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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Balanced Lakers Blast Clippers, 117-79

Six Lakers scored in double figures and all 12 players contributed at least four points in a 117-79 rout of the L.A. Clippers. Kobe Bryant led the way for the Lakers with 16 points. He also had eight rebounds, three assists and two steals but it was hardly a vintage performance for the 2008 MVP considering his 5-12 field goal shooting and game-high five turnovers. Pau Gasol authored a nice all around effort (13 points, nine rebounds, six assists), while point guards Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar each scored 15 points. Al Thornton led the Clippers with 16 points. Baron Davis had 11 points, seven assists and four turnovers while shooting 4-13 from the field in his Clipper debut; he had a strong first quarter but was largely invisible the rest of the way.

The Lakers only led 30-27 after the first 12 minutes, in part because of the easy transition baskets that the Clippers scored after Bryant's four turnovers. As Hubie Brown said of Bryant's miscues, "That is a rare stat." At halftime, Bryant gave this explanation to Heather Cox: "I had to adjust to the little guys stripping (the ball) down low. I was angry at myself in the first quarter; I know that about this team." Apparently, Bryant made the necessary adjustment because he only had one turnover after the first quarter. Much like he did in Tuesday's season opener versus Portland, Bryant spent most of the game focusing on rebounding, pushing the ball and getting his teammates involved. On Tuesday, the Lakers needed Bryant to provide a key third quarter scoring outburst but against the Clippers such heroics were not required. In fact, Bryant sat out the entire fourth quarter and in the final 12 minutes the game often looked like a contest between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals as the Lakers delivered several fancy passes and on one occasion the crowd giggled as Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza passed the ball back and forth on the perimeter in the halfcourt set but no Clipper made any attempt to guard either of them (Odom eventually eschewed the open jumper to drive to the hoop).

I don't think that the Clippers are quite as bad as they looked; they will play better once Marcus Camby returns and their various new players (including Davis) become acclimated to Coach Mike Dunleavy's system. However, even though this season is only two games old it is worth wondering just how good the Lakers really are. We won't know the answer until the Lakers face some better teams and deal with the adversity of an extended road trip but they are playing with a lot of energy and intensity, particularly on defense. Their bench is receiving a lot of credit and while that praise is certainly deserved it is important to recognize exactly how Coach Phil Jackson is setting up his rotations: until garbage time begins, the bench players are not left on their own--at least one starter is on the court with them, much like Jackson used to use Scottie Pippen to anchor the Bulls' reserves during their title runs (the Lakers don't have a player who is equivalent to Pippen but Jackson is applying the principle of using a starter to anchor the bench). Hubie Brown noted that as much as possible Jackson keeps two of his three top big men (Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom) on the court together at all times. As I have mentioned, that trio will likely never play together but Brown is correct that by rotating them in and out the Lakers constantly have a formidable inside duo: when Bynum is at center either Gasol or Odom can play power forward and when Bynum is on the bench Gasol can shift to center with Odom playing power forward.

The extensive garbage time provided ample opportunity for Brown to offer his thoughts on a wide range of subjects. Here is his take on Bryant's impact on the U.S. Olympic team's gold medal performance: "His hard work rubbed off on a lot of people. That was the number one thing...Then, let's face it, in the last eight minutes of the game against Spain for the championship that's when Kobe Bryant steps up and gets it done for you."

Although I will be participating again in the Blogger MVP rankings that will first appear in a couple weeks, I really think that you can't get a good bead on who truly deserves the MVP until the season is at least half over and most of the teams have taken a full tour around the league (that is also why it is silly for college football to publish a top 25 list so early but that is a different story to be discussed at a different time). However, I will be very interested to see what verdict the official MVP voters come up with at the end of the season if the Lakers win 60 or more games but Bryant's scoring average dips to the low 20s. When Bryant won back to back scoring titles he was widely acknowledged to be the league's best individual player but he was not voted the MVP because his team did not win 50-plus games; if Bryant leads the Lakers to the best record in the NBA but his individual numbers decline as he sits out during fourth quarter blowouts will the voters apply the same criteria that they used against him in 2006 and 2007 or will a new standard be invented? My methodology will not change: I have consistently said that the MVP should go to the league's best and most complete all-around player, with the only exception being when there is a post player who is so dominant that his value overcomes the relative narrowness of his skill set; in other words, I would have voted Shaquille O'Neal as the 2005 MVP due to his inside dominance even though he did not have the most complete skill set.

