Astonishing, but it's true, as I followed the Laker games on Yahoo gamecast. ROUTINE passes that Kwame dropped were credited to the passer every time. I'm talking a routine bounce pass from ten feet away from Fisher to Kwame that he simply dropped, and the opponent went the other way for a fast break dunk.

His effective TO rate should actually have been closer to 35 or 40, which would have likely been the worst ever performance by an NBA player. For Kobe to take a team to the playoffs with this guy as the starting center was truly an amazing accomplishment. Oh, and I didn't even talk about all of his wide-open missed dunks that end up as long rebounds, leading to fast breaks for the other team.

 
At Saturday, July 12, 2008 10:56:00 AM, Anonymous checkyourmath said...

Thats fine but your using an example that is unique. Smush has never consistently been in the lineup outside of his 2 years with the Lakers and his rookie year with the Cavs. What about Chucky Atkins who ended up having good stats off the bench for Memphis in 06 and Caron Butler who is now an All-Star calibar player? Kobe didnt take them to the playoffs and they became more than just rotation players. They became starters or 6th man for Playoff teams. I think Phil Jackson doesn't get enough credit, for what the Lakers have been able to do. And I do think the prime factor in the Lakers turn around besides Gasol was Derek Fisher, but it had little to do with stats, in fact they were almost identical to Smush stats, but Fish braught veteran leadership and experince that Smush just didnt have. As for Bynum's thoughs on Kobe, Im not sure he was thrilled when Kobe wanted to trade him for an aging Jason Kidd. Vujacic has been on the team for a while and now just matured into a role, and Farmer is Farmer, he is a spark off the bench but if you ask him to start there could be some issues. Kobe is a phenomenal player, but every team has role players, and the Lakers were trying to develop 2 that didnt work out, but Kobe gets credit whether they do (Vujacic) or do not (Smush,Kwame) work out? Somethings not right there.

 
At Saturday, July 12, 2008 4:37:00 PM, Blogger Allen said...

Checkyourmath -

The difference is that Rajon Rondo is a markedly better player than Smush Parker, both mentally and physically.

 
At Saturday, July 12, 2008 11:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

i agree garnett allen and pierce couldnt win with them i said lebron and duncan probably only ones but you are right not many carry a team like that two playoffs.

the lakers will get bynum back and they hope they can get homecourt for te finals next year trade for ron artest and i think they can win it the next two years.

 
At Sunday, July 13, 2008 2:50:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Walton started all 60 games that he played in the 2006-07 season, which brings out another point: the Lakers do not have a bona fide, legit starting small forward who is either a great scorer or a lockdown defender. Phil Jackson moved Walton to the bench this year to start Vlad Rad, but he is hardly a legit starting sf either.

 
At Sunday, July 13, 2008 3:51:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

The Dude Abides:

The official recording of assists and turnovers is very subjective, to say the least, as I noted when I charted Chris Paul's assists during some playoff action.

Some people assert that MJ won his rings without having quality bigs but--even disregarding for a minute that he had two outstanding power forwards in Horace Grant (first threepeat) and Dennis Rodman (second threepeat)--MJ's centers were skillful players even though they did not put up dominant stats. Bill Cartwright was a former All-Star who understood how to position himself on offense and defense and he had good low post moves, though he at times frustrated MJ because he did not have the greatest hands in the world (though of course his hands were not nearly as bad as Kwame's). Guys like Longley, Wennington and even Dave Corzine back in the pre-title days all had decent skill sets and areas of strength with which to work. Kwame made an effort under Phil Jackson to be a better low post defender but his offensive game was simply horrific and there is no reason for him to fumble so many passes. I once said to a scout that I thought that Kwame has the worst hands of any guy in the NBA who actually possesses the physical tools to be a decent player: Kwame has enough size, strength and athletic ability to be serviceable but his hands of stone are a major drawback. He is like the anti-Tim Duncan: Duncan catches almost any ball that is near him and if he can't catch it he has a remarkable ability to bat the ball down and then recover it.

 
At Sunday, July 13, 2008 4:04:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Checkyourmath:

You are making my case when you say that Smush has not been in the lineup regularly other than his time with the Lakers. Why do you suppose that is the case? My theory, until further notice, is that you can start a D-League pg next to Kobe and the Lakers will still make the playoffs--and I say that with confidence because that is exactly what happened in 2006 and 2007. I don't expect to see Smush be a regular starter again, let alone for a playoff team. The Lakers had a gaping hole in that position and they attempted to fill it with a young D-League pg (Smush) who Jackson hoped to mold into a legit NBA player.

Butler has improved every season he has been in the league except for one year that was cut short by injury. He played better with the Lakers than he had in his first two years and then he continued to improve as a Wizard. By the way, in case you don't know, Kobe and Butler are close friends. The Lakers missed the playoffs with Butler and Atkins primarily because Kobe missed 16 games due to injury. Coaching instability hurt that team as well, plus the second best player on the team (Odom) missed 18 games. In the first two months of the season (before he got hurt) Kobe was putting up MVP caliber numbers: 27.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 6.4 apg in November, 29.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 7.9 apg in December. Check out the assist numbers he was putting up! Anyone who thinks that Kobe suddenly learned how to pass this year is drunk. The Lakers had a totally remodeled team with a new coach, Mihm as the starting center and Atkins as the starting pg and Kobe had them in the playoff hunt until he got hurt.

