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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Amare Stoudemire, Lamar Odom's "Lucky Game" and What it Means to be a Superstar

After Lamar Odom had 19 points and 19 rebounds as his L.A. Lakers defeated the Phoenix Suns 128-107 in game one of the 2010 Western Conference Finals, the Suns' Amare Stoudemire dismissed Odom's effort as a "lucky game." The Lakers went on to win that series and eventually capture the 2010 NBA Championship but during a red carpet interview at the ESPYs Stoudemire stuck to his guns when an L.A. reporter asked him about that remark:



Starting around the 1:36 mark in the above video, Stoudemire said, "I was just being honest. That's all. But they played great; they did a great job during the season. Congratulations to those guys and Lamar personally for winning another championship. It is a great accomplishment."

"Lucky" literally means "occurring by chance." How unusual was it for Odom to tally 19 and 19 during a 2010 game? He averaged a career-low 10.8 ppg and 9.8 rpg while playing in all 82 regular season games, scoring 19 or more points just eight times; the most rebounds that he had in any of those games was 13 (his season high for rebounds was 22 and he had just one other game with at least 19 rebounds). In 23 playoff games, Odom averaged a career-low 9.7 ppg and 8.6 rpg; the 19-19 game was easily his most productive contest (during the postseason he had two 17 point games--both against Phoenix--plus a 15 rebound game versus Utah).

Stoudemire's comment may have been ungracious and it may have been an unwise thing to say in the midst of a playoff series but--from a literal standpoint--it was quite true: a 19-19 game by Odom is truly something that happened "by chance."

However, in a game of skill nothing really happens purely "by chance." The skill set based reason that Odom had a wide open path to the hoop for layups and rebounds is that the Suns had to double team Kobe Bryant--who still scored 40 points on 13-23 field goal shooting--and then rotate a defender to Pau Gasol, who took advantage of the Suns' scrambling defense to notch 21 points on 10-13 field goal shooting. The Suns managed to create the worst of all possible worlds from their perspective: they neither slowed down Bryant nor corralled Gasol and in the process of focusing on those players they let Odom run amok.

Although the numbers mentioned in the previous paragraphs provide a rough draft version of what happened, this game--meaning both game one of the Lakers-Suns series in particular and the game of basketball in general--can only be completely and deeply understood by actually observing the action with an educated eye. Bryant played with great force, aggression and energy and his actions manipulated the Phoenix defenders like chess pieces being moved around by a grandmaster: Bryant created open shots for himself and his teammates and the disruption left in his wake helped Odom to snare a game-high seven offensive rebounds. Bryant's value is expressed not merely by his statistics but also by the impact that his actions had on both his teammates and on his opponents.

Contrast Bryant's approach with the by now notoriously indifferent way that LeBron James played during Cleveland's series versus Boston, particularly in game two and game five. Many people who watched those games--from Cavaliers' owner Dan Gilbert to sportswriters to casual fans--say that James quit. That is a very incendiary charge to make--it is the worst accusation that one can make about an athlete other than saying that he intentionally threw a game (throwing a game means purposely trying to lose, while quitting is simply not trying while being indifferent to the outcome). A player's shooting percentage, good or bad, does not really tell us whether or not he quit: a player can try very hard but have an off night (think Ray Allen during the NBA Finals after he set the single-game record for three pointers made and suddenly could not hit the broad side of a barn with a medicine ball) and a player can drift through most of a contest but score some buckets in a flurry to pad his statistics.

The striking thing about James' performance versus Boston in games two and five is how lethargically he played; he rarely attacked the hoop, which means he put no pressure on Boston's defense. If James had been injured and out of the lineup entirely or if the team had had some idea that he would just quit in the middle off the series then the Cavs could have run some offensive sets involving other players--but how do you just take the ball out of the hands of the reigning two-time MVP? The other Cavs' players looked confused and hesitant, waiting for James to be aggressive.

Most of the published comparisons of James' supporting cast with Bryant's supporting cast have been nonsense. Yes, Bryant had the benefit of playing alongside one of the NBA's 15 best players, All-NBA Third Teamer Pau Gasol--but during the 2010 playoffs Bryant also played alongside a one-legged center, a small forward who never quite learned the team's offensive system, a point guard who was older and slower than the starting point guards on the other elite teams, a sixth man who was terribly inconsistent and a bench that was so unreliable that earlier in the season Coach Phil Jackson said that their performances made him feel like vomiting. James' supporting cast was not perfect but it included three players who have made the All-Star team as recently as 2008 plus a fourth player who is a two-time All-Star; the Cavs' remarkable depth and balance enabled them to play "big" or "small" and to overcome injuries, trades and other disruptions en route to posting the league's best regular season record for the second year in a row.

People can crunch "advanced basketball statistics" as much as they want but the major difference between the Lakers and the Cavs during the 2010 playoffs is that Kobe Bryant played aggressively and thus maximized potential opportunities for himself and his teammates, while LeBron James literally acted as if he could not wait for the season to be over so he could rip off his Cavaliers' jersey and head for (what he presumes to be) greener pastures. The phrase "making one's teammates better" is a cliched, imprecise way of saying "Great players create openings and opportunities for their lesser talented teammates to do what they do well"--and Odom's "lucky game" is a perfect example of this dynamic. If James had played with more aggressiveness then it is much more likely that one or more of his teammates would have had a "lucky game" versus Boston; that does not mean that James should be held entirely responsible if some of his teammates perform below their expected levels but it does mean that when the best player on the team stops trying hard it is logical to expect that the efforts and productivity of his teammates will be adversely affected.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:34 AM

45 comments

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45 Comments:

At Sunday, July 18, 2010 2:22:00 PM, Anonymous khandor said...

re: what was the key difference this year's Lakers and Celtics in the playoffs?

If you took Phil Jackson and Mike Brown and simply had them exchange places, the outcome of the playoffs this past season would have been substantially different for both the Lakers and the Cavaliers.

IMO, superior vs non-superior coaching is the most under-rated aspect of the game in the NBA.

If Phil Jackson would have been LeBron James' coach, in Cleveland, there's a very good chance that he would still be a member of the Cavaliers today, and the Lakers would not have won either of the last 2 NBA championships.

 
At Sunday, July 18, 2010 2:47:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Khandor:

After the Cavs fired Brown, Mo Williams said that this move did not make sense unless the Cavs were going to hire Phil Jackson. I think that we can all agree that Jackson is a great NBA coach and I would not say that Mike Brown is his equal. However, unless your argument is pre-supposing that LeBron would not have quit on Jackson's watch then I disagree with your conclusion.

Brown is an excellent coach who turned the Cavs into one of the league's premier defensive teams. That kind of transformation does not happen by accident and it is especially noteworthy that during Brown's tenure the Cavs not only did not have many players who are noted for their individual defensive prowess but they also had several players who were/are considered defensive liabilities.

Though conventional wisdom states otherwise, I think that if you swapped Kobe and LeBron the past two seasons that the Cavs would have won two championships instead of the Lakers; Kobe's Cleveland teammates would have "mysteriously" had "lucky games" while LeBron would not have found the right buttons to push with Gasol et. al.