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:22 AM

8 comments

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8 Comments:

At Thursday, October 30, 2008 5:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very excited to hear your commentary on Andre Bynum's new 15 million per deal that is being reported.

Quite a lot of money for a guy you basically seem to think is Ronny Turiaf+.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3673083

 
At Thursday, October 30, 2008 9:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ur crazy if u dont think kb shd be mvp

what r u smoking?

how much does this guy have 2 do 2 get u media guys off his back?

jeez, leave eagle in the past.

this guy has won 5 western titles . nuff said. stop h8ing

 
At Thursday, October 30, 2008 11:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

reggie

it depends the criteria lakers best team in league if cleveland win 55 60 games lebron put up 30 8 8 and kobe put up 25 or 24 6 5 and win 65 games i would give it to lebron because it is clear he is working with less than kobe if kobe team win 60 games he put up 25 5 5 lebron put up 30 8 8 team win 47-50 wins i give it to kobe.

bottom line it will depend on wins not numbers really if lebron team win over 57 games ill give it to him because he doesnt have the overall talent kobe has around him. the criteria always diffrent dirk got it o7 his team won 67 games best player best team garnett didnt get that in 08 nash did in 05 not 06 04 garnett team had best record in league as well best player duncan did in 03 duncan didnt in 02 kings had best record 01 spurs did as well iverson got it. i dont know man how they gonna do it may the best man get it i like lebron personally

 
At Friday, October 31, 2008 9:37:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I think that you either misread this post or are not familiar with my work. I think that Kobe should be the MVP this year if the circumstances that I described happen; my question is what will the voters do?

I have said several times that I thought Kobe should have won the MVP in 2006 and 2007 in addition to winning in 2008; in 2005 Kobe missed too many games to be a factor in MVP voting and Shaq had a very good year even though his stats were not quite as dominant as in years past.

 
At Friday, October 31, 2008 9:39:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

If by the end of the season Kobe still has the skill set advantage over LeBron that he currently enjoys then Kobe should be the MVP regardless. The MVP should be based on an individual player's value and not based on the quality of his teammates.

However, as I mentioned in my post--and you cited some additional examples--the voters seem to change criteria regularly.

 
At Friday, October 31, 2008 11:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it, someone accusing you of being one of the media guys that has to get off Kobe's back.

Honestly, that is too funny for words....

Owen

 
At Friday, October 31, 2008 2:24:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Owen:

Yes, that is a surprising and ironic accusation and not one that is at all well founded based on this post or anything else that I have written.

 
At Friday, October 31, 2008 2:49:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Andrew Bynum is definitely more valuable than Ronny Turiaf: Bynum is bigger, more skilled and younger. Bynum is already a quality starting center and has the potential to be more than that, while Turiaf is strictly a bench player. I have said all along that Bynum should be the starting center, with Gasol as the starting power forward and Odom shifting to the bench (or being traded if he cannot accept that role). I never proposed that Turiaf should start or get more minutes, nor did I think that the Lakers had to overpay to re-sign him.

As for the contract that the Lakers and Bynum signed, Bynum is clearly not "worth" $15 million a year based either on his brief performance last year or what he has shown in two games this year. However, contrary to what some economists try to suggest, NBA contracts are not strictly tied in to scoring averages or to a player's "worth" at the time the deal is signed. The team has to manage its contracts within the salary cap, while players and their agents want to maximize the guaranteed money that they can receive. If Bynum insisted on getting more then the Lakers would possibly not have extended him right now because they could still have matched any offer that he would have received when his current contract ran out; if Bynum went that route and got hurt he would have thrown away tens of millions of dollars. On the other hand, since the Lakers anticipate that Bynum will develop into a highly productive player they expect that he will earn the money that they are paying him over the duration of the contract so it is worth it to them to have that cost certainty as opposed to holding on to that money and trying to find a better player in the coming years. Both sides are taking some risks and assuming some benefits but overall it seems like a logical deal for both sides if you understand how NBA economics work.

 

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