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Thursday, April 26, 2012

38 Special, "Changing the Culture" and a Peaceful Suspension: Random Thoughts as the 2012 NBA Season Concludes

Today is the final day of the 66 game, lockout-shortened 2012 NBA season. We already know the identities of all 16 playoff teams and the top three seeds in each conference but several playoff matchups will be determined by the results of tonight's games. There will only be one day of rest before the playoffs begin, so coaches will not have much time to prepare for the important game one of the playoffs (the winner of that contest ultimately wins the series the vast majority of the time) and I will have less time than usual to complete my annual awards article and my playoff preview article--but three subjects that I will not cover in those two articles are weighing on my mind:

1) The L.A. Lakers' game versus the Sacramento Kings is "meaningless" for both teams but I remember when star players played--and sometimes put up big numbers--in such "meaningless" games. If the teams and the players are truly going to treat such games as "meaningless" then they should refund the ticket revenue from those games (the Boston-Miami game on Tuesday night--with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo all sitting out--was a travesty and everyone who bought a ticket deserves a refund plus a free ticket to a real NBA game). Kobe Bryant needs to score at least 38 points to beat out Kevin Durant for the scoring title. If Bryant hits that number exactly or barely exceeds it then this will be the closest scoring title race in NBA history, surpassing the legendary 1978 duel when David Thompson scored 73 points in a "meaningless" game only to lose the crown to George Gervin, who scored 63 points in a "meaningless" game to finish with a 27.22 ppg average (Thompson averaged 27.15 ppg). Whether you are a Bryant fan, a Durant fan or an unbiased observer, if you truly love NBA basketball then you want to see Bryant play in that game and you want to see him try to score 38 points, a total that barely exceeds his 2006 season average (35.4 ppg) but that he has matched or bested just seven times in 58 games this season. If Bryant captures the crown he will be the oldest scoring champion other than Michael Jordan in NBA history, while if Durant is victorious he will be the first player to win three straight scoring titles since Jordan won the 1996-98 scoring titles. George Mikan, Neil Johnston, Wilt Chamberlain, Bob McAdoo and George Gervin are the only other players who won at least three consecutive scoring titles.

2) Metta World Peace is a repeat offender who has been suspended multiple times for violently striking opposing players (and, on one infamous occasion, charging into the stands to strike a fan, nearly starting a riot in the process). The vicious elbow that he delivered to James Harden's head could have seriously injured--or even killed--Harden; fortunately, Harden seems to have avoided serious injury but he does have a concussion, which could not only affect him in this year's playoffs (possibly costing the Oklahoma City Thunder a chance to win a championship) but could leave him susceptible to future concussions and possible long term health consequences. Suspending Peace for seven games is, literally, about the least that the NBA could do; it would not at all have been excessive for the league to sit him down for the entire playoffs and require him to successfully complete anger management training before being allowed to return. He has serious mental health issues that could have disastrous consequences if they are not properly addressed. If Peace did not learn from and was not deterred by previous suspensions that cost him more than 100 games plus millions of dollars in salary then why should anyone think that a seven game suspension is going to deter him now?

3) Chris Paul is receiving a lot of credit for "changing the culture" in L.A. and media members seem poised to anoint him as high as third in the MVP race. Paul is still not quite the player he was in 2008 and 2009 when he made the All-NBA First Team and All-NBA Second Team respectively but this has been a nice bounce back campaign for him after injuries limited his effectiveness the past two seasons. Paul certainly deserves a lot of credit for the L.A. Clippers' success this season but suggesting that he has singlehandedly transformed a losing team into a playoff team is just as ludicrous as saying that LeBron James' departure singlehandedly ruined the Cleveland Cavaliers. Blake Griffin leads the Clippers in points per game, rebounds per game, field goal percentage and total minutes played, so it is far from clear that Paul is even the best player on his own team, let alone the third best player in the entire league. However, regardless of whether Griffin or Paul deserves to be considered the top Clipper, it is indisputable that the Clippers have a vastly different eight man rotation this season than they did last season: only Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Randy Foye ranked in the top eight in total minutes played for the Clippers both last season and this season. Caron Butler, Mo Williams, Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans joined Paul as new members of the Clippers' eight man rotation--and the Clippers' ninth player in minutes played, Chauncey Billups, started the first 20 games of the season, during which the team went 14-6. The Clippers are only 24-20 since a ruptured Achilles tendon ended Billups' season, so if Billups had gotten hurt just a bit earlier the team might not have even made the playoffs.