 
At Sunday, July 18, 2010 4:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MARCEL

yeah i think the game was luck from odom standard or a rare game for him.

phil jackson vs mike brown is no contest jackson makes key adjustments and knows how to push the right buttons. mike brown a great defensive coach but offensive approach is very stale and predictable give lebron the ball go one on 5. he didnt garner lebron respect enough to coach him he was a sitting duck for lebron he couldnt call lebron out or tell him anything when lebron was in the wrong. good coach to me not a great one phil jackson is a great great coach.

lebron averaged 38 8 8 in 09 vs orlando what more could he do? clearly his teamates failed him especially the bigs who dwight howard killed avg 26 12. kobe is great love him in all but he is a guard unless he could guard howard which he cannot, how would they beat orlando. on top of that kobe averaged 32 7 5 which is great but lebron played better vs them they definitely dont win the title last year if you swap them.

in 2010 it is possible be it that lebron quit vs celts in game 5. but lebron matches up better vs celts than kobe does, he barely got by them with a better supporting cast in what he has. even though you could make the case cleveland matches up better vs celts i find it diffcult to see willams or jamison haveing mysterious games just because kobe on the court. willams and jamison was terrible in that series and i dont believe lebron made them terrible, willams was bad in 09 as well vs orlando so he got a history, jamison was a little past his prime now.

 
At Sunday, July 18, 2010 5:47:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

I have already covered the subject of "in game adjustments" in depth; "in game adjustments"--at least the way most media members refer to them--are overrated. The coach's job is to come up with the right game plan prior to the game, including possible adjustments that may have to be made based on what the opponent does. Great coaches do not come up with something off of the top of their heads in the middle of a game.

We don't know the full story yet with Cleveland in terms of LeBron and Mike Brown. Perhaps Brown tried to challenge LeBron but did not have the organization's backing. Certainly Brown publicly challenged the entire team after game two of the Boston series and LeBron responded very poorly in both word--contradicting Brown--and deed (by quitting).

Brown always said that he is a defensive-minded coach and that most of his focus is directed toward that end of the court but he gets a bad rap regarding his offensive system: in the 2009-10 regular season, the Cavs ranked ninth in scoring, second in scoring differential and third in field goal percentage, so his offense was both productive and efficient.

LeBron put up great numbers versus Orlando in 2009 but I think there is some merit to Rosen's claim about LeBron being more focused on putting up numbers than making winning plays. The Cavs had some mental lapses versus the Magic (such as not fouling Howard and letting him dunk) and I suspect that with Kobe on the scene getting in everyone's face things might have been different. Kobe's value as a leader should not be underestimated; just look at the impact he had on Team USA.

It is interesting that even though the popular perception in some quarters is that LeBron is a great teammate while Kobe is "selfish" the reality is that players tend to be more productive when playing with Kobe (Gasol, Ariza, Smush Parker to name just a few) while players tend to be less productive when playing with LeBron (most notably Larry Hughes and Antawn Jamison).

 
At Sunday, July 18, 2010 9:38:00 PM, Anonymous khandor said...

David,

With all due respect ...

IMO, if you flipped Kobe and LeBron the last 2 seasons, but did not also flip Phil Jackson and Mike Brown, as the coaches for the respective teams, in all likelihood the Cavaliers would still be without a NBA title to their credit ... despite the fine talents of Mr. Bryant.

In a similar way, however, neither would I ever say that, if you simply flipped Jackson and Brown would this guarantee that the Cavaliers would have won the NBA title each of the last 2 seasons.

I will simply stand by what I wrote in my first comment of this thread.

Cheers

 
At Sunday, July 18, 2010 9:47:00 PM, Anonymous khandor said...

Btw ...

Adrian Wojnarowski's recent article on LeBron James' path to the Miami Heat is very interesting reading when it comes to understanding LBJ's actually thoughts about Mike Brown's work as head coach of the Cavaliers.

 
At Sunday, July 18, 2010 11:34:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Khandor:

Wojnarowski writes that LeBron wanted the Cavs to fire Brown but Wojnarowski does not assert that Brown is a poor coach nor does he provide any justification for LeBron's whims; instead, Wojnarowski paints a picture of a spoiled LeBron who simply wants to be fawned over and who loves to order people around. Wojnarowski also reports that former Cavs GM Danny Ferry told Cavs owner Dan Gilbert exactly what I have been writing all along: the Cavs should not have fired Brown because there is no better coach available to replace him.

Even more revealing than the LeBron-Brown drama is Wojnarowski's account of how LeBron was so immature as a member of Team USA that serious consideration was given to leaving him off of the team because of very real concerns that he would (bleep) things up. Jason Kidd was assigned to essentially mentor/baby sit LeBron about how to be professional, while Kobe Bryant was the true leader of the team in terms of setting the tone regarding work ethic, defense, etc. Long time 20 Second Timeout readers are fully aware that I said all along that the difference for Team USA during the 2008 Olympics was Kobe Bryant, not LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. Wojnarowski's inside sources merely confirm what I figured out quite some time ago simply by watching the team play.

 
At Monday, July 19, 2010 1:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MARCEL

mike brown was a nice coach overall but nuthing special to me. he had a great defensive mind but i dont see why your hypeing him up so much, coaches make adjustments in game all the time not drastic all time but do something diffrent. when did he make a adjustment prior to a next game he had the same philosphy the 6 games vs celts and 6 vs magic. the coach is supposed to tell his team to foul howard close to basket not lebron? is supposed to make a adjustment on rondo and garnett he did not. phil and lakers made a adjustment on rondo and westbrook that what a great coach does.

kobe a better leader than lebron but that wasnt going to stop dwight howard. his bigs did not do a great job defensively. plus lewis and turkolou killed them and orlando made 66 3 in series. i dont see that changeing with kobe on over lebron. a man puts up 38 8 8 what better leadership can he provide.

larry hughes is a inconsistent player who had one good year like lamar odom nuthing diffrent. jamison was over the hill a little bit he is 34 years old. gasol came to lakers at 27 a bit diffrent obvisolouy playing with kobe made him a better player. parker and ariza as well.

lebron should be respected for getting a terrible team to finals in 07 and winning 66 and 61 games without a all nba and all star. his game 5 vs boston was very dissapointing but shouldnt overshadow his whole cleveland career he been all time great.

 
At Monday, July 19, 2010 3:14:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

I am not "hyping" Mike Brown; I am simply reporting what he accomplished during his time as Cleveland's head coach.

The examples you cited of adjustments by Phil Jackson prove my point: Jackson did not switch their coverages on Westbrook or Rondo during games; Kobe did not guard Westbrook until game five of that series. The coach's job is to come up with the right game plan, including possible reactions to what the other team does; these reactions are not "in game adjustments"--i.e., brand new strategies that he thought up during a timeout--but plans that he made before the game.

If you watched the Cleveland-Orlando series in 2009 you could see Mike Brown frequently shouting and/or signaling (by hitting one of his arms against the other) for his team to foul Howard but the players did not react. Sometimes in crucial situations you need leaders on the floor to reinforce the coach's message. Note in Wojnarowski's article he mentions that LeBron has a short attention span for watching game film, a marked contrast to the way that Kobe is a game film junkie; Kobe knows all of the tendencies of his opponents and he is constantly reminding his teammates where to go and what to do (as we all saw during the Spike Lee film Kobe Doin' Work). I can't prove that switching Kobe for LeBron would have been enough to put the Cavs over the top versus Orlando in 2009 but during that series the Cavs repeatedly built big leads only to fade late in the game and Kobe is great at late game execution, so it certainly seems reasonable to at least suggest that Kobe could have made a difference.

This is not about numbers. We all know that LeBron puts up great numbers. This is about doing whatever it takes to push, pull and drag a team to a championship.

In the two years before he became a Cav, Larry Hughes--then 25 and 26 years old--averaged 18.8 ppg and 22.0 ppg. Paired with LeBron the next two years, his scoring dipped to 15.5 ppg and 14.9 ppg even though his minutes remained about the same.

