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Sunday, April 08, 2012

Bryant's Shin Injury Provides Laker Fans a Grim Look at the Future

I would be the first person to say that broad conclusions should not be drawn based on a small sample size of data--but it is equally important to draw proper and correct conclusions based on objective observations and analysis. The L.A. Lakers are not a legitimate championship contender; they have two gifted but flawed big men and Kobe Bryant, an aging MVP caliber player who elevates an otherwise nondescript supporting cast. Bryant played in every game this season until a lingering shin injury forced him to miss Saturday night's game against Phoenix; advanced mileage combined with a myriad of injuries have led to more variance in his productivity than we have previously seen: Bryant leads the league in scoring and has tallied a league-best five 40 point games (four of which the Lakers won--and he shot at least .452 in each of those five 40 point games, including .500 or better in three of them) but he has also authored two of the worst shooting games of his career, though he salvaged one of those games by scoring 11 fourth quarter points to lead the Lakers to victory.

Quantifying how much Bryant contributed to each victory and defeat is perhaps open to interpretation, though an informed, objective observer of the Lakers can plainly see that Bryant draws an extraordinary amount of defensive attention and he is also the quarterback of the Lakers' usually staunch defense. However, Bryant's absence during the Lakers' 125-105 loss to Phoenix--the Lakers' worst scoring margin and most points surrendered this season--certainly revealed that sans Bryant the Lakers are, to put it mildly, flawed. The Lakers are not a great team even with Bryant--they are well behind the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs and only because of Bryant's extraordinary efforts have they barely stayed ahead of the rest of the Western playoff pack--but they are clearly a pretty bad team without him. Andrew Bynum's 10-27 field goal shooting against Phoenix should put to rest the idea that if Bynum shoots 6-8 from the field in a game then he would shoot that same percentage if he attempted 20-plus shots; shot creation is a valuable skill that is completely misunderstood by "stat gurus" and their media apologists: it takes a high skill level--and a high conditioning level--to attempt 20-plus shots a game but Bryant has to do this because his teammates (with the exception of recently acquired point guard Ramon Sessions) are not able to consistently create shots for themselves or others.

Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are very good players; Bynum uses his size and strength to score in the low post and he has developed into an excellent rebounder and shot blocker, while Gasol is a versatile big man who can play power forward or center--but neither of them is a true franchise player. Bynum lacks exceptional explosiveness, which is why he frequently gets stripped or blocked unless he has an uncontested path to the hoop; Gasol does not have the mindset of a franchise player, which is why Memphis gave up on him during his prime and decided to rebuild with younger assets (including, ironically, his brother Marc, who is now an All-Star). The only franchise players in the NBA right now are LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose (when healthy), Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki (though he certainly has not looked like one this season); those guys are dominant players who demand double teams (and score anyway) and/or impact the game in multiple ways--and they do so consistently. Very few players have the mental, physical and emotional capacity to be a franchise player. Gasol was overmatched as a first option in Memphis but he proved to be a great second option for two Lakers championship teams; Bynum put up Luc Longley-type numbers in the playoffs for those championship teams, so posting All-Star numbers as a second option for three quarters of an abbreviated post-lockout season does not prove that he is in any way ready to handle the responsibilities of being a franchise player: purely from a skill set standpoint it is obvious that Bynum struggles when dealing with even occasional double teams--let alone the constant defensive pressure that Bryant faces as the first option--and it has become painfully obvious that Bynum still has a lot of growing up to do emotionally.

Bryant regularly draws double teams, enabling Bynum and Gasol to get easier looks; many of Bynum's high percentage, point blank shots result from Bryant being trapped and passing to Gasol, who then lobs the ball to an uncovered Bynum as the defense tries to rotate back into the paint. Can Bynum or Gasol occasionally beat double teams on their own? Sure. Can Bynum or Gasol score efficiently at times without Bryant being on the court? Yes. Can Bynum or Gasol serve as a game in, game out number one option while facing constant double teams? No.

