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Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Difference Between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James

"With all thy getting, get thee understanding."--Proverbs 4:7

Heart. Confidence. Determination. Preparation. Those qualities cannot be quantified but they separate winners from losers. It is foolish to believe that basketball can be completely understood--or even largely understood--merely by crunching numbers without considering factors that are critically important yet cannot be precisely defined. Great players do not quit, they do not doubt themselves in moments of crisis, they fight through adversity and they tirelessly practice so that they will be prepared for any situation that could reasonably be expected to happen; lesser players lack one or more of those important traits.

Kobe Bryant shot 0-15 from the field in the first three quarters of the L.A. Lakers' 88-85 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday afternoon. The man who once scored 81 points in a single game and who has averaged at least 40 ppg in a calendar month four times during his career (more than anyone other than Wilt Chamberlain, who did it 11 times) did not score a single point until the fourth quarter--but he produced 11 points on 3-6 field goal shooting in the fourth quarter, capping off that barrage with a late three pointer that proved to be the game-winning shot as the Lakers came back from a 10 point deficit to defeat the Western Conference's worst team. Bryant's 3-21 field goal shooting is indisputably inefficient but he did not take bad shots; he simply missed a bunch of shots he normally makes, including point blank shots in the paint, turnaround jumpers in the mid-post area and longer jumpers that he attempted with excellent, on balance form. It is the responsibility of the team's best scorer to neither stop shooting just because he is having an off night nor to press the issue by forcing shots; either of those actions would hurt the team. Bryant stayed the course, having the confidence that all of the preparation he has done for many years would enable him to eventually find his stroke and carry his team in the fourth quarter.

This is not the first time that Bryant kept shooting despite struggling immensely; he famously fired up several airballs in the closing moments of a playoff game versus Utah early in his career; many people criticized Bryant for taking those shots but five years ago I told Bryant that his confidence at that moment impressed me and he replied, "For better or worse, I'm very optimistic. I'm glad that I don't have a gambling vice." A big part of being a great player is accepting the responsibility of putting the outcome of the game on your shoulders. Bryant was willing to do this even before he had fully developed the necessary skill set to succeed in that situation but once Bryant developed that skill set he won five championships. Dirk Nowitzki accepted that responsibility in the 2011 NBA Finals and led his Dallas Mavericks to victory over a more talented Miami Heat team.

LeBron James shrinks from such moments; he often is unwilling to shoulder that responsibility in the fourth quarter even if he played well in the first three quarters and you can bet that he would want no part of a pressure three point shot if he had shot poorly throughout the game. James is a better, more productive regular season player than Bryant right now, hardly a surprising development considering that Bryant is a 33 year old veteran of 16 seasons who has logged more than 50,000 combined regular season and playoff minutes while James is a 27 year old who is in the prime of his career--but James is lacking something vitally important, a certain kind of mindset that cannot be quantified yet separates him from Bryant, Nowitzki, Tim Duncan and other players who have led teams to championships.

James' defenders tried to justify how and why James fled Cleveland by saying that James needed more help to win a championship but the truth is that James had plenty of help in Cleveland--the deepest roster in the league at the time--and now he is blessed to play alongside two perennial All-Stars in the primes of their careers, a luxury that no other MVP candidate in the league currently enjoys. NBA TV's Ron Thompson made a very good point after the Lakers-Hornets game; Thompson said that this current Lakers team top to bottom is not as good as the Cavaliers team that James left two years ago. That statement might seem sacrilegious to most media members and it might contradict what the "stat gurus" think about the value of Andrew Bynum and/or Pau Gasol but Thompson is correct--and this is why I have repeatedly said that the Lakers should have traded Bynum and Gasol to get Dwight Howard (if, in fact, that was ever a deal that the Orlando Magic would have done): the acquisition of a young, bona fide superstar would have extended Bryant's career by reducing his workload and also would have prepared the Lakers for the post-Bryant era. Instead, the Lakers are stuck with a slowly declining Gasol and an erratic Bynum who is feeling his oats during the first healthy season of his career, a season that--due to injuries and retirements taking out recent All-NBA centers Shaquille O'Neal, Yao Ming, Amare Stoudemire and Andrew Bogut--has seen Bynum emerge by default as the league's second best center but also revealed his stunning lack of maturity and focus; first Bynum tries to reinvent himself as a three point marksman and then, after a desultory performance against the undermanned Hornets, Bynum explains that he had not been very aggressive on offense because he was trying to get 10 assists (he finished with just two assists and the Lakers were outscored by one point during his 37 minutes on the court). Phil Jackson is nobody's fool; he did not walk away from a championship caliber team but rather he realized that the way the Lakers tuned him out in their failed threepeat attempt last season clearly signaled that this current group is no longer an elite team: Bryant cannot just average 40 ppg for a month to hide the team's flaws and there is no one on the roster who can pick up the slack as Bryant ages. Bryant's skills have not dramatically declined but he has clearly lost some of the remarkable stamina that he had earlier in his career when he would seem as fresh in the fourth quarter as he did in the first quarter and when he could string together several 40 point games in a row; if the Lakers had a legit primary scoring option other than Bryant and/or any kind of bench then they could rest Bryant the way that San Antonio's Gregg Popovich rests Tim Duncan and his other stars but the Lakers are forced to run Bryant ragged just to be competitive: L.A. Coach Mike Brown understands that there is no point in resting Bryant for the playoffs because if he rests Bryant the Lakers won't make the playoffs (or they will limp in as an eighth seed and get bounced in the first round).