Paul has had a very good season and has reestablished himself as one of the league's top point guards but there is no reason to exaggerate how well he has played or the impact that he has had; that is the kind of mistaken thinking that resulted in Derrick Rose winning the 2011 MVP over LeBron James and led to Steve Nash winning two MVPs while Shaquile O'Neal and Kobe Bryant only received one MVP apiece. Perhaps media members more readily relate to players who are closer to their own size but at the NBA level it is very difficult for even a great small player to have the same kind of impact that a great mid-size player or a great big man has. It is not a coincidence that the vast majority of NBA championship teams have been led by a great big man and/or a great mid-size player; the 2004 Pistons, the 1989-90 Pistons and the 1979 Sonics are three exceptions: those teams triumphed either because of the collective strength of an ensemble cast of very good players (2004 Pistons, 1979 Sonics) or because of the greatness of two small Hall of Fame guards (Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars) supported by gritty and tenacious big men who played suffocating defense. Rose's Bulls captured the number one seed in the East in 2012 because of their great defense/strong rotation of big men even though Rose missed a large chunk of this season but Nash never led a team to a championship (or even to the NBA Finals) and I doubt that Paul will ever be the best player on a championship team.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:58 AM

15 comments

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15 Comments:

At Thursday, April 26, 2012 9:57:00 AM, Anonymous boyer said...

David, while you're right that it would be bad for fans to be cheated out of a game, why would/should Kobe or some others risk injury? If it was the playoffs and Kobe had that injured shin, he's playing, but since it was the reg. season, he was able to rest some and get better. And while it would've been exciting to watch thompson/gervin score a lot of pts., those games were obviously shenangigan games to try to get each player to the scoring title, not exactly regular basketball.

It's hard for me to say MWP's suspension is too much or too little. He never looked at Harden, and then acted surprised at what happened. He was going crazy after his big play, and was clearing space, obviously really bad. But, what Rondo in the playoffs a few years back? He punched and missed Hinrich and got 0 games. That seems worse to me, but obviously he didn't injure anyone, which is most likely part of the suspension. Or Love taking his time, looking down, and then stomping on Scola's face, and only getting 2 games. There's obviously intention there. Not saying MWP doesn't deserve at least 7 games, though.

But, let's look at MWP's track record: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jpmoore/congrats-metta-world-peace-you-just-passed-100-ca

Almost everything was in 03 and 04. He's only had 2 1-game basketball-related suspensions since 04, until this 7-game suspensions. I think it's clear that he has gotten better; however, he's still suspect to doing something crazy.

Completely agree with your sentiments about Paul being overrated. His team overall is much better, and who would've thought Billups going down would cause the team to get this much worse. Another thing about that 79 season is that no team in the league was great. I think 53 wins led the league. Then came Magic. The 04 pistons also faced similarly lackluster teams. While the 04 pacers reached 60 wins, they had no franchise/elite players.

 
At Thursday, April 26, 2012 2:44:00 PM, Anonymous JLK1 said...

I'm a big fan of Paul and while I wouldn't put him ahead of Durant or James for MVP, he's certainly in the next group of players. Despite his size he's a dominant player that excels in multiple areas: he's led the league in steals 5 times, he's one of the best ball handlers in the league, he is a good 3 point shooter, he's a great passer, and he's a good rebounder considering his size and position.

To me it's clear that Paul is the best player the Clippers have, though Griffin is not far behind. Griffin leads the team in PPG by less than one point, and it's hardly a knock on Paul that Griffin leads the team in rebounding. It should be noted that Griffin is not a great defender and that he is a very poor free throw shooter, which means the team leans heavily on Paul in crunch time.