The Lakers have nine games left on their schedule, including three versus the Spurs and one versus the Thunder. Bryant injured his shin more than a week ago and tried to play through the problem--as he always does--but the tendon kept getting inflamed after each game, indicating that rest is the only option. It is not clear how many games Bryant will miss but if Bryant does not return soon the Lakers could easily drop from third to fifth in the Western Conference and potentially face a first round matchup without home court advantage against a surging Memphis team.

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posted by David Friedman @ 4:34 AM

34 comments

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34 Comments:

At Sunday, April 08, 2012 6:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but the clippers turnaround can only be contributed to Chris Paul.

How on earth is Chris Paul not included in your Franchise player category?

Ziggy

 
At Sunday, April 08, 2012 9:22:00 AM, Anonymous yogi said...

I wonder though if the Lakers current starting five should not be playing better: is it the players or the coach? How do you judge whether the coach, Mike Brown, is getting the best from his players?I'd love to hear your opinion.

 
At Sunday, April 08, 2012 12:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sharp

I was hoping you'd write something about this game. Andrew Bynum doesn't look quite so dominant without Kobe Bryant's presence ensuring he faces (mostly) single coverage.

The Lakers would be well served to get some speed into their roster next season. Right now Sessions is having the same problem that Rajon Rondo does: he gets going in transition, and none of his teammates can keep up with him.

 
At Monday, April 09, 2012 3:58:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Ziggy:

"Franchise player" is a term that is easily thrown around but seldom adequately defined. I have consistently stated my belief that at any given time there are only five or six true franchise players in the NBA (roughly corresponding to the All-NBA First Team or the players who should be on that team in years when someone gets snubbed). A franchise player is a legit MVP candidate who could realistically be the best player on a championship team. In the past three decades or so, only two teams have won championships based more on collective excellence as opposed to having such a player ('79 Sonics, '04 Pistons). It is very rare for a "small" player (which means less than 6-3 in an NBA where the average height is around 6-7) to truly be a franchise player; Isiah Thomas was one and he led the Pistons to back to back titles but usually if a team's best player is in that height range that team is not a real championship contender (a couple exceptions include Iverson leading the Sixers to the Finals and Tony Parker winning the Finals MVP but Parker played with a franchise player named Tim Duncan plus All-Star caliber guard Manu Ginobili).

Paul's best seasons were '08 and '09, before he suffered a knee injury. He earned his only All-NBA First Team selection in '08 and he made the All-NBA Second Team in '09. He has yet to regain his former quickness or to replicate the numbers he posted during those years--and even at his very best I am not convinced that he was a franchise player the way that the guys I listed in this article are.

The Clippers' eight man rotation this season is almost completely different than it was last season, with upgrades across the board, and Griffin has improved as well. The Clippers started out 14-6 before Chauncey Billups suffered a season-ending injury but are only 20-16 since that time, hardly a record that indicates Paul should be classified as a franchise player; Bryant's Lakers made the playoffs back to back seasons in the West with Kwame Brown starting at center, Smush Parker starting at point guard and Vlad Radmanovic starting at small forward, so if 20-16 is the best that Paul can do with Griffin and company then he clearly would not have made the playoffs with the crew that Bryant had back in '06 and '07.

Paul is an All-Star who at his best is on the fringe of franchise player status but on a consistent basis he is not on the same level as the players who I listed in this article.

 
At Monday, April 09, 2012 4:04:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Yogi:

For most of this season, the Lakers have had very subpar players at the starting pg and sf slots and absolutely no consistent, quality bench play. Bryant has done yeoman's work to keep this team afloat and Brown has done a good job turning the Lakers into an excellent defensive team despite a paucity of great individual defenders. Replacing Fisher with Sessions has upgraded the starting pg position from well below average to, at best, slightly above average; Sessions is a solid NBA starter/very good NBA reserve, though he looks All-World right now to Lakers' fans who have been watching the lead-footed, misfiring Fisher for the past few seasons.

Brown is a very good coach who has a difficult job; the expectations for the Lakers vastly exceed the team's talent level and the team is in a transition phrase as Bryant ages while Bynum has yet to mature. The Lakers desperately need to add a young star to lighten Bryant's load and prepare for the time when Bryant retires; that is why I kept saying that the Lakers should trade Bynum and Gasol for Dwight Howard, the only young star that the Lakers will have a legit chance to acquire any time soon.