Gasol already proved in Memphis that he is not an elite level first option player and even if Bynum can stay healthy physically there are good reasons to doubt that he has the game and the mentality to be the focal point of a championship team. The "stat gurus" never believed that Bryant was once the best player in the NBA but I have long said that when Bryant truly falls from elite status (i.e., All-NBA First Team caliber) the strengths and limitations of Bynum and Gasol will become very evident (I also emphasized how much Lamar Odom benefited from being the third option on the Lakers and this season has certainly revealed a lot about Odom's mindset and his true value); the Lakers are wearing Bryant out just to barely win enough games to preserve the fiction that they are a legit contender but the reality is that without Bryant the Lakers are a lottery team and even with him they will--at best--once again lose in the second round. The difference between Bryant and James is that Bryant will compete his hardest regardless of the obstacles in his path or the odds against his team's success, while James does not embrace that kind of challenge.

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posted by David Friedman @ 4:22 AM

34 comments

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34 Comments:

At Sunday, April 01, 2012 12:47:00 PM, Blogger Awet M said...

I know how you like to reinforce your metanarratives (Kobe's occasional clutchness excuses his poor play, LeBron's past failures do not excuse any of his great play) but this actually prevents you from analyzing the game itself.

Kobe's bad game yesterday was due to fatigue. He missed both jumpers and layups, and settled for too many 3 pointers (8) and was hardly aggressive (5 trips to the line). Moreover, his bricks were off the front-rim. The fact that he didn't drive much, and settled for the jumper versus a team that lacked a strong interior defender demonstrates the fact of fatigue.

Kobe can get away playing hero-ball vs the worst team in the west conference, and conveniently reinforce your metanarrative, but he should have explored his other options, such as be more of a set up for the bigs.

 
At Sunday, April 01, 2012 4:24:00 PM, Anonymous Michael Joseph said...

Great article. Couldn't agree more.

Also, a little off topic, but I'm just curious. Why does Lebron always shoot the technical FT, even when he isn't the strongest FT shooter on the floor? Maybe I'm just missing something.

 
At Monday, April 02, 2012 5:02:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Awet M:

None of my articles are about predetermined "metanarratives" and your assertion that I am not analyzing the game is absurd; I am analyzing the game in greater depth than anyone who is currently writing about it.

Your suggestion that I overlooked fatigue as a factor in Bryant's performance indicates that you neither read this article with understanding nor paid much attention to what I have been writing about the Lakers for the better part of the past year. Did you not see the following passage?

"Bryant's skills have not dramatically declined but he has clearly lost some of the remarkable stamina that he had earlier in his career when he would seem as fresh in the fourth quarter as he did in the first quarter and when he could string together several 40 point games in a row; if the Lakers had a legit primary scoring option other than Bryant and/or any kind of bench then they could rest Bryant the way that San Antonio's Gregg Popovich rests Tim Duncan and his other stars but the Lakers are forced to run Bryant ragged just to be competitive: L.A. Coach Mike Brown understands that there is no point in resting Bryant for the playoffs because if he rests Bryant the Lakers won't make the playoffs (or they will limp in as an eighth seed and get bounced in the first round)."

Obviously Bryant is fatigued. He is also dealing with a torn ligament in his shooting wrist, a broken nose and possibly the aftereffects of the concussion/neck injury that he suffered during the All-Star Game. The point is that Bryant fights through all of these obstacles to fulfill the responsibility of being his team's best player, a responsibility that James--despite his abundantly evident talents--often shirks.