As for MWP, the video is disturbing and I agree that he is lucky to have avoided a longer suspension. Two things jump out to me. First, he cocked his arm all the way back before swinging. Second, after feeling the powerful collision between his elbow and Harden's head, he doesn't turn to see what happened. When someone delivers a shot like that by accident, they are usually surprised by the impact.

 
At Thursday, April 26, 2012 4:44:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

If teams and players are really going to act as if certain regular season games simply don't matter at all then the teams should not charge full ticket prices for those games. The Jordan-Pippen Bulls did not "rest" players and somehow still managed to win six titles; Jordan played all 82 games in five of those six seasons, while Pippen played all 82 games in three of those seasons, while playing 81 and 77 in two others (he missed 38 games in one of those seasons but that is because he had foot surgery). Pippen played a team-high 30 minutes in the final game of the 1995-96 season, a "meaningless" game because the Bulls had already not only clinched the best record in the league but the best record in league history! Jordan played 24 minutes in that game and led the Bulls with 26 points.

I understand that this season is a little different because of the compacted schedule but as an NBA fan it is disappointing that, apparently, Bryant will not even play in the last game of the season even though he is completely healthy (or, at least as healthy as he has been all season).

You can say that the Gervin/Thompson games were "shenanigan" games but I would rather see great players putting on a show than see subpar players getting minutes that they don't deserve.

Peace was not "clearing space"; you do not "clear space" by raising your arm over your head, cocking your elbow back and ramming it full force into someone else's head. You "clear space" by shoving someone in the chest or hitting them in the chest/side with a forearm. Peace deserved to have additional games tacked on to the suspension just for perpetrating the fiction that what he did was an accident.

Whether or not other suspensions were too lenient does not justify making Peace's suspension too lenient, particularly since he is perhaps the worst repeat offender in league history. I thought that Commissioner Stern said that the suspension after the "Malice in the Palace" incident was Peace's last chance. Peace has had more last chances than serial drug abuser Steve Howe, the MLB pitcher who was repeatedly suspended for drug related issues.

Peace was just suspended during last year's playoffs for delivering a cheap shot to J.J. Barea. He also has been suspended for previous cheap shots against Manu Ginobili and Derek Anderson, in addition to the "Malice in the Palace" and a suspension for committing domestic violence. How many second chances should Peace get? Should the NBA wait until he prematurely ends someone's career or permanently maims someone?

One of the most irritating things about this situation is how people will defend Peace based purely on team loyalties. This is not about being a fan of the Lakers or a fan of the Thunder. It is about what kind of conduct is unacceptable and about how that conduct should be punished. Be honest--if Kendrick Perkins had hit Kobe Bryant the way that Peace hit Harden would you think that seven games is a sufficient suspension?

 
At Thursday, April 26, 2012 4:50:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JLK1:

Paul is poised to lead the league in steals for the fourth time (not the fifth). You are right about his other skill set attributes.

I am not "knocking" Paul for not leading his team in rebounding; the point is that Griffin leads the team in three key categories, while Paul leads the team in two of the most subjective categories (assists and steals).

Shaq was a poor free throw shooter and inconsistent defender but he was the most dominant player in the NBA for a substantial period of time. Griffin is not as good as Shaq but he is at least as valuable to the Clippers as Paul; you can find other pgs who can throw lobs to Griffin but you cannot find too many other guys who can put up 20 ppg/10 rpg over the course of an entire season.

You are correct that Peace's lack of immediate remorse--or even basic concern--belies his assertion that he accidentally struck Harden.

 
At Thursday, April 26, 2012 5:42:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

I hear what you're saying. As a paying fan, I would certainly be upset, though I don't know how you would get your money back or if you even should, up for debate, though it would never happen anyway. However, if you're the lakers and Kobe, it's smart to rest up for the playoffs, which is why he sat out for 7 games in the first place. And this season is a mess, and Kobe will play every game possible, even when seriously injured.