 
At Monday, April 09, 2012 4:08:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sharp:

Sessions is playing as well as can reasonably be expected. You are right that the Lakers seriously need to upgrade their team speed; most good teams have explosive athletes at the shooting guard and small forward positions but the Lakers lack explosiveness at those positions and on their bench. Bryant is still an above average NBA athlete but he obviously is not as explosive as other All-NBA caliber perimeter players like LeBron, Wade, Rose, Durant, Westbrook, etc.

 
At Monday, April 09, 2012 10:51:00 AM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

Actually, I would question whether Wade or Howard are true franchise players at this point. Wade is aging and injury-prone, and even his "glory years" were masked by Shaq's presence and the officiating fiasco in 2006. Stripped of these advantages, he's led the team to the worst record in the league and first-round exits until Lebron joined ship.

As for Howard, the key to Orlando's Finals appearance was Turkouglu's emergence as a legitimate all-star and the team leader. When his play declined, so did the team's championship aspirations. Howard has always been an excellent player but his leadership abilities and clutch play has always ranged from suspect to nonexistent. I don't expect that to change any time in the future.

 
At Monday, April 09, 2012 4:31:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

I share your reservations about Wade but he deserves some credit for his performance in the last four games of the 2006 Finals, even if he has never quite matched that level of play since that time. You will note that I listed Wade last on my franchise player list (other than Nowitzki, who I felt deserved mentioning even though he is not currently playing like a franchise player); Wade is no longer one of the top five players in the NBA but I could see him being the best player on a championship team in the right circumstances.

The guy who I am watching closely who could break into the franchise player club is Russell Westbrook. He is this decade's Scottie Pippen/Kobe Bryant, the great player who the media will always find a reason to criticize (not that Westbrook is as good as those guys yet, but he receives a lot of unwarranted criticism).

Howard is a dominant defender and rebounder who scores 20 ppg even without the offensive attack being focused on him. He is clearly a franchise player despite questions about his maturity and focus. The other key player for Orlando's 2009 team was not Turkoglu--contrary to popular belief--but Rashard Lewis; I covered the Cleveland-Orlando series and the Cavs did a decent job on Turkoglu but Lewis killed them not only with his overall production but also by hitting several clutch shots that affected the outcome of specific games. In one of my game recaps during that series I provided this analysis:

"During this series, Lewis is averaging 19.3 ppg while shooting .556 from the field and .579 from three point range; Turkoglu is averaging 16.0 ppg while shooting .365 from the field and .417 from three point range, though he is hurting Cleveland with his floor game (8.3 apg, 6.3 rpg). Turkoglu is averaging fewer points than he did during the regular season (16.8 ppg) and shooting worse from the field (but better from three point range), while Lewis has bettered his regular season scoring average (17.7 ppg) while significantly increasing his shooting percentages."

 
At Monday, April 09, 2012 8:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What if the Lakers traded for KLove instead of DHo?

Love isn't a good defender but that could partly be because he has to carry such a huge load for the TWolves.

I also think it is slightly easier to "build around" KLove since finding a cheap shot blocker who is a tough guy is much easier than finding a non-softie "stretch 4" for DHo. Also, because of his shooting, pairing Love with another banger is possible. I really like the "double banger" frontline. Tough, imposing, physical.

Love also isn't a diva.

While DHo is still better than KLove, KLove keeps on working on his game while DHo is now shooting less than 50% at the FT line.

 
At Tuesday, April 10, 2012 1:15:00 AM, Anonymous Gil Meriken said...

So now through two games without Kobe, Bynum is shooting 39% from the field on 17-44.

Sadly, this will still not be enough to convince some dimwits that individual statistics are not created in a vacuum, and that every one of the box scores statistics they rely on so heavily are are dependent on the presence and play of others.

Be prepared for more calls of sample size, and Bynum needing time to "adjust" to double teams.