If you really believe the last sentence of your comment then you need to put away the thesaurus and watch more Lakers games. Gasol has almost permanently stationed himself on the perimeter offensively and Bynum has great difficulty scoring on anything other than a lob for a dunk or a pass that he receives within three feet of the rim; on other plays Bynum pounds the ball until he turns it over, forces a shot or passes the ball back out with the shot clock dying. Bynum has added some post moves to his repertoire but he has not shown the ability or willingness to consistently use those moves effectively. Bryant was not playing "hero-ball"; he was taking the shots he normally takes, good shots that the Lakers need for him to make in order to have a chance to be competitive.

 
At Monday, April 02, 2012 5:03:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Michael Joseph:

I have wondered the same thing regarding James and technical free throws. I am always surprised when any team does not automatically have its best free throw shooter on the court take a technical free throw.

 
At Monday, April 02, 2012 2:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The recent loss to OKC, and the near losses to much lesser teams, after blowing large leads in all games, indicate how far this team has fallen in the last 2 years. The Lakers cannot sustain a high level of play for more than 16 minutes (also an issue last year). Most teams adjust in the second half and the lakers (coaches and players) cannot match that effort. This has to greatly upset Kobe. His shooting percentage would be a lot better if he did not have to jack up last minute shots (due to him getting the ball in the last few seconds, or not always trusting his teammates, or just believing in himself more than others). I think Kobe has tried to get Bynum involved as a playmaker (see the last second shot against the Celtics) but Bynum's immaturity is a huge concern. Sessions will help, but it seems like the same offensive challenges Brown had in Cleveland are occurring here. Brown inherited a weak bench, but he and his staff have done nothing to get the most out of it.

 
At Monday, April 02, 2012 7:16:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Sessions is obviously an upgrade over Fisher, who was the worst starting point guard for any Western Conference contender the past several years, but Sessions is a solid starter/excellent reserve, not a player who can significantly improve the Lakers in terms of competing with the true contenders.

The Lakers roster is indisputably weaker than it was last season and Brown--while a fine coach--is indisputably not as good of a coach as Phil Jackson yet the Lakers are playing at a 51 win pace (for an 82 game season), just six wins fewer than they posted in Jackson's final campaign. Brown has vastly improved the Lakers' defense even though the team is not exactly stacked with great individual defenders (other than Kobe). The Lakers' offensive problems stem more from their personnel deficiencies than Brown's coaching.

 
At Tuesday, April 03, 2012 10:32:00 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

Great article Dave.

So if you feel the lakers will be out by round 2, whose your pick to represent the West in the Finals?

 
At Wednesday, April 04, 2012 2:32:00 AM, Anonymous EdPak said...

It's really sad to see the Lakers wasting away Kobe's twilight years running him ragged. For the man to be playing, rather, HAVE to play 38-40min per game is absurd. As you stated David, the Lakers have no other choice. It's really pathetic to see the rest of the Lakers try and create offense when Kobe's not in the game. Despite his age, mileage, diminishing explosiveness and injuries, Kobe continues to draw enough defensive attention that enables others to perform at a level above and beyond their skill sets.

Regarding the title to your article, what struck me recently was the hubbub about Lebron's decision to play after, supposedly, tearing/breaking/pinching/rubbing the wrong way a finger on his OFF-hand. I think I saw at least three or four articles on how Lebooboo was going to "MAN" up and play despite reports saying there was nothing wrong with the finger on his NON-shooting hand. This must have been quite the conclusive evidence of his maturity from the days when he missed six games due to a bruised pinky finger on the same LEFT, NON-shooting hand. Then following the game, the blatant and absurd glamorization of his "great" game while playing with an (UN)-INJURED finger on the NON-shooting hand made me just about vomit on my computer.

On the contrary, Kobe's toughness, professionalism and dedication to his craft and team is on constant display as he laces them up each and every night. Despite the busted fingers on his SHOOTING hand, the torn wrist ligament on his SHOOTING hand, the concussion he suffered during an exhibition game, the head and neck injuries, the busted nose, the sprained ankles, the busted knee with virtually no cartilage he needed revolutionary treatment on just to walk and play this, his 16th season, Kobe continues to play at a level only matched by the very best in the league.

That commitment, toughness and dedication to his craft is what's most amazing about this guy. Kobe is a rare and unique player we're lucky to witness. And in many ways, so is Lebron, except he's also on his way to becoming that ultimate example of the greatest natural physical gifts wasted on arrogance, entitlement, and fear.

 
At Wednesday, April 04, 2012 5:58:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jim:

I expect OKC and the Spurs to play in the Western Conference Finals. I picked OKC and the Spurs first and third respectively before the season started, not expecting Dallas to fall off to this extent.