Jamison was not 34 during the season; he just turned 34 a month ago. In 2008-09, he averaged 22.2 ppg--the second best output of his career--for the Wizards. His scoring dipped to 15.8 ppg as a Cav and only some of that decline is because his minutes were reduced: his points per minute dropped as well.

Teamed with Kobe Bryant, Smush Parker and Kwame Brown were starting players at the two most important positions (point guard and center) as the Lakers made the playoffs in the tough Western Conference. Parker was never a regular starter for any other team and he has been out of the league since the age of 26 despite being perfectly healthy. Since being traded by the Lakers, Brown has started just 32 games in two and a half seasons with two teams and he has played in just three playoff games, averaging 3.0 ppg on .375 field goal shooting.

I realize that this is a small sample size of players and that one should do a more thorough study of this issue before drawing any definitive conclusions but my point is that a case can be made that Kobe is at least as good at "making teammates better" as LeBron is.

 
At Monday, July 19, 2010 3:14:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

The 2007 Cavs were not "terrible." That team was underrated by most observers but if you go back and look I predicted that they would make it to the Finals but lose to the Spurs. Since most media members did not predict that the team would be good they tried to cover up their ignorance by either saying that the Cavs "overachieved" or else that the Cavs had an "easy path" to the Finals (even though the alleged "easy path" involved beating a very strong Detroit team).

LeBron has indeed been a very productive player but that does not mean that he should be immune from justified criticism--nor does that mean that his status as an "all-time great" is permanently secure; if quitting and not winning championships becomes a pattern for LeBron even though he now has two All-Star teammates who are also in their primes then LeBron's place in history will have to be reassessed--he may yet prove to be an "all-time talent" who is not quite on par with the best of the best among the all-time greats. That is a discussion for five or 10 years from now; LeBron truly earned his two regular season MVPs and the other honors that he has received thus far but just as it is possible for him to move up in the all-time rankings it is also possible for him to move down. That is why I did not include active players in my Pantheon; LeBron, Kobe, Duncan and Shaq were the four active players who I said had Pantheon-type qualities but I kept my evaluation of their careers separate from my evaluation of the careers of the retired greats.

 
At Monday, July 19, 2010 3:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steven

All of this discussion on what would happen if Kobe and Lebron switched places is ridiculous, plain and simple.

Yeah, maybe the Cavs would be better with Kobe, or the Lakers with Lebron. Okay then, prove it. Yeah...exactly.


What we do know is that Kobe Bryant has won back to back Finals MVP awards, while Lebron's Cavs have been bounced by two teams which they were overwhelmingly favored to beat. Those are the facts.

If the absolute singular goal of playing a game of basketball is to beat the other team, then the past two years have indicated that Kobe Bryant's Lakers are better at achieving that singular goal than Lebron James' Cavs (at least when it counts).

And since we were talking about switching scenarios...you guys do realize that each of those two teams were built to cater to the talent of their superstar.

Lebron's greatest strength is unquestionably his god like ability to get to the hole. Having Shaquille O'Neal around this past season made that task more difficult for Lebron. Wouldn't having not one, but two post up seven footers clogging the lane be a detriment to Lebron's game?

Lebron also benefits by being surrounded with three point shooters, who get open looks due to his penetration. The Lakers' outside shooting is a weak point. Derek Fisher is the only supporting player who can consistently knock down the three ball. Artest, Vujacic, Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, etc. are all streaky shooters.

Likewise, Kobe on the Cavs? Mr. Bryant is at the point in his career where he just can't get to the cup and finish over people anymore. You can't ask him to fill Lebron's role on the team, because he's not physically capable of being a full time slasher at nearly 32 years of age. A lot of that has to do with his knee/ankle problems from the past year...he lacked the explosiveness to elevate for dunks in traffic this past season, which was still there in the 2008-09 season/playoffs.

Also, Kobe's complete mid range arsenal makes him a more deadly pick and roll player with Gasol than Lebron would be. Its remarkable to me how ineffective of a scorer Lebron James is in between 20 and 10 feet. Looks like he might have spent a little too much time shooting 90 foot three pointers instead of working on foot work and high post fundamentals.

I also think Kobe's most underrated quality is his ability as a play maker. A lot of people seem to think the fact that Lebron is a better natural passer than Kobe equates with being a better play maker. Not true. Kobe unquestionably reads the game better...he's the better decision maker. He understands when its time to play team ball, and when its time to say "screw you guys, I'm going to in this." Lebron lives and dies by the philosophy of "always make the extra pass." Well guess what...there are certain situations in games when making the extra pass is a stupid idea (especially when you are as physically gifted as Lebron).

There's a reason that Kobe was the one making the plays down the stretch for the Redeem Team, and not Lebron. Bryant just understands what needs to be done, better. He's not as physically gifted as Lebron, but he's a better basketball mind.

 
At Monday, July 19, 2010 3:58:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Steven:

This discussion of what might have happened had LeBron and Kobe switched places is not "ridiculous"; it is merely hypothetical, as I stated quite clearly. Of course there is no way to "prove" what would have happened in such a scenario. I just provided some evidence that perhaps LeBron is not as deft at "making his teammates better" as some people suggest--and, after your initial snide comment regarding this discussion, you essentially agreed with my hypothesis and you provided more evidence that supports my perspective.

I agree with you that each team was built around the strengths of their superstar but I think that you made a larger and more important point with your conclusion: "Bryant just understands what needs to be done, better. He's not as physically gifted as Lebron, but he's a better basketball mind." I agree completely with that sentiment.

 
At Monday, July 19, 2010 10:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

you know im a huge jordan fan the god was what he was. but with that said

1. you had help pippen rodman so you was never going no where? lebron never had a pippen rodman in cleveland.

2. why people say he was in bird magic era he was not? he was in ewing malone barkley hakeem stockton payton kemp era. bird and magic stop winning titles in 1988 jordan came in the league in 84. by 1991 bird and magic was still good but far from the glory 80's days. magic was still great im talking more bird but the showtime days were long gone.

3. jordan never had a decison like lebron because during the same years he was under a 8 year contract so he was never going to play with bird and magic or barkley or anyone else. and be it todays era is diffrent we dont know what jordan would do even though he was very self reliant so he probably stay on own team.

point is why is this such a bad thing for lebron. he may never be as good as mj overall and he is not as self reliant or competitve as both mj or kobe. he was always a diffrent player they wanted him to be a magic micheal kobe bird, and have that killer will but that just not him to me he still probably the best in the game and best on miami team to suggest he is the robin to wade is comical. he is a definte batman with another batman and robin.

i see alot of people who are also on my side even though lebron has alot of haters now kobe and mj won nuthing by themselves everyone needs help thats why lebron went to miami.

 
At Monday, July 19, 2010 11:38:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

Most of what you said about MJ's career is reasonable, though you failed to mention that MJ's Bulls (without Pippen and Rodman) faced Bird's Celtics in the playoffs and MJ's Bulls beat Magic's Lakers for the first of their six titles. Overall, though, you are right that MJ's prime took place after the peak years of the Bird/Magic era.

I cannot speak for others but I have not criticized LeBron for deciding to go to Miami per se; in the article that I wrote the day before the "Decision" I said that the two most logical choices for him were to stay in Cleveland or sign with Miami. Going to Miami certainly makes sense in many ways, though staying in Cleveland and recruiting players there also made sense because that franchise proved that it is willing to do whatever it takes (and whatever LeBron wants, including hiring his flunkies) to try to please LeBron and to field a contending team.