 
At Tuesday, April 10, 2012 2:16:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Howard was available, at least in theory, because of his contract situation (I say "in theory" because it is possible that he did not want to be traded to the Lakers and thus effectively blocked such a deal by vowing not to sign a long term deal with the Lakers). There is no reason to believe that Love is available. I have a very high regard for Love but I am not convinced that Love is as valuable, let alone more valuable, than Howard.

 
At Tuesday, April 10, 2012 2:16:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Howard was available, at least in theory, because of his contract situation (I say "in theory" because it is possible that he did not want to be traded to the Lakers and thus effectively blocked such a deal by vowing not to sign a long term deal with the Lakers). There is no reason to believe that Love is available. I have a very high regard for Love but I am not convinced that Love is as valuable, let alone more valuable, than Howard.

 
At Tuesday, April 10, 2012 2:19:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

il Meriken:

I know the deal: many of the "stat gurus," Henry Abbott, Kelly Dwyer and John Krolik will always be idiots because there is no way to convince them that their ill-conceived notions are woefully wrong. My job is to write coherently and perceptively for readers who are intelligent enough to ignore the nonsense and who truly try to understand NBA basketball strategically.

 
At Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:19:00 AM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

Kevin Love is a classic stat-stuffer who puts up great numbers but doesn't lead his team to victories. The team was a consistent loser the last couple of seasons and are back to its losing ways after Rubio's injury.

You're not going to get very far in this league by giving good-but-not-great players max contracts. I'd rather take my chances giving guys like Rubio or Anthony Davis max contracts than a guy like Love.

 
At Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:36:00 AM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

As for Westbrook, much of his criticism is actually warranted. It comes down to a few simple factors:

(1) He is not the playmaker, distributor, or defender that Rondo is.
(2) He's repeatedly come up small in big situations.
(3) He's prone to bad decision making under the pressure cooker. He has been known to hog the ball, force up bad shots, and turn the ball over in the final minutes instead of running the offense and finding the open man.
(4) I'm sure he's best buddies with Durant off the court, but seems to have some sort of feud with Durant on the court. The two often seem to be less than the sum of parts.
(5) He's prone to immature behavior and has a poor attitude.
(6) The team suffers zero dropoff when he's injured or not on the floor because Harden comes in and performs just as well. In fact, I believe Harden meshes better with Durant because Harden does not chuck up bad shots while ignoring Durant under pressure situations.
(7) He's earning a max salary, which will almost certainly result in the Thunder losing Harden or Ibaka to free agency, and possibly both.

When you consider all these factors you should be able to see why so many people are insisting that Oklahoma City would improve their championships hopes by shipping Westbrook for Rondo.

 
At Tuesday, April 10, 2012 1:12:00 PM, Anonymous Charles said...

Bynum's shooting woes continue in a close win against probably the second worst team in the league (actually with NO's injury issues they may actually be worse than the Bobcats now).

With regards to Chris Paul I think he should have franchise player status if he kept going full tilt throughout the entire game. For whatever reason (saving his legs, lost athleticism from injuries, etc) he seems to be pacing himself early on in games before turning it on late. I think he's a superb late game manager and closer, though the Clippers are not really that good of a team. Against the Lakers in the playoffs last year he was superb, though just about any point guard can light up the Lakers without a great deal of effort.

I was hoping the addition of Sessions would help with that respect but to date he has proven to be a rather poor defender despite his athleticism.

I am surprised that Mike Brown continues to continue insisting on burying his younger players in the rotation. There are obviously issues with relying heavily on rookies but given how abysmal Blake and Fisher were all season (and Metta World Peace's early struggles) I would think he would be willing to give Goudelock and Ebanks a little more playing time especially as both had worked their way into the rotation at different points during the season.

I find it somewhat bizarre that Ebanks could be tapped to start at the beginning of the season (and again with Kobe sitting out the last two games) but get virtually no playing time in between when Barnes and Kobe were healthy. Given how badly the Lakers need someone to spell Kobe I would think Brown would have auditioned him and Goudelock for the role. They couldn't have played much more badly than Blake, who only ever looked good as a Laker in the sense of "well at least he's not Fisher".