The Lakers need miracle performances/miracle shots from Kobe just to eke out wins against bad teams. I cannot see the Lakers making it to the Western Conference Finals even though Kobe gives them a puncher's chance in any one particular series; Kobe can perhaps carry them through one series on his own but he cannot carry them through multiple series with little to no help.

 
At Wednesday, April 04, 2012 10:09:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Yesterday's escape against the Nets is a perfect example of why the Lakers cannot be considered serious championship contenders; the Nets' defensive strategy was to simply double Kobe anywhere on the court--even three feet behind the three point line--and dare anyone else to beat them; if Kobe had not hit two difficult shots late in the game--en route to 24 points on 10-16 shooting--the woeful Nets would have walked out of L.A. with a victory.

You could see Nets' Coach Avery Johnson on the sideline continually motioning to one or more defenders to ignore their men in order to blitz Kobe. Meanwhile, no other Laker stepped up to fill the void; Gasol hid on the fringes in the second half and did not want the ball in the post, while other Lakers gave up the ball as soon as they got it even if they were open. Sessions played well but he is the only Laker other than Kobe who does not seem afraid to shoot.

 
At Wednesday, April 04, 2012 4:15:00 PM, Anonymous Charles said...

David,

We disagreed about a potential Dwight Howard trade but I agree with your assessment of the Lakers. If Kobe is unable to find his form of years past in the playoffs this team is just fodder for true contenders. It is bizarre that even Lakers fans seem to be unable to realize that, instead choosing to focus on his struggles this season and on Bynum managing to stay healthy for a reasonable period.

Bynum deserves credit as he has made the most of his good health so far this season and shown great productivity. However despite his talent and skill level he is unready to be the leading star of a team. He doesn't always apply himself defensively and on the boards and struggled badly against double teams and being the primary focus of opposing defenses when Kobe and Pau are not on the floor (though the Lakers' role players share some of the blame for being unable to exploit this). This is even before mentioning his maturity issues.

Regarding the New Jersey game I found it strange that the Nets' defensive scheme consisted of doubling Kobe hard and often. It became a little more understandable when the rest of the Lakers started playing hot potato and failing to make the most of such an obvious advantage when Kobe passed out. Blake and Murphy are both extremely limited players on their best days but seeing them pass up open jumpers (shooting being one of the things they were supposed to provide) repeatedly was head-scratching.

The only positive in that game seems to be that Mike Brown seems to have figured out that he should have either Kobe or Sessions on the floor at all times as the Lakers' bench is unable to generate any sort of meaningful offense, making them too easy to guard when only one of their big men is on the floor.

 
At Thursday, April 05, 2012 2:50:00 AM, Blogger dmills33 said...

I can't recall a time in recent Lakers history seeing a supposed contending team blow as many big leads as this team has.

It happened again tonight against the Clippers that while Kobe sat on the bench, the Lakers nearly gave up all of a 14 point lead. You have no chance in hell at a title if your best player can't even sit for 6 minutes without disaster striking.

 
At Thursday, April 05, 2012 7:20:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Charles:

The addition of Sessions provides the Lakers with another perimeter player who can create a shot for himself or for a teammate. As I said a few comments ago, Sessions is an excellent reserve/solid starter; he is clearly better than Fisher but I am not convinced that this is enough of an upgrade to substantially improve the Lakers' chances to win a championship this season. However, Sessions should help the Lakers become a more efficient offensive team; I expect Kobe's FG% and the FG% of other Lakers to improve once Sessions is fully integrated into the offense.

If you watch Lakers games closely you will notice that many teams use some variation of the defense that the Nets used; they double Kobe and just dare anyone else to beat them. Some teams do this a lot, others wait for key situations, but you can see this happen in virtually every Lakers game. Bynum gets doubled sometimes when he puts the ball on the floor--not so much because he is such a big threat but simply because he is known to be a poor passer and ballhandler when he is doubled while on the move.

People who complain about Kobe's shot selection are generally completely ignorant of the actual dynamics that are taking place during Lakers games in terms of defensive coverages, the reluctance of several Lakers to shoot wide open shots and the fact that these situations sometimes result in Kobe deciding to take an open shot early in the shot clock as opposed to waiting to shoot a contested shot late in the shot clock.

Fatigue and injuries have caused Kobe to miss a lot of shots that he normally makes but now that Sessions can assume some of the ballhandling and playmaking responsibilities Kobe should be a bit more well rested even if he still plays 38 mpg (and he will have to play 38 mpg for the Lakers to maintain their playoff seeding).