Well, jordan only played part of that game you mentioned, though better than nothing. But, while they had the record, they were capitalizing on the record even more, to make sure it would be even harder to be broken, so I disagree that that game was completely meaningless. I'm surprised Kobe wouldn't play even 20-25 min. tonight, though, but if you need rest and have the option to rest, then I think you should.

The main problem I have with nba suspensions is that they're so inconsistent, so it's so hard to judge how many games he should get. And I'm still on the fence if prior behavior should be taken into account for anyone. I suppose it should, but how much?

He did get 7 games(6 playoff), which is 6 playoff games are about equivalent to 12-15 or more reg. season games, and I think Stern hinted at that, so that's a pretty serious suspension. We can debate his intentions all day long and get nowhere. He certainly made a strong hit, but he never looked at Harden. I wonder if he knew it was Harden or if it didn't matter who it was. The fact that he ran downcourt and then looked back surprised suggests to me that he didn't fully realize what he did. I did the same thing once in a 7th grade game. I elbowed a guy in the face, or presume to since I got a flagrant foul, though obviously not that hard as the opposing player barely flinched, but to this day, I still have no recollection of actually doing it. I'm not making excuses for MWP, he deserves what he got, and prof. athletes get away with a lot compared to the rest of society, but I'm not entirely sure he knew what he was doing, but he is somewhat crazy, too.

The main pt. I was making is that while he still has relapses, he certainly has learned and gotten much better since 03 and 04. This is only the 3rd basketball-related suspension in 8 years. He's received lots of treatment and is helping mentally handicapped children in recent years. He's a troubled man, but he's certainly better post 04 than pre 04. I don't think a couple of 1-game suspensions, though bad, should ban him from the league. Obviously, if he pulls a stunt like what he did to Harden 1-2 more times, then he might be banned.

I think part of suspensions, which I'm not sure is right or wrong, is how injured the opposing player is. Harden had a concussion, so the suspension coupled with MWP's past was thus larger than it would've been if Harden was barely hurt. I still don't see much of a difference between this incident and something like Love stomping on Scola or Rondo throwing a punch and missing, other than only Harden was seriously injured.

And Raja clotheslined Kobe in the playoffs, a very cheap shot, and only got 1 game. And Mchale only got a flagrant 1, I think, on the Rambis clothesline, though that was worse, since Rambis was going up for the layup. Times have changed in the nba. MWP maybe only gets 2-3 games, if he played 30 years ago.

 
At Thursday, April 26, 2012 7:38:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

Jordan may have only played "part" of the final game of the 1996 season but he did lead his team in scoring and his team won the game. That cannot even be compared with the way that teams are "resting" players now.

Repeat offenders in any area of life are judged more severely than first time offenders. Someone who has only made a mistake once may never do it again; someone who makes the same mistake more than a dozen times is either a very slow learner or a very problematic individual.

Harden and Peace bumped into each other right before Peace threw the elbow. Peace wound up and cracked Harden full force in the head. The only way that Peace did not know what happened is if the nerves in his elbow are dead or if he was high on drugs. I have yet to see one current or former player say that he believes this was an accident.

You think that "only" three suspensions is a good record? How many second chances should a player get to violently strike an opposing player? Stern could have thrown Peace out of the league after the "Malice in the Palace" and he certainly could have told Peace that Peace would get no more second chances after that incident.

The Rambis play happened three decades ago, when the rules were different (flagrant fouls did not even exist)--but even that play was not as bad because at least McHale was somewhat making a play on the ball (or the player who had the ball), while Peace just cold clocked a player who did not have the ball. Don't get me wrong, I think that McHale should (and would) be suspended for multiple games if he made that kind of play today.

Bell should have probably received more than one game but just because the league got it wrong before does not mean that the league should continue to get it wrong. If one murderer gets away with it does that mean that no murderer should ever be locked up or executed?