My criticism of LeBron focuses on two issues: (1) He quit versus Boston when his team had an excellent chance to win the 2010 championship; (2) he turned his free agency decision into a self indulgent, narcissistic farce and by delaying what now appears to have been an inevitable announcement he did a great disservice to the team that bent over backwards to accommodate him for seven years.

 
At Monday, July 19, 2010 11:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steven

David,

I don't mean to offend, nor am I trying to be snide. I was actually agreeing with what you had to write, as I generally have during my time reading your blog.

I've read your various takes on Kobe/Lebron, and there isn't much that you've had to say that hasn't mirrored my own perspective on the debate. My comment actually resulted from misreading both of Khandor's comments, in which I thought he was slighting Kobe (but in reality, he was just praising Phil Jackson). It was after midnight, and I had been awake since 5 in the morning. Oops.

That being said, I feel as if I've read a variety of comments by fellow reader insinuating what I was attempting to refute. It might be hypothetical, but all of this unfounded talk by Lebron fanboys about "the Lakers would go 82-0 with Lebron instead of Kobe!!!!!" is definitely ridiculous, especially when you think about how the man would really fit on the team.

 
At Tuesday, July 20, 2010 1:27:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Steven:

Yes, the idea that the Lakers would somehow be appreciably better--or even better at all--simply by replacing Kobe with LeBron is ridiculous.

 
At Tuesday, July 20, 2010 1:32:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

In my previous reply to your comment I neglected to respond to your statement about LeBron being Miami's best player. I agree with you about that and I have consistently said that LeBron is a better player than Wade. However, because Wade has been with the team much longer and because he won the 2006 Finals MVP with Miami the perception and the media driven hype will be that the Heat are Wade's team; the only way that will change is if LeBron posts significantly better stats than Wade and/or Wade suffers an injury that causes him to miss a large part of the season. Think about the 1983 76ers; that is commonly referred to as Dr. J's team even though Moses Malone--in his first year with a franchise for whom Dr. J had played since 1976--won both the regular season and Finals MVPs that year. Malone himself said that it was "Doc's team" and that is indeed the way that team is perceived (even though Malone was perhaps being diplomatic by saying that right after the Sixers acquired him).

 
At Tuesday, July 20, 2010 4:16:00 PM, Anonymous khandor said...

re: key additions to the Redeem Team

In fact, there were 2, not just 1.

Kobe Bryant AND Chris Bosh

-------------------------------

A good/solid defensive coach does not a good [overall] coach make.

Mike Brown was/is not a high calibre NBA head coach.

-------------------------------

Unlike what the noted "stats gurus" will try their best to tell you ... the actual contribution which an authentically high calibre head coach, like Phil Jackson, makes to a championship-winning team is both fundamental and profound.

-------------------------------

Anonymous,

Thanks for acknowledging the point of my previous comments in this thread.

Much appreciated, on my part.

 
At Tuesday, July 20, 2010 4:42:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Khandor:

Bosh did play well for Team USA in the Olympics but Team USA could have won without him. Team USA would not have won the gold medal without Kobe Bryant.

Brown is an outstanding defensive coach and he is a very good head coach overall.

I explained Bryant's impact on Team USA in several articles which can easily be found on the right hand sidebar of 20 Second Timeout's main page; the sidebar also contains several articles analyzing why Brown is an excellent coach.

I agree with you completely regarding the way that "stat gurus" underestimate the importance of coaching.

 
At Wednesday, July 21, 2010 12:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MARCEL

this is comical now magic saying he would never call bird and jordan.

magic was a perfect fit for hollywood and that scene with his personality, magic in boston wouldnt be the same. same if you put bird in hollywood that never was larry bird they emodied there cities. bird was lunch pale hustle, guy that embodied boston mass. same with mike and chicago, so that was a whole diffrent era.

and when did dwayne wade and chris bosh become magic and bird all of a sudden? chris bosh is pau gasol argubably better but thats what he is. nowhere near bird or magic, he is a good 2 option player, that would of played with wade or lebron anyway. wade is a legit elite player without question, all time great i dont know in 7 years he got 1 ring and finals mvp over lebron thats it though accomplishments wise lebron got 4 first team all nba to wade 2 2 mvp to none both got scoreing title lebron got better stats fg% pts reb ass and 2 first team all defensive teams. so i think lebron is all time great but wade not quite and is no magic or bird either.

yeah there going to say its wade team because lebron went there even though he is a better player i get that. lebron to me is still one of the handful best players i ever seen and magic and micheal critcism is hyprcrtical and make no sense in todays game.

 
At Wednesday, July 21, 2010 11:34:00 AM, Anonymous khandor said...

FYI ...

2006 FIBA Men's World Championships

2008 FIBA Men's Olympic Games

Although the "hard" numbers are fairly self-explanatory, in reality, there were a number of key personnel differences between the 2006 and 2008 USA Men's National Teams.

-----------------------

Just one example of Mike Brown's "less-than elite calibre level" work ... which is not quite the same thing as saying that he should be thought of as a "bad" head coach, in some way ... during his time in Cleveland.

[NOTE: IMO, Mike Brown is best described as a top flight defensive coach, and a poor offensive coach, who lacks the overall "vision" of a Phil Jackson, Pat Riley or Gregg Popovich, when it comes to conceiving and then implementing what exactly his entire Basketball Philosophy looks like, in a comprehensive way. During his time with the Cavs, Mike Brown's coaching was, both: i. A significant factor behind their rise to the top end of the EC; and ii. A significant factor behind their inability to win the NBA championship.]

Cheers

 
At Wednesday, July 21, 2010 12:03:00 PM, Anonymous Stephen -- no relation to "Steven" said...

Khandor,

Do you think LA would have won a Title this year if Kobe had played passively?

I think we'd all agree Phil Jackson is a better coach but even with that coaching edge the Lakers (or any other team for that matter) can't win without full effort from their best player. And it should be pointed out that after LA fell in the 2-3 hole versus Boston I started seeing/hearing/reading about how Doc was outcoaching PJ (again).

http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=jy-finalscoaches061410

 
At Wednesday, July 21, 2010 6:38:00 PM, Anonymous J said...

David --

Somewhat off-topic, but I thought this piece was interesting, in terms of evaluating Jordan's support and how the Bulls performed during his short-lived baseball retirement (I know you have also posted on their success and how it shows the greatness of Pippen).

http://www.basketball-reference.com/blog/?p=7010

It will be interesting to see how the Cavs roster looks on opening day, and how well they finish. I am in your camp in believing that the Cavs had a solid roster around James, and I suspect their record will surprise a lot of people who go around quoting PER or Win-Shares or whatever and who claim without LeBron the Cavs will drop some 20 or 30 more games. I suspect they will be in the playoff hunt for seed 4 to 6 or so, but we'll see. That prediction also depends on that using their newfound salary space reasonably well in the next couple of months and/or making a decent trade.

 
At Thursday, July 22, 2010 3:12:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

This post is not about the comments made by MJ and Magic, so I don't know why you are so bent out of shape about those statements and why you keep referencing them here. This post points out that Odom was able to have a "lucky game" because of the defensive attention drawn by Kobe Bryant and that Bryant's ability to do this--particularly during postseason play--is a major reason why the Lakers have won the last two championships. On the other hand, even though LeBron James has put up great individual numbers at times during the past two postseasons he clearly quit during the 2010 Boston series and he does not possess the focus and leadership skills that Bryant has (as indicated by, among other things, Adrian Wojnarowski's article).