 
At Thursday, April 05, 2012 7:28:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

DMills33:

This was a problem, to a lesser degree, even during the Lakers' recent championship seasons but Kobe was younger back then and the Lakers' bench--while hardly great--was not as awful as it is this year.

As I mentioned in my previous comment, people who complain about Kobe's shot selection seem to be completely clueless about the dynamics of a typical Lakers game. If Bynum does not have both feet in the paint when he catches the ball he is not likely to score. Gasol has reinvented himself as a perimeter player (perhaps unintentionally "inspiring" Bynum to seek to expand in that direction as well). The lack of a consistent three point shooter means that whoever is supposed to be guarding the small forward is sitting in Kobe's lap. When Bynum or Gasol establishes post position, Kobe feeds them the ball; a large percentage of Bynum and Gasol's points result from the defensive attention Kobe attracts, whether or not Kobe gets the assist on the play. One typical action is a Bryant-Gasol screen/roll that results in Kobe being doubled and passing to Gasol, who then lobs the ball to Bynum under the hoop, with Bynum being wide open because his man has slid to Gasol since Gasol's man trapped Kobe. After Kobe retires (or is no longer drawing double teams) it will be interesting to see how much Bynum scores and what his field goal percentage is.

 
At Thursday, April 05, 2012 6:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm making this comment because I just had a discussion with a friend who is convinced that Bynum is the Laker's MVP (interestingly enough, using a Jason Whitlock article as a reference). While I agree that Bynum has he potential to carry a team some day with multiple provisions (more mature/focused, continued improvement, injuries, etc.) it amazes me when people say him or Gasol is the key to any Laker success. Just the amount of defensive attention Kobe receives, even on a night when he shoots 3-20, is a weapon for the offense. My favorite Laker play is the aforementioned Kobe-Gasol screen-and-roll. It's a thing of beauty and the passing skills of Gasol certainly are a reason that play is so successful, but there is a reason Kobe is the initial ball handler in those situations rather than Artest (don't like the new name) or Blake. In fact, if one watches the off-ball action during these sequences, you'll see all five defenders shift toward Kobe a couple steps, opening multiple holes in the defense.

Anyway, I asked my friend if he thought Blake Griffin is the Clippers MVP over Chris Paul, or Westbrook over Durant on the Thunder, both suggestions of which he termed "crazy", but to me that is the same comparison. Some people don't understand that it's not just the stats that matter, it's the action that makes the stats possible. Sometimes I feel like I must be watching a completely different game. Anyway, just venting. Thanks for a good read (enjoyed the comments, too).

Happydaze

 
At Thursday, April 05, 2012 6:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

bynum playing like a beast no doubt. but his maturity level is not good he made one all star probably second team all nba and all but he act like he in the hall of fame with his three point shot like he all that vs goldenstate and the fine issue. they double him alot he just got to learn how to pass out of them he got nice moves around the post he long and big and a solid defensive presence. not a gasol fan but he does rebound at least and at times is a defensive presence unlike chris bosh who plays no d and doesnt rebound. as a heat fan im dissapointed in his play he had a six game stretch recently when he didnt grab more than four boards in one game. he been shooting terrible. u blame wade and james but james been distrbuting very well of late also james harden scores 17 a game as a third option for okc with russell westbrook and kevin durant and they shoot more and have the ball more than wade and james do, no excuse for bosh he been playing very badly lately if u not gon make a perimeter shot please rebound at least gasol does that even though he soft as hek.

kobe been great this year he togh playing through injury madei alot of tough shots never the biggest fan of kobe but he won my respect over the year one of the seven best all time. he never wavered even though he missed 15 straight.

hopefully lebron plays in playoffs like he did yesterday in game before if he does and i mean being aggressive late distributing makeing plays doing his all around thing and playing shut down d heat can win title i believe even though okc is formidable



marcel

 
At Thursday, April 05, 2012 10:49:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Happydaze:

Jason Whitlock is hardly a basketball expert; when Dick Schaap gave him his big break years ago by bringing him on to the Sports Reporters Whitlock sometimes made good points but now he seems to mainly just be a provocateur.

"Potential" is a quick way of saying that someone has not done anything yet (or least has not done enough). Bynum has become the second best center in the league by default (a subject that I will discuss in my upcoming annual NBA awards article) but he is not a franchise player and there are reasons to doubt that he ever will be.

The Bryant-Gasol screen/roll action is beautiful and I have never understood why the Lakers do not run it more often; it leads to a high percentage shot almost every time.