 
At Thursday, April 26, 2012 8:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is perfectly understandable for fans to feel cheated. Unfortunately, there is a conflict of interest here. The league wants as much money as possible while coaches and players want to be in the best possible state to compete for a championship/playoff berth/draft pick.

Compare how Mike Brown handled Kobe with how Popovich handled the Spurs. Pop managed TD's playing time so well, while Kobe was logging heavy minutes. This season, they'll probably end up missing the same number of games. You don't feel "cheated" if Kobe missed a game because of an injury do you?

I agree 100% with David regarding Ron Artest. He deserved more suspensions. Only an idiot would think it was unintentional. First, there was contact with Harden, so Artest was 100% sure that someone was there. 2, there was a huge wind-up. 3, he swung high. The only target there was the head. 4, he followed through. 5, if it was an accident, there was no "what the?.. oops!! oh no, I'm sorry!" 6, he went into a fighting stance afterwards. There was no "sorry, I didn't see him." 7, "It was an accident." seriously?!
Also, it does not matter even one bit that Harden was not seriously hurt. It shouldn't matter if he hit someone like T.J. Ford with his elbow or if he hit Shaq. It shouldn't matter if Harden's head exploded, or if Harden was a ninja and dodged the blow.

"because the league got it wrong before does not mean that the league should continue to get it wrong. If one murderer gets away with it does that mean that no murderer should ever be locked up or executed?" Hit.the.nail.right.on.the.head!

 
At Thursday, April 26, 2012 11:15:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I agree with most of what you said but it should be noted that Popovich had more flexibility than Brown because Popovich's team is much deeper and was always assured of having home court advantage at least in the first round; if Brown had not played Kobe 38-plus mpg early in the season the Lakers could have ended up as the 6,7 or 8 seed.

 
At Thursday, April 26, 2012 11:44:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

I'm not saying it was an accident, and it certainly was completely uncalled for, and while that type of play has no place in the game, I still don't think MWP knew exactly what he was doing or realizes how strong he really is.

And yes, you're right, just because the league messes up on some disciplinary actions, it doesn't mean that MWP got shafted. I'm not disputing that he got too many games, but I think we need to realize that his 7-game suspension would've been at least 10-15 games if it was only reg. season. I just want more consistency with suspensions.

I think that since he's only gotten 2 1-game suspensions and then this last one, he's improved leaps and bounds since 04, that's all I'm saying, this much should be evident. Also, how many times has Kobe been suspended? 4-5x? I guess I don't know for sure. Didn't Karl Malone severely injure guys with wayward elbows on numerous incidents? What about Mchale? Didn't he go into the stands once and start a fight, and wasn't he in a fight during a college game once?

3 big differences with the bulls 82nd game in 96 compared the lakers 66th game in 12: 1) Kobe is banged up, while Jordan wasn't. 2) 96 was a standard regular season, while 12 is a messed-up condensed schedule. 3) The bulls, while already having the record, were adding to it, in essence, making history with each win after 69. Also, the lakers are down a starter in MWP, meaning they need Kobe even more well-rested. Also, the bulls had a cupcake first round opponent, while the lakers don't. Also, not bashing on jordan, but what about all the fans who had bought tickets for the 94 season before Jordan actually retired? That's a lot more angry fans just SAC. Huge difference here.

I'm not saying it's right, but there's nothing you can do. This is the only time I can remember Kobe ever sitting like this, and it makes perfect sense. Also, what about teams like GS basically tanking half the season? That's much worse than Kobe sitting out one game to get rested up for a very outside chance of winning a title.

 
At Friday, April 27, 2012 5:31:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

Most of Kobe's suspensions, if I recall correctly, were for elbows delivered while he was shooting and either trying to draw a foul or trying to shed a defender; the NBA ruled that his motion in doing this was too violent and he eventually toned this down. None of the elbows that Kobe threw remotely resembled the one that Peace delivered to Harden and I am not even sure that Kobe should have been suspended each of the times that he was but that is a subject for another time.