 
At Thursday, July 22, 2010 3:29:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Khandor:

I am not sure what you think is explained by the "hard numbers" that you cited. Bosh ranked seventh out of 12 Team USA players in minutes played, so the coaching staff apparently did not share your assessment of his value. In my Team USA report card I gave Bosh an "A" and called him the squad's most effective big overall, so I certainly respect his contribution--but the biggest single difference between the 2008 team and the preceding teams that failed to win gold medals was Kobe Bryant. Yes, there were other differences as well, but the biggest difference was Kobe Bryant--and I do not need a stat sheet to prove it because I watched all of those games and I made very detailed posts about exactly what transpired, so I will definitely not turn this thread into an extended discussion about that subject because I provided in depth analysis two years ago that can currently be found in the right hand sidebar of 20 Second Timeout's main page.

We agree that Brown is an excellent defensive coach and that as an overall coach he is not at the same level as Jackson, Popovich and Riley. However, I disagree that Brown is a poor offensive coach; you are simply repeating the tired mantras of the Cleveland (and national) media, some of whom said exactly the same things about Bill Belichick 15 years ago. They were wrong about Belichick and they are wrong about Brown (which is not to say that Brown is as good an NBA coach as Belchick is as an NFL coach, but Brown is a much better coach than his media critics suggest).

There is no coaching strategy that can overcome the best player quitting. Perhaps you could argue that James would not have quit under Jackson, Riley or Popovich--either because he would have respected them more or because they would have reacted differently than Brown--but there was not anything that Brown could do once James decided to quit, all the more so considering that Gilbert and the rest of the organization were fully committed to coddling James up until James announced his "Decision."

 
At Thursday, July 22, 2010 3:35:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Stephen:

It is comical how media evaluations of coaches bear little resemblance to reality. Bill Simmons insists that Doc Rivers is a poor coach, while the writer you cited declares that Rivers outcoached Phil Jackson. The reality is that both Jackson and Rivers are outstanding coaches. The Celtics are more of a physical, grind it out team, while the Lakers are more of a finesse team that relies on execution (which is not to say that the Celtics cannot execute efficiently or that the Lakers cannot play physically). Both coaches devised game plans that emphasized their team's strengths and tried to minimize their team's weaknesses. Unfortunately, most writers who cover the NBA do not have a sophisticated enough understanding of the game to discern the inner workings of those game plans or to differentiate between failures that result from poor execution by the players and failures that result from a bad game plan.

 
At Thursday, July 22, 2010 4:02:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

J:

That thread is interesting but mainly because it puts on full display the limitations of "advanced basketball statistics." I enjoyed the unintentional comic relief in the comments section when one fool tried to insult an intelligent commenter by saying that he should take his views over to 20 Second Timeout. I will never cease to be amazed by how each "stat guru" not only believes with perfect faith in the gospel of "advanced basketball statistics" but he also believes that "his" pet stat is the best: note how the author of that post is so convinced that his numbers "prove" that Jordan is the greatest player of all time but that he denigrates the work done by Roland Beech--one of the few "stat gurus" who I respect precisely because he has a good sense of the limitations of statistics as a tool for individual player evaluation--at 82Games.com.

The "stat gurus" try to assume the role of objective scientists arguing against subjective, irrational people but in reality many of the "stat gurus" are relying far more on faith than they would ever admit: as I have repeatedly demonstrated, the box score numbers that form the basis for any "advanced statistics" are not only subjectively tabulated in many cases but they inadequately measure what really happens during a play. For instance, even if an assist is correctly awarded--a hit or miss proposition--the player who made the assist pass may not have actually created the play: if Kobe Bryant runs a screen/roll with Pau Gasol and two defenders trap Bryant while Gasol rolls to the hoop and Lamar Odom flashes to the top of the key Bryant gets no statistical "credit" for the two points that result after Bryant passes to Odom and Odom makes a simple lob to Gasol for a dunk--but that basket was created (and that play was run in the first place) precisely because the defense has to trap Bryant or else Bryant will score. "Advanced basketball statistics" have no way to accurately depict individually what happens on that kind of play; "advanced basketball statistics" can tell you that a five man unit including Bryant, Gasol, Odom, Fisher and Artest is very effective collectively but "advanced basketball statistics" cannot properly break down individual credit. The "stat gurus" stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that basketball is simply not like baseball; baseball is a station to station game in which individual credit can be much more accurately handed out.

Someday, when the "stat gurus" admit their shortcomings they will then start on the path of using DVD technology to break down plays and, with the help of coaches/scouts who understand the sport, they will devise statistics that more accurately reflect what happens on the court--but for now guys like Dave Berri and others get too much publicity and money to dare acknowledge how deeply flawed their methods are.

 
At Thursday, July 22, 2010 4:08:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

J:

Within the past year, a writer for the Wall Street Journal interviewed (separately) me and Berri for an article about NBA statistics. That writer ended up quoting Berri but leaving my remarks out of the article and when I asked him why he said that the WSJ did not have enough space to do justice to what I had said! In other words, Berri can provide a good soundbite--or, more precisely, one or two numbers that purportedly precisely rank a player--and that better fits into the newspaper paradigm than the kind of in depth analysis that I provide here with posts that can range from a few hundred words to 10,000.

The problem with the thinking conveyed by that writer--besides the obvious and serious issue that newspapers are not primarily interested in reporting the truth--is that the internet is better than newspapers at providing both superficial material (Twitter, etc.) and in depth material (the kinds of posts that I make) and that is one of the reasons why I declared several years agothat newspapers are scrambling to catch up with the bloggers. What is the point of the WSJ doing an article about basketball statistics if the WSJ is not willing to devote enough space to the subject to do it full justice? This is not just about Berri and me; the reality is that even in the "stat guru" community Berri is viewed as an outsider, with Dan Rosenbaum and many others raising serious questions about the credibility of his methodology, so it is irresponsible for the WSJ (and for ESPN's Henry Abbott) to repeatedly quote Berri as if he is some kind of authority without acknowledging the limitations of "advanced basketball statistics" in general and Berri's numbers in particular.

 
At Thursday, July 22, 2010 8:36:00 AM, Anonymous khandor said...

Instead of comparing how the Team USA coaching staff used Bosh in 2008 to the way they used the rest of their players, compare how Bosh [himself] played in 2008 vs how he played in 2006 and the impact he had in 2008 vs the impact he had in 2006, in comparison with the other Bigs on the roster [e.g. in terms of MP, St, Rebs, etc.].

Other key additions, included Kobe Bryant [a big factor, to be sure], DeRon Williams, Jason Kidd, Tayshaun, Michael Redd and Carlos Boozer ... who each effected the way the 2008 team played, in their own unique way.

--------------

When I say that Mike Brown was/is a poor offensive coach, I am not repeating the claims of anyone else.

My perceptions about the game of basketball are not derived from media reports.

Mike Brown is not an elite level communicator.

Mike Brown is not an elite level X's and O's offensive guru.

Mike Brown is aware of his own deficienices, at least in these two areas, as a head coach, and sought out the assistance of someone like Ettore Messina to "improve" his own understanding of the game, from an offensive perspective, and then deligated responsibility to one of his assistant coaches to run the Cavs' offensive systems, both, in practices and in games.

Mike Brown does not have a wholistic Basketball Philosophy, which comes close to approximating a System Of Play, like the Triangle Offense.

Mike Brown's offensive "system" lacks creativity, imagination, versatility and discipline.

Conversely, Mike Brown is a very good defensive coach.

--------------

Those who mistakenly thought/think that Bill Belichick was/is a poor offensive coach ... are simply idiots.

I pay no attention to idiots.

--------------

Au contraire ... there are all sorts of strategies and tactics which an authentically elite level coach can use to overcome the fact that his/her best player may have quit in the middle of a critical contest.

Mike Brown used none of these.