The way that defenses "tilt" toward Bryant is an aspect of Bryant's value that is vastly underrated by "stat gurus" and media members who simply compare Bryant's FG% with those of his big men but never try to figure out why his big men shoot such a high percentage. The idea that Bryant is just selfishly gunning while ignoring open teammates is absurd and is not borne out by an objective viewing of the Lakers' games--but the only people I know of who speak the truth about this (besides myself and Kevin Ding) are the rare knowledgeable commentators (usually former NBA coaches) like Jeff Van Gundy, who last season blasted the Lakers' bigs for "trotting" instead of running to get position on offense and to get back into the paint on defense.

 
At Thursday, April 05, 2012 10:57:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

I don't know if Bynum is playing like a "beast" but for the first time in his career he is reasonably healthy and he is putting up solid All-Star numbers. I agree with you that he will make All-NBA Second Team by default; every center other than Dwight Howard who has made the All-NBA Team in the past few years is either retired (Shaq, Yao) or has had an injury-limited season (Bogut, Horford, Stoudemire).

When Bynum or Gasol fail to score or rebound, the conventional narrative is that Bryant is not getting them the ball enough but when Bosh's numbers are down he is called "soft." People cannot have things both ways; if they are going to call out Bryant for not passing the ball then they have to say the same thing about James and Wade. The reality is that Bynum and Gasol often do not fight for low post position; this is sometimes true of Bosh as well but the larger issue is that Miami's "clown car" halfcourt offense mainly involves either James or Wade dominating the ball while everyone else stands around. James and Wade have turned Bosh into Horace Grant--a solid big man waiting for the ball on the weak side--even though Bosh was recently a 24-11 player in Toronto, numbers that neither Bynum nor Gasol have ever put up for an entire season.

The LeBron-Durant head to head regular season battle ended up in a split decision, with each player leading his team to a homecourt victory while winning the head to head battle. The Thunder look like the best team in the league overall, while James is still the best regular season player. If he played every game with the same effort and aggression that he displayed in Miami's win against OKC then he would lead the Heat to the title but James has been in the league for nearly a decade without doing this consistently so it is fair to wonder if he will ever develop a Jordan/Bryant-like mentality.

 
At Friday, April 06, 2012 6:50:00 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

David,

Not sure if you saw this article today http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/04/06/report-dwight-howard-signed-with-magic-to-avoid-trade-to-lakers/. But if it's true then it should be definitive proof that Dwight Howard does not give a damn about winning.

A core Lakers team of Kobe, Howard, Gasol and Sessions would've been the favorites to win the championship for the next couple years. And why Howard would be so terrified of going to the Lakers, yet push to go to a poorly run franchise like the Nets is beyond me. I applaud Stan Van Gundy for exposing Dwight as the cancer that he is.

I'm not sure where the Lakers go from here. It really seems like Mitch Kupchak has tried his hardest to bring another superstar to LA but he keeps getting snake bitten by circumstances beyond his control.

 
At Saturday, April 07, 2012 1:31:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Chris:

NBC's online basketball coverage is pretty shoddy so I did not read that particular article but, like most people who follow the NBA closely, I have heard the rumor that Howard did not want to go to L.A. I don't know if that rumor is true or not, nor does the author of the piece that you cited. If Howard does not want to go to L.A. then he is a fool but that is certainly a plausible contention about Howard at this point considering how he has handled this whole process.

I have been saying for several years that any of these free agents who truly place winning as their first priority should sign with the Lakers to play alongside Kobe Bryant. Just imagine the Lakers with Bryant at shooting guard, Wade at point guard, James at small forward and Bynum and Gasol as the two bigs. Wade played some point guard early in his career and, in any case, positional designations would not matter so much with Bryant, Wade and James; they would terrorize teams defensively and any one of them could initiate the offense, while Bryant would provide the midrange and outside shooting threat to prevent teams from sagging off of James or Wade.

James and Wade said that winning was their top priority but they signed for nearly max dollars to play with each other even though their skill sets are not complementary; it will be funny if they fail to win the title and Miami ultimately breaks up the power trio!

 
At Saturday, April 07, 2012 9:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any chance the Lakers can go after Anthony Davis? After seeing Bynum's latest antics I would be willing to roll the dice, unload the guy and see what Davis can do.

 
At Sunday, April 08, 2012 12:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watching Bynum shoot 10-27 against the Suns in the absence of Bryant, one can not help but comment on how you have written extensively about the way his and Gasol's shooting percentages are boosted by the fact that defensive attention is so tilted towards Kobe and what a confirmation of this point today's game is.