 
At Tuesday, April 10, 2012 4:31:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

Minnesota has been a consistent loser because the team has lacked talent and has suffered from subpar coaching. Now the talent has been upgraded and Rick Adelman is a first class coach.

You really think that Rubio's injury is the main reason that Minnesota has been losing recently? It has nothing to do with the fact that 12 of Minnesota's last 16 games were on the road, including a brutal stretch of seven straight road games in 12 days with opponents including OKC and the Spurs?

Let me get this straight: you would not give max money to a guy who is putting up combined scoring/rebounding averages that can only be matched in the past 30 years by Moses Malone, Shaq and Hakeem but you would give max money to a college freshman who has not played a game in the NBA and a rookie pg who played less than half a season before blowing out his knee. Rubio has a terrible FG% and he attempts fewer than four free throws a game; he is a good passer and better than advertised defender but you are crazy if you think that he is worth a max deal based on what he has shown so far.

As for Westbrook, assists are a somewhat bogus stat but it is worth mentioning that he has twice ranked in the top ten in the NBA in that category and he has been OKC's leading playmaker in each of the past three seasons (much like Pippen and Bryant led/lead their respective teams in assists). Westbrook is a big time scorer (currently ranked fifth in the league despite playing alongside a two-time scoring champion) and he gets his points efficiently: Westbrook gets to the free throw line a lot and his shooting percentages from all three ranges are solid to excellent. He rebounds very well from the pg position (nearly as well on a per minute basis as Rondo, who is rightly lauded as a great pg rebounder). His defense is steadily improving.

Your other criticisms of Westbrook are subjective and unfounded. Westbrook and Durant will likely be the best duo in the NBA for the next several seasons and, if they stay healthy, I expect them to lead OKC to at least one championship. Their skill sets are much more complementary than the skill sets of James and Wade.

 
At Tuesday, April 10, 2012 4:45:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Charles:

The way that the Lakers got blown out by Phx and barely beat NO in their two games so far sans Kobe just confirms what I have been saying all along: the Lakers would be a lottery team without Kobe and it is remarkable that he has pushed, pulled and carried them to the third spot in the West.

I can't speculate on what Paul's impact might be if he played harder for the entire game. Maybe if he played harder he would get tired or get hurt; maybe it takes more energy to play hard all the time when you are a 6-0 guy playing against 6-7 guys. All I know is that Isiah Thomas is the only player Paul's size in the past several decades who clearly was the best player on a championship team. Paul is very similar to Isiah but I am not convinced that he is quite as great as Isiah was. I would not take Paul over the franchise players who I listed in this article.

Sessions has never been a great defender so it mystifies me that anyone would expect him to be a great defender now. He uses his speed to create shots for himself and his teammates, something that Fisher cannot do. Under Brown's tutelage, Sessions can become an adequate team defender (much like Daniel Gibson did under Brown in Cleveland).

Brown gave Ebanks and the other young guys chances earlier in the season and I am sure that those guys get opportunities in practice; if a coach is not putting someone in the game then there usually is a good reason, even if fans do not understand it.

Brown "tapped" Ebanks to start at the beginning of the season because Brown wanted to use Peace to anchor the second unit as a postup scorer but neither player did well in their respective roles. Ebanks is shooting .400 from the field and not excelling in any other facet of the game, so why would you want Brown to give him more minutes? Ebanks is starting for Kobe because Brown has no other options; Brown would rather make one change than to move Barnes into the starting lineup and someone else into Barnes' role, etc.

The Lakers' roster is just not very good; they have one MVP caliber player, two good big men, a pg who is a solid starter/excellent reserve and a bunch of odds and ends who would not receive much playing time on a legit contender.

Look at some of the players who left the Lakers recently. Odom was a key player for the Lakers last season and could not even crack Dallas' rotation this season. Vujacic was a key player for the Lakers' championship teams and he is not even in the league now. The Lakers never had as much talent as many people said that they did and now their rotation is really a mess.