In fact, the chief reason LeBron James may have acted - and performed - the way he did, when he played poorly vs Boston this year, is BECAUSE of Mike Brown ... and, specifically, what he and the rest of his teammates knew about the way they were being coached by Mike Brown, vs how the Celtics were being coached by Doc Rivers.

[e.g. the level of disrespect which the Cavs, as a group, showed towards Mike Brown was palpable, as the series developed ... and, IMO, an astute basketball observer could clearly see that the players on their team were exasperated with the way their team was being handled in that series, in comparison with the way the Celtics were being handled by Doc Rivers & Co. LeBron James did not quit in those games; the Cavaliers decided to say "F-U" to Mike Brown because they did not agree with what was going on [A] behind the scenes AND [B] on the floor.]

IMO, an authentic elite level coach would not have done what Mike Brown did in the Game 2 post-game press conference; nor, would s/he have done, in general, what Mike Brown did while coaching LeBron James for the last 7 years.

Superstar players - e.g. Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, etc. - like ... and, in fact, crave the opportunity - to play for an authentic elite level coach.

In general, they do not despise being "coached" by this person and want to have him fired.

 
At Thursday, July 22, 2010 1:26:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Khandor:

My Team USA report card (see link above) details the insignificant roles that Boozer, Prince and Redd had for the 2008 team. Williams and Kidd certainly made solid contributions.

Bryant was the biggest difference.

It should be considered a sign of strength and confidence when a coach seeks out the wisdom of other coaches to increase his understanding of the game. The greatest coaches regularly seek out other coaches to watch how they run their practices, etc.

The word you were looking for is "holistic."

Brown's coaching philosophy emphasizes the importance of defense and is based on what he learned while serving as a member of Popovich's staff on the Spurs (including during their 2003 championship run). Brown publicly stated on several occasions that his first and top priority as Cavs' coach was to transform the team into an elite defensive squad, which he did.

The "disrespect" shown toward Brown stemmed mainly, if not entirely from LeBron James--a shameful display of immaturity by the self-proclaimed "King."

Brown's postgame rant after game two, which was not at all typical of how he usually conducted himself (I was at that press conference and at many others conducted by Brown), was clearly an attempt to rouse the team out of the complacency that had taken hold as a result of LeBron's indifference (i.e., quitting). Perhaps if the franchise had not coddled LeBron for so long things might have turned out differently.

I agree that great players crave the opportunity to be coached. Perhaps LeBron is not at the level of the esteemed players you listed--not in terms of his obvious, indisputable talent but rather in terms of the mentality it takes to be a champion--or perhaps he has had his ear bent for too long by his high school buddies.

Contrary to what you wrote, Cleveland players other than LeBron (including Ilgauskas and Mo Williams) publicly expressed disagreement with Brown's firing, with Williams explicitly saying that unless the Cavs hired Phil Jackson this was a mistake.

 
At Thursday, July 22, 2010 2:10:00 PM, Blogger $9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

RE: 2008 Team USA Olympics.

You can listen to what Coach Mike K has to say about the team and Lebron and about leadership

 
At Thursday, July 22, 2010 6:29:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

9WO:

Great stuff. From roughly the 34 to 37 minute marks in the first video, Coach K describes something that I have discussed here in several posts--a vignette relayed to me by Steve Kerr, who heard the story from Team USA Assistant Coach Mike D'Antoni: Kobe met with Coach K and said that he wanted to guard the best perimeter player in every game and Kobe promised to "destroy" that player. Coach K then describes how in the first Team USA practice Kobe did not attempt a single shot but he dominated defensively, setting the tone for how Team USA had to play to win the gold medal.

For years, some critics kept insisting that Team USA was falling short in FIBA play because of poor three point shooting but I argued that Team USA's biggest problems were on defense, particularly on the perimeter. Kobe recognized the problem and he became the solution.

Kobe was the biggest difference for Team USA.

 
At Thursday, July 22, 2010 7:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

i feel like the mainstream media and yourself have been totally unfair to lebron james and this whole process. to me he is a young man trying to find the best situation for him and his family to prosper. and many from the cleveland area and other areas have hated on that notion just because he isnt playing on your team anymore. Bottom line cleveland didnt do enough to keep james services they got good players around him in the 7 years but not good enough players to win championships. miami did cleveland wasnt built for long haul miami is who isnt going to take a better job then there current one?

kobe opens up the floor for odom and gasol. all great players have always done that mj bird magic wilt jerry etc. lebron failed his team this year with game 5 performance no doubt, even though that is takeing away from boston who won the game by like 3 or 4 right no 32 points? to say this might be his best ever chance to win a ring is crazy now that he is in miami he will have more than 3 or 4 chances to win a ring for sure if healthy.

kobe leadership and focous was better. but his teamates played better as well when it counted it wasnt just kobe out there the whole lakers should get credit especially for game 7 effort.

 
At Thursday, July 22, 2010 10:18:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

Please don't compare my analysis with the mainstream media's.

I did not blame LeBron for choosing Miami. In the article that I wrote the day before the "Decision" I said that Cleveland and Miami were his two most logical choices.

I blame LeBron for quitting versus Boston, for putting Cleveland in a bad situation by not committing to the team/helping to recruit players to come there and for turning his free agency process into such a tribute to his narcissism.

In each of the past two seasons LeBron played for the team that had the NBA's best regular season record. It is very uncommon to play for a team that wins 60-plus games in back to back seasons. Maybe the Heat will do this if each of the Big Three stays healthy and if they are surrounded by good complementary players and those players stay healthy and productive--but there is certainly no guarantee that LeBron will ever again play for the team that has the top overall seed in the playoffs, let alone have that opportunity in consecutive years. He did not maximize the chances that he had to win one or more titles in Cleveland and it is a very real possibility that 10 years from now we will look back and say that he squandered his best chances to become a champion.

Of course, it is possible that everything falls into place and he wins multiple titles in Miami but it is far from inevitable that history will take that course.

The Cavs did everything they could to build a winner quickly and if LeBron had fully committed to the Cavs then they could have made more moves.

While it was not just Kobe out there for the Lakers--and I never suggested otherwise--Kobe's presence on the court and his aggressiveness made things easier for his teammates even in games during which he shot poorly.

You toss around "leadership" and "focus" like these are throwaway terms but--contrary to what "stat gurus" insist--those qualities are extremely important and they are, in fact, what separates champions from losers in competitions between athletes who all possess great physical gifts.

 
At Thursday, July 22, 2010 10:36:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

9WO:

Another good moment in that first video happens right after the 47 minute mark when Coach K talks about the timeout he called during the fourth quarter of the gold medal game. He describes Kobe as "an alien--he's just different. He lives for the most pressurized moment." He credits the championship experience that Kobe and D Wade have for helping those guys to come through down the stretch in the gold medal game.

 
At Friday, July 23, 2010 7:30:00 AM, Anonymous khandor said...

Hi, David.

1. Hopefully you were able to get some residual benefit from the link to this article which was provided via yesterday's edition of "Ball Don't Lie".

It's always rewarding to be able to cross-promote someone else's work who I think does a good job.

2. This is the error message which I received when attempting to reply to your most recent comment earlier this morning:

"Your html cannot be accepted: Must be at most 4,096 characters."

Hence, what I have now done instead is publish both:

a. your reply comment; and,
b. my reply comment, in return;

in the thread at my own blog ... which, in turn, is linked back to your blog.

Hopefully, this works for you, as it does for me. :-)

All the best, and Keep On Truck'n.