Yes, one game is a small sample, but still, all those things are on full display today for everyone to see. Seems like Bynum wanted to be the "man", certainly many casual fans wanted that too, the result is 10-27 from the field and 3-9 from the free throw line, horrible percentages for anyone, but even more so for a center, and on top of that the team as a whole plays disastrous defense, lets in 125 points and loses by 20...

 
At Sunday, April 08, 2012 2:35:00 AM, Anonymous Gil Meriken said...

"After Kobe retires (or is no longer drawing double teams) it will be interesting to see how much Bynum scores and what his field goal percentage is."

Well, you got a little glimpse tonight. Kobe out tonight with a shin injury, and Bynum goes 10-27 from the field.

Is must be tiring being right on with your analysis. Now, wait for claims about "small sample size".

 
At Sunday, April 08, 2012 2:40:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I doubt that the team that wins the Draft Lottery would be willing to trade away the right to draft Davis, so it is very unlikely that the Lakers could make a deal for him.

What the Lakers should have done, if at all possible, was trade any combination of players (other than Bryant) to obtain Dwight Howard. Bynum's value may never be higher than it was just prior to his first All-Star Game appearance.

 
At Sunday, April 08, 2012 2:43:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

The "stat gurus" say that Bynum is the Lakers' best player and that he is the key to the Lakers' great defense, while Bryant is an overrated gunner who is not a good defender. Meanwhile, in the real world we just got a glimpse of what the Lakers as presently constituted will look like after Bryant retires.

Yes, this is a small sample size but everything that I have been saying played out just as I have predicted (and don't forget how the supposedly invaluable Lamar Odom--a player who I have been calling overrated for several seasons--has been woefully ineffective this season).

 
At Sunday, April 08, 2012 2:44:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Gil:

I don't get tired being right but I do get tired watching people get paid (by ESPN, Slam, etc.) to be wrong!

 
At Sunday, April 08, 2012 4:54:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"James had plenty of help in Cleveland--the deepest roster in the league at the time". Also a roster that went from 61-21 in 2009 to 19-63 in 2010 when James left? Kobe and Lebron are surely different players, but here's the difference. Kobe sees himself as a scorer. Lebron chooses to pass when doubled(which technically is the correct move in basketball). Kobe will take shots even if he's double teamed, triple teamed(meaning there are other people open on the court). They have different skill sets. When one chooses to compare, is a great scorer, more important than a great passer, or a great point guard, or a great center, etc.? No. You cannot compare. Kobe and Lebron play different positions(Lebron plays multiple positions actually).
Nowadays people look at the statline and they purely look at how many points scored. That is not the way to rate a basketball player.
Many want to compare Kobe and Lebron, but, the main difference is Kobe is a scorer, Lebron is actually a hybrid. One whom will get more triple doubles than someone whom will score 80. There is nothing wrong with either of these.

 
At Sunday, April 08, 2012 5:50:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I hope that anyone who visits this site is intelligent enough not to buy the idiotic contention that Cleveland simply lost LeBron James and instantly went from being a contender to being one of the league's worst teams; the Cavs also lost a GM, a coach and the majority of the key rotation players who helped the Cavs post the best record in the NBA in 2009 and 2010. Please read Analyzing the Collapse of the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers for details about exactly how much change took place in Cleveland.

Bryant is willing to take pressure shots when the game is on the line--not just last second shots, but shots in the fourth quarter when the score is tight. I have never bought the idea that James is a pass first player; he has the third highest scoring average in NBA history! James is a big-time scorer who often shrinks when the stakes are highest. The difference between how he plays when he is trying hard and how he plays when he quits is striking; if James had played against Dallas in the 2011 Finals the way that he just played in the Heat's win against OKC then Miami would have won the championship.

I am not just looking at points scored but rather effort level and overall productivity, particularly when the stakes are highest.

 
At Sunday, April 08, 2012 10:21:00 PM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

One thing is for certain: if Andrew Bynum is indeed the Laker's best player during the playoffs, the Lakers will (1) win the championship because his performance will rival Shaq's during the Lakers' threepeat, or (2) fail to advance beyond the quarterfinals due to Kobe's injuries and/or poor performance.

I do not see a circumstance where Kobe performs up to his standards, Bynum nevertheless outperforms him, and the Lakers fail to win a championship.

 
At Monday, April 09, 2012 3:45:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

I'm not sure if you are being sarcastic but Bynum is not even close to being the Lakers' best player, there is no chance that he is going to outdo what Shaq did in his prime and the only way that the Lakers will win the championship is if aliens heal Bryant's various ailments and also abduct the Bulls, Thunder, Spurs, Heat, Grizzlies and possibly one or two other teams.