 
At Tuesday, April 10, 2012 5:05:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

One of things that I've also noticed is how the media is ripping westbrook for shooting too much. It's definitely not in kobe shooting too much realm, but it's getting closer. I don't really get it. Until late last year, I wasn't even quite sure if durant was actually better than westbrook. Now I am. But, westbrook is a legit top 10 player this year. And I think right now he should be on the all-nba first team. Wade's missed 11 games, with the heat going 10-1 in those games, and Rose has been out for awhile, too. I just saw a recent stat about westbrook, saying he's never missed a game in HS, college, or the nba. He's still young, but that's pretty amazing. And he plays a lot of minutes.

I think Durant, even if others don't, realizes just how lucky he is to have westbrook on his team. Durant can certainly create his own offense, but he doesn't want to be doing this for the entire game, and having a guy like westbrook, who is the quickest player in the league probably and can't really be guarded well by anybody is a luxury, and relieve a lot of pressure off of durant. And then harden can do similar things coming off of the bench. Not to mention the thunder's wealth of role players to go alongside these guys.

A lot of people believe danielsong's points: 1-3,5,7 about Kobe, too.

I'm not as high on Love as you are, David, but he's shown me a lot this year, mainly getting his butt in shape and shedding a bunch of excess fat. He didn't do anything at all to change the losing atmosphere of the wolves last year, but this year is different. I don't know, I look at that team, and if Love is a top 5 player in the league, they should at least be on the verge of making the playoffs. He does look to be the top PF in the nba this year, though.

It's tough to look in the crystal ball over the next 5-6 years, but it seems that there will be a new champion every year for awhile, but the thunder seem to have the edge on everyone right now.

 
At Tuesday, April 10, 2012 5:20:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

It seems like members of the media pick one player per decade who they are biased against for whatever reason; Pippen was the whipping boy in the 1990s (and still gets flack today when people try to "insult" LeBron James by saying that James went to Miami to be Pippen to Wade's Jordan, an assertion that makes no sense on any level), Bryant has been the whipping boy in the 2000s and Westbrook seems to be the whipping boy of choice for the 2010s.

Love is one of the top players in the NBA; his productivity (not in contrived "advanced" stats but in real stats like scoring, rebounding and three point shooting) simply cannot be denied. I am a little conflicted about Love because I hesitate to fully embrace Love as a franchise player just yet but I do think that he is one of the top five or six players in the league; his productivity is impressive but I am not 100% convinced that he could be the best player on a championship team.

 
At Tuesday, April 10, 2012 10:34:00 PM, Anonymous Charles said...

David,

I take your point about there maybe being reasons behind why coaches do not play players despite the fans' perception that they can be helpful. Laker fans were constantly pulling for Mike Brown to play Jordan Hill in place of the consistently mediocre McRoberts/Murphy combination though it turns out Hill had a lingering knee injury.

Also I agree Ebanks was not the best example given his skillset makes him basically redundant to Matt Barnes (high motor, iffy outside shot, cuts well, active around the glass). Would have wanted to see a little more of Goudelock though as he functioned decently as a stopgap when Blake was injured earlier in the season and he has the potential to provide one thing the Lakers desperately need (outside shooting to space the floor).

I am not arguing with you that the Lakers are very thin and quite lacking in talent except at the very top end of the roster and even there things look grim. Bynum's issues have been well documented. Gasol has struggled to fit in with Bynum taking up the second option role (I noted he became much more aggressive and returned to the post the two games Bynum was out) and Kobe is finally wearing down after two seasons of gritting his teeth and playing through injury.

Unless they somehow capture lightning in a bottle like the 09-10 Celtics did (seems unlikely) they're probably finished as a contender as Kobe's body fails him.

 
At Wednesday, April 11, 2012 2:51:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

I wonder if it's because the media is now starting to become more focused on durant/rose. I often hear about how humble each of them are, and how this is refreshing, something to this extent. However, Jordan wasn't like this at all, and he was a media darling. Rose doesn't have that legit established #2 option, just lots of #3 options. Durant has that legit #2 option, so whoever that is, westbrook in this case, is going to get bashed probably, until/if the thunder win a title. I guess this could've been predicted, though it makes no sense. I have yet to see # shots/game and team record with Rose like I've seen with Kobe and westbrook(recently). The people doing this would scream that Rose doesn't have a legit #2. However, this stuff was going on in 06/07 with Kobe, and his team was considerably worse than Rose's current team.