I think that Malone should have been suspended more often than he was. I believe that you are thinking of Cedric Maxwell going into the stands, not McHale. All of those incidents are unacceptable and they all happened decades ago when the rules were enforced differently, so they have nothing to do with the length of Peace's suspension after he has already been suspended more than a dozen times for violent actions.

Bryant did not sit out because he is banged up; he sat out because the game is supposedly "meaningless" (and if the game is being treated as "meaningless" then I think that the fans should not have to pay for their tickets). By the time the Lakers play their first playoff game on Sunday Bryant will have played two games in the preceding three weeks; even if he had played on Thursday he still would have had two full days off. The Lakers should be more concerned about Bryant being rusty, particularly since they will need for him to play at a very high level just to get out of the first round. The only excuse that you gave that makes any sense is that the 2012 season is compacted while the 1996 season was not but even that excuse does not fly in light of the fact that Bryant is already well rested.

I hope that you can understand the difference between retiring before a season begins (and after your father has been brutally murdered) and deciding to sit out a healthy player just a few hours before tip-off. My concern is not so much about season ticket holders--who presumably have a decent amount of money--but rather with someone who only buys tickets for one or two games a year; if someone in Sacramento saved up money to see Kobe play in the last game of the season and Kobe is a healthy scratch then that fan really lost out.

The last day of the season was a joke; healthy stars sat out and most of the games looked like uncompetitive summer league contests.

The bottom line is that it used to be a point of pride to play in all 82 games (Kobe has talked about this in the past but he is one of the few guys who retains that ethic, which is why it is even more disappointing that he sat out against the Kings) but now players and coaches treat regular season games as if they don't matter.

 
At Friday, April 27, 2012 1:55:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

Like I mentioned before, you're probably right about the fans getting their money back, but that's moot. It'll never happen. And I don't understand why you're singling out Kobe here, probably because the scoring title was within reach. But, several teams have been tanking for weeks now, trying to improve draft position and retain picks, etc. And almost every playoff team is sitting key players for several games. The lakers only did it for the last game. Coach Brown has every right to coach his team the way he wants to, and you obviously respect him as you have him finishing 3rd for coach of the year. While Kobe might be the main draw, it says LA Lakers vs. SAC Kings on the ticket, not Kobe vs. Evans.

If Kobe had played 65 games before last night, then yea, he'd probably play a little, but what's the difference between missing 7 or 8 games? And do the fans get their money back for the previous 7 games he missed?

Gentry sat Nash and Hill some games during season and played them sparingly in several other games. The spurs, c's, heat, and others sat key players numerous games.

I was making excuses, because I don't have a problem with resting players late in seasons. This isn't anything new. Teams have done this for years across sports, too. Everything I said was a fact as a difference between 96 bulls and 12 lakers. If Kobe was fully healthy, then why was he wearing a sleeve on his leg these last 2 games?

I would think he would want to play a little, but I nor you know what brown/kobe are thinking about preparing for the playoffs. I'm sure he's getting plenty of workouts/practice time.

It wasn't just the last day being a joke, which you're probably right about, but much the last couple of weeks. But, often the last day or 2 most season are like this. If someone's at 81 games, then yes, playing that 82nd game would be big, but if someone is at 75 games, then who cares if it's 75 or 76? Not many players play all 82 games in a season.

 
At Friday, April 27, 2012 3:12:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

I know that the NBA is not going to refund ticket revenue. That is not the point; the point is that if teams are going to treat regular season games as "meaningless" then they should not charge full ticket prices for those games.

I am not "singling out" Kobe Bryant; I have been complaining for years about teams "resting" healthy players. Bryant previously missed games because he was injured; he came back from the injury, played in two games, did not suffer a relapse and then was a healthy scratch with the scoring title in reach. More than three decades later, people still look back with fondness on the Gervin-Thompson scoring duel. Do you think that 30 years from now we will look back with fondness on the night that Kobe Bryant sat out?

The reasons that you listed regarding the 1996 Bulls are excuses; you don't know what Jordan's health was then compared to Bryant's health now, the Bulls did not start their key players just to add to the record, the relative strength of the playoff opponent had nothing to do with either decision and Bryant has already had plenty of rest. Nothing that you are saying about this subject makes any sense or stands up to even the most superficial scrutiny.