 
At Monday, April 09, 2012 10:45:00 AM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

Bynum is a good-but-not great player who is injury-prone, immature, has benefitted immensely from Kobe's presence, and is a stat-stuffer who doesn't help the team very much when it comes to winning games and winning championships.

For the Lakers to win the championship, not only will aliens have to perform their magic on Kobe, Bynum, Gasol, and a handful of other contenders, they will also need to shoot 27 free throws in the 4th quarter of Game 6, 21 free throws in the 4th quarter of Game 7, and have Kobe shoot 20 free throws a game as the opposition gets called for a foul whenever a defender gets within five feet of him.

I'm not expecting a repeat of the 2002, 2006, and 2010 fiascos so Lakers' championships hopes will have to wait until next season.

 
At Monday, April 09, 2012 4:17:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

I don't want to get into half baked conspiracy theories about "fiascoes" in previous championship series but I agree with your assessment of Bynum.

The Lakers' "championship hopes" are done unless they find a way to pair Kobe with a legit young superstar; Kobe cannot win a title on his own (no one can, but Kobe needs more help now than he needed when he was younger and healthier) and it will take some time for the Lakers to become a deep team so the only short term solution is to upgrade the talent level by acquiring a superstar. Unfortunately for the Lakers, Howard was probably the only superstar who they could potentially get and it does not seem like he will end up in L.A.

 
At Wednesday, April 11, 2012 1:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marcel

certain people like Kobe or like lebron im a lebron fan and Kobe fan. bosh plays no d. he doesn't rebound and right now he is Achilles heel on heat not lebron or Wade. he continually missing open shot right now he not taking advantage of Brandon bass who alot smaller than him. the Celtics shot over there heads I know but bosh been terrible recently for my heat. I defenitely believe on a bad team Bynum or gasol could put up twenty four and eleven the one thing Bynum and gasol due is rebound and play some semblance of d. bosh on Toronto padded stats how u average eleven boards with Toronto then this year avg seven this year he more a twenty and seven Guy not twenty five and eleven. that's the knock on Kevin love putting up MVP numbers on bad team. and love all around alot better than bosh. so im not impressed as much with twenty four and eleven. I think heat gon win title lebron by far best player in league and we hope bosh wake up.and start playing ball.

 
At Wednesday, April 11, 2012 5:38:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

Bosh averaged at least 22 ppg for five straight seasons in Toronto and he averaged at least 10 rpg in three of those seasons. He led the Raptors, hardly a talented powerhouse, to the playoffs twice during that time. Bosh is every bit as skilled as Pau Gasol, yet critics constantly snipe at Kobe Bryant for not passing more to Gasol--even though Bryant led the Lakers to two titles with Gasol as a second option--but few people dare suggest that perhaps James and Wade should involve Bosh in the offense more. Bosh's FGAs have dropped since he joined the Heat and, more significantly, his FTAs have plummeted because instead of getting him the ball in the post James and Wade have turned Bosh into a Horace Grant clone begging for scraps on the weak side while they take turns isolating. They don't want Bosh in the post because it takes away driving lanes from them. Perhaps you could complain that Bosh should have a stronger personality and demand the ball but clearly he is not going to do that, at least not publicly.

The Heat rank first in the league in total rebounds, so the decline in Bosh's individual rebounding numbers is not that important; he is the second leading rebounder on the NBA's best rebounding team, so he is doing his part.

You say that Bosh did not take advantage of Bass in the post. Did you listen to the telecast? Hubie Brown said that the real question is why didn't the Heat give the ball to Bosh more often in the post? That was Miami's big matchup advantage.

It is interesting that despite LeBron's gaudy individual numbers in Miami's loss to Boston the Heat actually were outscored while he was on the court but Miami outscored Boston by 12 points when Bosh was on the court. Plus/minus numbers can be very noisy, particularly in a small sample size, but the larger truths about Miami are that their half court offense is terrible--I call it a "clown car" offense--and the Heat do not display much collective will, focus or toughness. After the Boston loss, Wade defiantly said that this loss did not matter because Miami is preparing for the playoffs and will be ready on April 28 (when the playoffs begin). The way the Heat are playing now the only thing that they will be ready for is getting eliminated earlier than most people expected.

The problem with the Heat is that LeBron "We will will not one, not two...championships" James thinks that it is easy to win championships. Wade should know better but he is not the team's leader or best player; everyone follows LeBron's example, so you can look forward to LeBron quitting when the going gets tough and someone other than Miami winning the championship this season.

 

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