I don't remember Pippen being bashed much during the bulls title runs in the 90s, but I'm sure you remember better. But, I have seen pippen being denigrated after their title runs constantly in order to elevate jordan to a supernatural power and to denigrate kobe even more(we disagree on the latter). Either way, I don't like it either.

However, while it's unfair to denigrate Pippen in order to insult Lebron, the ones doing this are finally waking up and realizing that Lebron isn't as good and unstoppable as they thought he was.

I'm surprised by the heat's cavalier attitude about some of these reg. season games. Have other title teams ever had this type of attitude before in the reg. season? I know that one of the rockets' title teams were a 6 seed, I think, but did they or other teams ever just not care about about the reg. season? I know the c's and spurs in recent seasons have decided to rest their players(old vets) in order to get them as healthy as possible for the postseason, but that's different, and coming from the coach. It does make sense, though. You can fight and claw your way to get a good seed for the playoffs, but what's the pt. if you're not healthy?

And while the grizz beat the spurs last year, I'm getting tired of the excuses for ginobili's injury(missed only game) as compared to Gay missing the entire playoffs. I'm sure ginobili was slowed, but the spurs at least had him for most of the series, though it was unfortunate he got injured.

 
At Wednesday, April 11, 2012 3:33:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

Pippen never really got the credit that he deserved during the title runs and then he received a lot of nonsense criticism for not winning without Jordan during years when Pippen was already an older player slowed by multiple injuries (Jordan never won a playoff series before or after playing with Pippen but that is never held against him).

I am not surprised by the Heat's attitude; James has a sense of entitlement that he vividly demonstrated when he declared that the Heat would win multiple titles and that things would be "easy" once they got on the court. As I said in my article comparing Jordan/Pippen to James/Wade, Jordan and Pippen did the dirty work necessary to win championships but James and Wade do not appear to be willing to do this. Boston and Chicago do not have as much talent as Miami but they are mentally tougher and if those teams are physically healthy they can beat the Heat in a playoff series.

 
At Wednesday, April 11, 2012 7:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kobe and Gasol are #2 and #3 in total minutes played so far while none of the Spurs crack the top 50.

Kobe sits out tonight with an injury while SA has all their players relatively healthy.

I know that the Lakers are more top-heavy but still giving Kobe more breaks every now and then would have helped the Lakers tremendously.

A loss is a loss. Popovich pulls the plug early and often. If his team is getting blown out, he sticks to the plan and doesn't get tempted to play his vets more. As a result, his bench is becoming more and more reliable. He doesn't fret over potential "trap-game" or "scheduling loss". He turns it into a practice scrimmage.

Besides, if you look at the players on the Spurs, most of them are cast-offs that anyone could have picked up. (Diaw was the player that the worst team in the NBA didn't even want!) Aside from the big 3 and Leonard, the rest of their crew wouldn't start for most teams.

It's not as if the Lakers couldn't pick up D-League standouts just to stretch their rotation a bit.

Even if the Lakers fall to the #6 seed, they'd still be favored against whoever gets #3 (Clippers?)

Instead, by the time the playoffs comes, the Lakers will have a banged up Kobe/Gasol and a bunch of bench warmers who didn't get to play.

 
At Wednesday, April 11, 2012 11:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, you may have heard of this but I wanted to make sure you saw it:

http://nba-point-forward.si.com/2012/04/10/leaders-of-nbas-elusive-hockey-assist/

Alex

 
At Thursday, April 12, 2012 2:43:00 AM, Anonymous Gil Meriken said...

Bynum 7-20 tonight, as the sample size grows, and the silence from the stat gurus continues.

FG% (among other box score stats) can be highly dependent upon variables other than the player's inherent skill. Why is that so controversial/unbelievable to some?

He did have a great night rebounding, though.