 
At Friday, April 27, 2012 3:28:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

Oh, ok, David. Just because I pointed out some key differences between the 96 bulls and 12 lakers doesn't mean it doesn't make any sense. If you use the 'we don't know if jordan was fully healthy' card, then I can use the 'we don't if Kobe is fully rested and/or fully healthy' card as well. I guess I don't remember any injury news of jordan in 96, but maybe you do. He played every game and I don't remember injury updates on him, so I assume he was healthy. And 12 Kobe is a lot older than 96 jordan in basketball years, and kobe was still wearing a leg sleeve. I would guess he wouldn't wear that if he was fully healthy.

I don't see why you don't understand that first round opps are important to consider. The bulls would most likely destroy their first round opp. in 96 without jordan, so who cares if jordan was rested or not for that series. In playoff preview for this, you basically claim that Kobe has to be absolutely amazing for the lakers to get by the nuggets. If there's any hint of fatigue or injury in Kobe, then that's not going to probably happen, right? Maybe I'm wrong about strength of first round opponent playing into Kobe sitting the final game, but you don't know that either. I wasn't trying to claim to know why or why not he was sitting, I was only pointing out key differences. The situation for each of these teams is much different. We have the best team ever on one hand, while we have a team that will struggle to even win one series on the other.

You basically applaud Pop for resting his players in your first round previews, which confuses me.

 
At Saturday, April 28, 2012 1:39:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

The things you mentioned are not "key differences" (other than the obvious fact that 2012 was a lockout-shortened season while 1996 was a regular full length season); Jordan and Pippen regularly played in every game that they could, regardless of whether or not those games might be perceived as "meaningless," so whether or not Jordan was banged up in 1996 (I'm sure that you don't know and are just speculating) is irrelevant. The point is that at one time players took pride in playing in every game but that is not the case anymore.

I don't believe that Bryant needs rest right now or that the 35 minutes he did not play on Thursday will make a difference by Sunday. When the Lakers open their series against Denver, Bryant will have played in just two games in the preceding three weeks, so it is just as valid to be concerned that he will be rusty.

Players wear all kinds of sleeves for various reasons; the reality is that Bryant was physically capable of playing but elected not to do so. I understand why the Lakers did this but I still prefer the way that things used to be done.

I did not "applaud" Popovich; I said that I understand why he rested players even though I do not like it.

 
At Saturday, April 28, 2012 3:11:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

It seems like you are just nitpicking/arguing for the sake of nitpicking/arguing.

Do you deny that if the Clippers had won and forced the Lakers to win that Bryant would have played in the final game?

Do you deny that in the past players tended to take pride in playing as many games as possible and that players played in the final game of the season to try to win the scoring title even if that final game was otherwise "meaningless"?

The particulars of Jordan's health in 1996, the strength of the Bulls' first round opponent that year and the value of getting a 72nd win when the old record was 69 are all irrelevant issues compared to the importance of the above two points.

The bottom line is that players used to play in "meaningless" games more often than they do now.

Also, I should add that I give Popovich credit not so much for sitting players out entirely for "rest" but rather for managing their minutes and developing a deep rotation that should reap dividends in the playoffs both in terms of keeping the stars rested/healthy and also in terms of getting valuable experience for the Spurs' younger players. I am sure that Mike Brown would have done something similar if the Lakers had a roster that would have permitted him to do so but the fact is that if he had not played Bryant 38 mpg then the Lakers could easily have missed the playoffs entirely; that said, I don't see much marginal value in having Bryant sit out the last game after he had just had seven games off.

The one thing that this whole scenario should put to rest is the ludicrous idea that Bryant spent the whole season gunning for the scoring title above all else; if that were true he either would have sat out the final 10 games completely and forced Durant to beat his 28-plus ppg average or else he would have gone down with guns blazing versus the Kings in the final game.

 

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