I agree that Jackson and Fisher played important roles in the Lakers' success this season.

I spoke with Bynum during the season and he talked about how much Kobe has helped him and how much he appreciates that. I asked Kobe about his relationship with Bynum and he told me that Bynum is an eager learner and that he (Kobe) is happy to fill Bynum's head with little tricks of the trade.

 
At Sunday, July 13, 2008 4:06:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Allen:

You are correct. It is important to note how coachable Rondo is and how well he responds to direction and guidance from the "Big Three." Inexplicably, Smush got full of himself midway through his second year with the Lakers and decided that he no longer needed to listen to Jackson.

 
At Sunday, July 13, 2008 4:16:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

I'm leery of Ron Artest because he has some serious issues that go beyond just being a bit eccentric. Rodman was eccentric but when the chips were down he produced. Artest is a player who can leave your team high and dry when you need him the most. His defense and toughness would definitely help the Lakers but his poor shooting and his desire to freelance on offense could be problems. Plus, you never know what he is going to do on or off the court that could take him out of action. I don't mean to sound flip, but I'm not sure I'd want him on my team unless I could be sure that he is taking whatever medication he needs; it is well documented that he has some anger management/psychological issues that have flared up off of the court several times, so this goes well beyond the infamous Pistons-Pacers game when he went into the stands. That was just a symptom of a larger problem that he has.

 
At Sunday, July 13, 2008 12:06:00 PM, Anonymous checkyourmath said...

David,

Some valid points, but I dont understand how Kobe being friends with Caron has anything at all to do with this issue. The point was that Caron actually improved after he left the Lakers, and obviously didnt play well enough for the Lakers to not be traded for Kwame Brown. Also im glad Bynum gets along with Kobe I think thats very good for the Lakers future.

I wasnt intending to make your case when I said Smush hasnt played much. My point was that its difficult to judge on such small sample of games how exactly he would fair in a similar situation without Kobe. The reasons why he hasnt been playing are in many cases not because lack of talent ,and when you look at the coaches hes played for the taskmasters like Pat Riley and Larry Brown didnt let him play, and looser guys like John Lucas, and Phil Jackson let him play a little more.

As for the 04-05 season, you say Kobe and Odom missed time which contributed to them missing the playoffs. If you look at 06-07, The Lakers won there first 2 games without Kobe (obviously this is a very small sample and doesnt mean much) but Odom also missed 20+ games (their second best player) So these guys besides Kobe had to be doing something right or at least better then what the 04-05 guys did. If that credit should go to Phil Jackson I wouldnt disagree.

Allen,
I cant argue that Rondo is mentally "better" then Parker,and more coachable, but physically thats not a given. Rondo is a terrible long range shooter, and only managed 5.1 assists despite turning down wide open layups to throw the ball to ray allen for a contested 3 ball. Defensivly Rondo looked better this year but it helps to have a defensive player of the year in Kevin Garnett back there to bail you out. Also Rondo had veterans like Eddie House and Sam Cassell to back him up later in the season and through the playoffs. Smush was thrown from D-Leauge to 40 mpg in playoff games against the MVP Steve Nash and the Suns with no veteran backup, meaning no one could bail him out when he lost confidence much like Rondo at times did in the finals. But yes Rondo is a NBA champion and they cant ever take that away from him, so he did what he had to do, and is the better overall player no question.

 
At Sunday, July 13, 2008 3:25:00 PM, Blogger The Dude Abides said...

David, you're telling me! Not sure where I read it (might have been here), but Rondo was credited with an assist on Powe's coast-to-coast dunk in Game 2 of the Finals!

I think that the reason official scorers always credit the TO on fumbled passes to the passer is for consistency. It would take too long and too much else is happening in games for the official scorer to go back and make a judgment call on who gets the TO. I admit I was shocked the first time I noticed this, but it was really glaring with Kwame because some of the passes he fumbles are so routine.

 
At Monday, July 14, 2008 12:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

he was pretty good last year with kings and since he been with kings other than the domestic violence incident. THE LAKERS BADLY NEED RON ARTEST, he is alot better than odom and he is a great defender who can guard a paul pierce or lebron if they play cleveland next year pierce killed them they need someone to guard him next year. he is a good offense player better than gasol he averaged 20 6 5 last year and was kings best player.'

now at times he does freelance thats when they kobe and phil have to get him back in the game and tell him to move the ball around. i think he will play for phil jackson because he wants to win ring and he is actually good friends with kobe.

phil coached rodamn becuase as great as mj was and im a huge mj fan of course as you know they needed rebounding from 4 spot they need toughness offense and defense from 3 on lakers artest has some other issues he could put them aside and will to win david

 
At Monday, July 14, 2008 4:44:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

The Dude Abides:

The imprecision with which many stats are tracked is one reason that I do not base my player evaluations entirely on stats alone. Stats provide a rough portrait but the picture is only complete once a skill set evaluation is made to provide context for the numbers.