 
At Thursday, April 12, 2012 4:36:00 AM, Anonymous td said...

lakers will probably play a sub par dallas team in the first round

 
At Thursday, April 12, 2012 10:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, I'm watching the Bulls-Heat game right now and it cracks me up because they keep talking about the weak supporting cast/bench of the Heat, and how Lebron and Wade need more help (apparantly Bosh has been downgraded to "weak supporting cast").

This is hilarious to me and I thought you might appreciate it since it seems to me that the majority of playoff teams would gladly trade their bench for Miami's bench straight up -- Boston, both LA teams, and Chicago come immediately to mind.

Why is the media trying to convince me that a bench consisting of Haslem, Battier, Mike Miller, James Jones, Juwan Howard, etc. is one of the weakest in the league? It seems like such a solid bench to me (on paper, at least), so maybe you could illuminate for me why this bench is regarded as "weak."

Thanks for another interesting read.

Happydaze

 
At Friday, April 13, 2012 6:02:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Happydaze:

I can't speak for or explain what other people say but the Heat's recent problems bring us back to the question that I asked nearly two years ago: How much help does LeBron need to win a championship? He had the deepest team in the league two seasons in a row and that was not enough. Now he has two All-Stars in their primes plus a good supporting cast and that is apparently not enough. We were told that he had to leave Cleveland because the Cavs expected too much from James and now we are told that Miami cannot win unless James does everything. Kobe Bryant won back to back titles with someone who came to L.A. as a one-time All-Star and with someone who has now been sent home with pay by the defending champions because he is so useless. Other members of Kobe's supporting cast during the back to back title runs include a journeyman starting at small forward (Trevor Ariza), the worst starting point guard for any Western Conference playoff team at that time (Derek Fisher) and a young center who put up Luc Longley numbers during the playoffs. Kobe won with that group but we are supposed to believe that LeBron--who everyone from "stat gurus" to media members say is better than Kobe--cannot win with two All-Stars in their primes who are surrounded by a cast of role players that, at the very least, is certainly no worse than a bench consisting of Vujacic, Farmar, Brown, etc.

 
At Saturday, April 14, 2012 10:35:00 AM, Blogger Codysseus said...

whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa...wait.

"This is hilarious to me and I thought you might appreciate it since it seems to me that the majority of playoff teams would gladly trade their bench for Miami's bench straight up -- Boston, both LA teams, and Chicago come immediately to mind"

LAs and Boston maybe (though now that Allen's coming off the bench I'm not so sure there.) But Chicago???

I highly doubt a single player on Miami's bench would even crack Chicago's rotation. Chicago's *ridiculously* deep, as they've showed all year and especially in that victory over the Heat that you mentioned. Haslem miight get some minutes over Gibson, but it's definitely not an easy choice, same with Battier vs Korver. Battier's surely a much better defender, but Korver's 3 pt shooting and ability to be a decoy has been huge for the Bulls this season.

This doesn't even take into account CJ Watson and Omer Asik, who would both undoubtedly start for the Heat, improving the 2 weakest spots in their lineup significantly.

 
At Saturday, April 14, 2012 3:22:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Codysseus:

Miami is more talented than Chicago (Miami has three perennial All-Star players who are each in their primes) but Chicago is clearly deeper. However, I think that Haslem and Chalmers could crack Chicago's rotation.

 
At Tuesday, April 17, 2012 3:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Codysseus:

You're right and as I watched the game I was hoping no one would correct me about Chicago but obviously you noticed. Anyway, my point remains that the Miami bench is in fact one of the deeper/more talented ones among playoff teams. Thanks for embarrassing me in front of everyone lol.

Happydaze

 
At Thursday, April 19, 2012 9:39:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happydaze-

No need to be embarrassed, you realized your mistake and admitted to it, which is far more important. Also...it's just basketball, as much as we all love it, it doesn't really matter too much.

-Cody

 
At Thursday, April 19, 2012 9:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David-

Yeah, Haslem would have a good shot at getting Taj's minutes. I'm not sure Chalmer's would get Watson's though. Watson's the one player on the Bulls bench who can reliably create shots for himself. As solid as Chalmers is defensively, I don't think he's really shown that ability.

- Cody

 

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