 
At Friday, July 23, 2010 7:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

cleveland had multiple oppoutunites to get other players to go with lebron and never did. if he commit to the team earlier who was going there wade and bosh werent? if bosh takes sign and trade lebron still in cleveland but bosh didnt want to go there. your blameing lebron rather than blameing the bigger culprit cleveland organization.

so you think his best ever chance to win is with mo willams and jamison and anderson varejo? not with bosh and wade and mike miller that makes no sense sir. they defenitely win 60 games if they stay healthy possibly 70 this team is by far the best he ever had to work with. cleveland winning 66 and 61 games speaks on lebron greatness more than anything else to me, were going to see how good cleveland is without lebron can you say lottery.

leadership and focous are very important kobe was better than lebron in playoffs, so are your teamates they were better than lebrons the last two years as well in playoffs as well. fisher big in that game 3 vs celts in 4th quarter and gasol artest big in game 7 when kobe shot poorly in both games, kobe presence makes it easier for them, so does every great player for his teamates they still got too come through they did.

 
At Saturday, July 24, 2010 11:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Khandor:

1) Thank you for the link and for the head's up about the BDL link.

2) The comment function on the Blogger platform has been acting strangely at times recently. I have also received that same error message on occasion when I have posted comments but invariably the comment actually appears even though the error suggests that the comment will not appear. Also, keep in mind that I use comment moderation, which means that I must read and approve each comment before it is posted (I do this to weed out spam comments, comments that contain vulgarities and comments that are way off topic).

 
At Saturday, July 24, 2010 11:26:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

If LeBron had fully committed to the Cavs (by signing a lengthier contract extension the last time around and then actively recruiting players to come to Cleveland with the same vigor that he is recruiting for Miami now) then the Cavs could have added even more talent to the teams that won 66 and 61 games the past two seasons.

The only way that the Cavs can be considered a "culprit" is because they coddled LeBron and catered to his every whim; when Wade did not fully commit to Miami, Pat Riley hedged his bets so that if Wade had left the Heat would have had room to sign other max level players this off-season--and when Wade complained that he did not have enough help Riley told him, essentially, "Either sign an extension and recruit for us or shut up and play." However, the Cavs took a different approach, adding veterans--who LeBron wanted--such as Shaq and Jamision with the idea that by proving that they were committed to winning now they could entice LeBron to re-sign. Instead, LeBron betrayed the Cavs' good faith and he did so in the most painful way possible, waiting until the last minute and then dragging things out for an hour during his ridiculous TV show.

Yes, I think that LeBron's best chance to win this year would have been to stay with the Cavs, who then would have re-signed Shaq and kept together the team that led the league in wins. Maybe the Heat will be great with three max players plus nine fill-ins but that remains to be seen. I am sure that the Cavs would have won 60-plus games and been a top contender (barring injuries, of course).

I certainly realize that during the next few seasons the Heat may win one or more titles--but you don't seem to understand just how much goes into winning championships. It would not surprise me if 10 years from now we look back and see that the only time LeBron played for teams that won 60 games in back to back seasons was his final two years with the Cavs.

As I have said repeatedly over the past several years, the Cavs' winning formula was defense, rebounding and LeBron's brilliance. You are disregarding just how important the first two factors were.

Regarding the Cavs' prospects this year, a great player is typically worth 15-20 wins, so if the Cavs had brought back the rest of last year's team I would have expected them to win 40-45 games. However, the Cavs have a new head coach and they will have to replace their starting and backup centers. Until I see how the Cavs fill those roster spots--and what they do with vets like Jamison and Mo Williams--I cannot predict how many games they will win but I can tell you now that their inevitable decline will result from more factors than just LeBron's departure.

Keep in mind that Kobe's supporting cast during this season's playoffs included a starting center playing on one leg, arguably the worst starting point guard on any of the league's elite teams, a starting small forward who never learned the intricacies of the Lakers' Triangle Offense and a bench that was so depleted that early in the year Coach Jackson said that watching them play made him want to throw up. Also, Kobe himself was limited by a knee that required off-season surgery, a broken index finger on his shooting hand that almost certainly will require surgery and a sprained ankle that bothered him during the second half of the season.

Fisher's clutch plays in game three--other than his full court drive--resulted from a 1-2 (point guard-shooting guard) screen/roll set with Kobe; Kobe called for that action because he knew that the Celtics would trap him, leaving Fisher wide open.

 
At Monday, July 26, 2010 1:39:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MARCEL

im guessing your talking about when lebron was 22 in 06 rather than do a 3 year deal do a 6 year deal. it make lebron only would be 28 so he wouldnt be as old but lebron didnt want to be stuck with the cavs going backwards like they are now while he going forward. nuthing the cavs could give him is a better oppoutunity than the one mickey arison gave him no matter what you say.


mo willams and 34 year old jamison is not on par with wade and bosh or close. and the role players on miami are now legit with haslem mike miller etc. jamison and shaq wasnt getting any better next season if lebron couldnt win with them last year what made you think he could win with them this year? the celts and orlando would still be better and miami with wade bosh. lebron seen that and made a good move to go to miami they would of been a great regular season team agian and lose in playoffs after being favirotes agian.

there not going to be no good next year without lebron it is basically the same team other than no big z. they wont make playoffs for a while and who knows if there ever be contenders agian. they put all they eggs in one basket and it backfired, since you said rebounding and defense were more important than lebron brillance or made it like that. hopefully they rebound and defend well.

fish is a championship point guard not great indivual player but a gutsy warrior. bynum was hurt no doubt kobe was hurt in the first round and late in season he wasnt from the second round on or it was minimal if he was hurt than it would of showed more but no doubt his bench was depleted bynum was hurt as well and artest was never really good in triangle. it helped to play 2 small no defense teams like utah and phx as well.

they deserve credit for celts victory they gutted it out it wasnt just kobe his teamates came up big in spots in that series bigger than lebrons did.

 
At Monday, July 26, 2010 2:44:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

Clearly, I was referring not only to LeBron's decision to sign a three year deal instead of a six year deal but also to LeBron's refusal at any stage--even after Gilbert made it clear that he would spend any amount to help build a better team--to commit to staying in Cleveland. I can understand why LeBron signed a three year deal but after the Cavs put a team around him good enough to advance to the NBA Finals LeBron should have made it clear that he planned to stay in Cleveland; that would have enabled the Cavs to build for the future instead of, as you described it, putting all of their eggs in one basket. The Cavs trusted LeBron and he made them look like fools; perhaps the Cavs should have told LeBron that as long as he refused to commit to them they would not take any action that put them over the salary cap. In that case, if he decided to leave they could have pursued another top free agent with a max level deal.

LeBron was never stuck with a team "going backwards." The Cavs won 66 games in 2009 and 61 games in 2010; if they had not clinched home court advantage throughout the playoffs with so much room to spare then they could easily have won more games in both of those seasons. Are you sure that the Heat are going to win 61 games this year and post the league's best record, let alone win 66?

The earlier that LeBron would have committed to the Cavs the more leeway they would have had to improve an already good roster--but even if the Cavs had merely brought back last year's squad they could have won 60 games this season.

Next year's Cleveland team is definitely NOT basically the same other than LeBron leaving. The Cavs have a new GM and a new coach. Z is already out the door and Shaq will officially be gone soon, so that means the Cavs will be without their top two centers from last season. LeBron is worth 15-20 wins like any MVP caliber player but the Cavs could still have won 45 games or so if they would have kept the other guys--but it makes no sense to overpay Z and Shaq just to win 45 games (and maybe it never made sense to overpay them just to try to appease LeBron).