 
At Monday, July 14, 2008 5:00:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Checkyourmath:

I don't place a huge significance on Kobe and Caron being friends but the reason that I mentioned it in passing in this context is that previous commenters who take the side that Kobe does not "make his teammates better" also usually allege that Kobe has few or no friends in the league and does not get along with his teammates.

In retrospect, trading Caron was a huge mistake but at the time Kupchak thought that the Lakers had to get another big. Obviously, they would be much better off having a top notch sf to pair with Kobe, Gasol and Odom but without Kwame's expiring contract the Lakers might not have been able to make the Gasol deal so, whether or not this was exactly by design, in the end this has worked out well for the Lakers.

As you said, winning two games without Kobe does not mean much. The Lakers can survive being without Odom much better than they can survive being without Kobe. Obviously, having both guys miss significant time in '05 was disastrous, particularly for a rebuilding team that did not have a solid identity yet anyway. The '07 team was better than the '05 team overall and Jackson's coaching was certainly part of that improvement.

 
At Monday, July 14, 2008 5:31:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

I don't question Artest's talent (other than his spotty outside shooting) but there are real and serious concerns about his mental health. I agree that Artest is a better player than Odom but I am a bit leery of Artest. I'm not saying that I flat out would not make that trade but I'd have some serious reservations.

 
At Monday, July 14, 2008 9:56:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

A very ironic post for me here about Smush.....I was watching a show on MSG called Summerball which highlights New York street ball tournaments in the summer. During one of the segments the Rucker announcer Boobie interviewed Smush and asked about his Lakers experience. Parker said his experience with the Lakers was overrated. He goes on to say that everyone said he had a problem with Phil but that he got along with Phil. He said the problem was with number 24. He said the issues started and ended with Bryant. He didnt elaborate..i wish he would have.

Now I know Smush isnt the best player (except for at West 4th street.) Am i surprised he had a problem with Bryant? Not at all. This has nothing to do with how poorly Smush contributed to the team.

Anonymous Joe....joe, joe, joe wake up if you think Bryant is better than Magic and Bird.

 
At Monday, July 14, 2008 2:01:00 PM, Blogger madnice said...

I was watching Outside the Lines on Sunday (something I never do) and they were discussing NBA referees and how friendly they are with the players and coaches now. The older refs, Mike Mathis, Hue Hollins, and Darrell Garretson were talking about how refs were back in the day and how they dont like the friendliness of the referees now. I wont talk about the whole show but it was interesting to see how the refs are today as compared to yesterday.

 
At Monday, July 14, 2008 3:42:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

I did not see Smush's interview but my reaction to that is that the only teammates who have had problems with Kobe or that Kobe has had problems with are ones who don't work hard, play smart and dedicate themselves to the game, so if Smush did not get along with Kobe or vice versa it would not surprise me. That said, I have never heard Kobe publicly say anything disparaging about Smush; Kobe was always very encouraging when he talked about his young pg. Considering how much Smush has bounced around and the fact that he had his best years with Kobe and Jackson, it is pretty classless for him to say those things. I think that Smush is going to be getting a lot more run at the Rucker than in the NBA.

 
At Monday, July 14, 2008 3:43:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

I only caught the end of that OTL piece, when Bob Ley interviewed Eddie Johnson, so I did not see enough to really comment about the show.

 
At Monday, July 14, 2008 8:59:00 PM, Anonymous eniq 0x00 said...

http://www.pe.com/sports/basketball/lakers/stories/PE_Sports_Local_D_lakers_notes_05.3f7558b.html


Smush has been benched by Phil Jackson. Smush has had issues with another coach as well.

Smush claiming that he hasn't had problems with Phil Jackson is merely an attempt to revise history to try to deflect blame from himself.

He had the starting point-guard job on the Lakers for nearly two seasons and he blew it with his poor attitude.

He has no one to blame but himself.

http://lakers.freedomblogging.com/2007/04/05/smush-vs-phil/#more-317

Here's another source with Smush insight from a reporter that covers the Lakers.

'As if things weren’t tough enough for the Lakers now, Smush Parker vented after practice today about Phil Jackson benching him in the fourth quarter Wednesday night: “I gave up trying to read that man a long time ago.”'

 
At Tuesday, July 15, 2008 12:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

joe

madnice anybody with a brain knows kobe better than bird and magic you need to wake up kobe got 3 rings 10 all nba bird 10 11 all stars 8 all defensive 2 scoreing titles and mvp.

 
At Tuesday, July 15, 2008 5:08:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Eniq 0x00:

"Revisionist history" is a perfect description for Smush's comments. As you indicate, there are plenty of documented examples of Smush's bad attitude and how he feuded with Coach Jackson. Smush squandered a great opportunity with the Lakers and he has no one but himself to blame. Five or 10 years from now we will probably see him being interviewed by John Thompson talking about how he wishes he hadn't been so stupid when he was young, much like a tearful J.R. Rider said to Thompson when no team would touch Rider with a 10 foot pole--and Rider actually had All-Star level skills, unlike Smush.

 

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