I never said that rebounding and defense are more important than LeBron. I said that Cleveland's three pronged winning formula consisted of LeBron's brilliance plus team defense and rebounding. Most media members showered praise on LeBron but neglected to appreciate the team's depth and the team's commitment to defend and rebound.

I have great respect for Derek Fisher and the contributions that he has made to five Lakers' championship teams--but that does not change the simple fact that he is the least productive point guard starting for any elite level team and arguably the least productive point guard starting for any playoff team.

 
At Monday, July 26, 2010 2:49:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

Kobe's knee injury was so "minimal" that he just had surgery to repair the damage. During the playoffs he also had his knee drained of fluid. Kobe also played with an injured right index finger that is now permanently damaged plus a severely sprained ankle. I have not heard anything about LeBron's famously injured elbow but I'd be willing to bet that at least two of Kobe's injuries were significantly worse than whatever "boo boo" LeBron made such a fuss about (and don't tell me that it was the media's fault--what do you think LeBron expected to happen after he theatrically shot a free throw left handed?).

Are you really going to argue that the Lakers' faced weak competition? The Suns were one of the hottest teams in the league during the second half of the season and their defense is much better than it was during the D'Antoni era. The Jazz are a tough-minded team with several key players who have Conference Finals experience. To use your phrase, "it helped" the Celtics that LeBron decided to quit against them, because two years ago when he was trying harder a less talented Cavs team pushed the Celtics to the brink--and those Celtics were younger and healthier than this year's Celtics.

The Lakers' bench was MIA for most of the season and the playoffs. Shannon Brown, the 13th man for the 2007 Cavs, ranked seventh in playoff mpg for both the 2009 and 2010 Lakers. Bynum played on one leg during the 2010 playoffs; even Odom's old coach Kenny Smith conceded that Odom played well about once every three games; Artest played great defense but for most of the playoffs he was a disaster offensively, shooting .398 from the field, .291 from three point range and .579 from the free throw line; Gasol played very well overall but he had his moments of softness and he often disappeared in fourth quarter situations.

Kobe turned around the OKC series with his defense versus Westbrook in game five, he performed at an extremely high level versus Utah and Phoenix and then in the Finals he did an admirable job against Boston's tough defense while also disrupting Boston's offense by hounding Rondo. The energy that Ray Allen expended chasing Kobe clearly took a toll on Allen's shooting touch. Kobe's game seven shooting stats skewed his overall numbers a bit but it is important to remember that virtually everyone on both of those teams shot poorly in that game.

 
At Wednesday, July 28, 2010 5:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

obvisouly cleveland should of mortaged their future and told lebron if youre not going to commit to us were not commiting to you, to leave themselve a avenue to get other free agents. they foolishy thought it was a gurantee or something he was comeing back or a great shot and got burned. he interviewed 7 other teams so they were in play too cleveland should of known better there is no such thing as loyalty in sports no more.

im sure if healthy the heat will defenitely win 62+ plus games david he's on a better team than the last two years. 66 and 61 is footnote they didnt win the title i dont think it matters anyway unless they win title. shaq and jamison getting older the cavs couldnt bring anyone else in this year if he resigned so he was essientally on the same team as the last two years with a new coach those teams resulted in no titles.

now there not the same team new coach no delonte west lebron shaq or big z. they will struggle because of those factors the biggest is no lebron he the straw that stir the drink, cleveland now irrelevant.

rebounding and d are big factors but lebron was biggest factor. if you say they are all 3 equal you have to say lakers length and size are as important as kobe.

fish is not traditonal point guard triangle point guards have never been dominant players this argument is irrelevant. chris paul and deron willams arent going to play in triangle cause they dominate the ball too much would never fit with kobe. ron harper bj armstong steve kerr brian shaw which was dominant? \

lebron never said anything about the injury and how do you know how hurt he was youre speculating? kobe been playing with that finger for a long time. his knee got drained and he was obvisouly healthier if he wasnt he would of shot 30 percent or worse vs boston d and wouldnt of shot 53 vs utah and phoenix or maybe he would the way they play d. suns had to play zone to win a game in series great defense teams dont play zone as kenny smith says. utah is a small team.

we agree at the end he didnt play great vs okc but had a great game 5 d played great vs pho and utah. and gutted it out vs boston. my point being his teamates came up big vs boston in games 3 6 and 7 especially gasol artest 7 fisher at end of game 3.

 
At Friday, July 30, 2010 2:06:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

If the Cavs had not "mortgaged their their future" (your words) to try to win quickly then the media would have blasted the franchise for not doing enough to try to keep LeBron; LeBron put the Cavs in a no-win situation (literally): by not signing a six year deal and refusing to recruit anyone to come to the team he made it more difficult to build a winner and yet the franchise felt compelled to cater to his every whim lest he leave (which he ended up doing anyway).

What really makes LeBron's actions terrible is that he not only quit versus Boston when the Cavs had a very realistic chance to win a title but it also now seems like LeBron was really planning all along to leave. He strung the Cavs along and then left them high and dry, embarrassing them on national TV after every other free agent had already signed.

You may be "sure that the Heat will win 62+ games" but that does not mean it will happen. Players can get hurt, chemistry can go sour--a lot of things can go wrong during a long season. It certainly seems like the Heat are a lock to win at least 55 games but my point is that the Cavs won 66 and 61 the last two seasons despite coasting to the finish line because they had already clinched the best record; they could have won even more games if necessary--and if LeBron had either committed to the team from the beginning or at least re-signed fairly quickly this summer then he could have recruited guys like Mike Miller the same way that he is now recruiting players to Miami, which is something that LeBron never did as a Cav (that is why Ariza did not come to Cleveland last summer).

You are misinterpreting what I said about the three factors in Cleveland's success. It obviously is important to have a star player but Mike Brown turned the Cavs into an elite defensive/rebounding team and that was the result of the efforts of more than just one player.

Fisher's limitations as a player are not "irrelevant": the Lakers had to switch Kobe--with his bad knee, messed up finger and balky ankle--on to Russell Westbrook because Fisher simply could not guard him. Fisher is a good clutch shooter and leader but from a skill set standpoint he is the worst starting point guard on any of the elite teams. That is just a fact.

 
At Friday, July 30, 2010 2:06:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

You are wrong that LeBron never said anything about the injury; I sat in front of him during postgame press conferences when he talked about it. More to the point, he kept rubbing his elbow and he shot a free throw left handed even though tests showed that he had nothing more than a bruise. The "problem" did not stop him from shooting half court shots prior to game six versus Boston and nothing has been said about the elbow since that series ended.

Yes, Kobe played with the finger injury for a long time--so long that he now has arthritis! He had to completely change his shooting stroke.

While draining the knee provided some relief, it did not make Kobe "healthier"; otherwise he would not have needed knee surgery.

You keep mentioning Kobe's teammates but you neglect to point out that most of the time when they "stepped up" they had opportunities because the other team's entire defense was tilted toward Kobe. Gasol and Artest's game-winning offensive rebounds came on plays when Kobe was trapped and most of Fisher's late game heroics versus Boston (other than his coast to coast drive) came on screen/roll plays when the Celtics trapped Kobe. You also conveniently ignore the reality that the Lakers' bench was largely ineffective throughout the season and playoffs and that there is no interest at all around the league in Shannon Brown, who has been seventh in playoff mpg for the Lakers' two championship teams. If the Lakers are so deep how come no one wants to pay even bargain basement (by NBA standards) money for Brown?

Gasol had a good postseason overall, Artest played excellent defense, Bynum deserves credit for playing hurt, Odom had a few good moments and Fisher is a solid leader but Kobe carried a lot of weight for the Lakers and he did so despite battling several injuries.

 

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