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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Seven Games of Life Without Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant will apparently return to action on Friday as the L.A. Lakers face the San Antonio Spurs in a game that has significant seeding implications for both teams: the Spurs are trying to hold on to the top spot in the West, while the Lakers are clinging to a half game lead over the L.A. Clippers for the Pacific Division title/third seed. The Lakers went 5-2 during Bryant's seven game absence, while the Clippers gained ground by going 6-1 in that stretch. The winner of the Pacific Division title will not only likely avoid a tough first round pairing with the Memphis Grizzlies but would also likely avoid having to face the West's top seed in the second round (assuming that the first round goes according to form).

The Lakers' first game sans Bryant was an unmitigated disaster: their worst loss of the season, a blowout defeat at the hands of a Phoenix team that may not even make the playoffs. The Lakers then narrowly beat the worst team in the West (New Orleans), shockingly beat a rested Spurs team in San Antonio and posted two close wins against fringe playoff teams (Denver, Dallas) at home before getting blown out in a rematch versus the Spurs. Then the Lakers padded their individual and collective stats with an easy win over a Golden State team that is trotting out a rookie/D-League lineup that plays hard but will ensure that the Warriors lose enough games to retain possession of the Lottery-protected draft pick that they acquired in a trade. Other than the two games versus the Spurs, the Lakers faced a very favorable schedule during Bryant's absence and they did slightly better than I would have expected; I think that a Bryant-less Lakers team would, over the course of an entire season, be a Lottery team in the West--a team that would have a slightly above .500 record that would not quite be good enough to qualify for the playoffs--but in a short Bryant-less burst I would have expected them to beat Phoenix, New Orleans and Golden State, to split the Dallas and Denver games and to lose both times to San Antonio: a 4-3 mark against that opposition sounds about right, but the Lakers slightly exceeded that by going 5-2. The win against San Antonio was as impressive as it was unexpected but the Lakers also had their two worst losses of the season (based on point differential), so the difference between what I expected and what actually happened ultimately turned out to be the overtime win against Dallas.

The big surprise during the seven game stretch was Metta World Peace's revival at both ends of the court; after being out of shape for most of the season, after shooting very poorly and not defending quite as well he had in the past, Peace gave the Lakers a boost with timely shots and tenacious defense. Apparently, a back injury had limited Peace's mobility and his ability to train but now that this injury has healed Peace has worked hard to get in shape and raise his level of play. Peace has always been an erratic shooter, so it is not likely that he will continue to shoot .506 from the field overall or .387 from three point range, but if he keeps playing with high energy then this will obviously greatly help the Lakers. Matt Barnes also made valuable contributions during Bryant's absence, a surprising development after Barnes sleepwalked through most of the season. Recently acquired point guard Ramon Sessions is still getting used to playing for his new team and his performances have been up and down regardless of Bryant's presence but Sessions made significant contributions in the wins over New Orleans and Dallas, victories that may ultimately preserve the Lakers' third seed status.

Of course, while Bryant was out most of the media attention focused on Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol; according to the "stat gurus" and to many media members, Bryant supposedly hurts the Lakers collectively and those two players individually because he shoots too much instead of feeding the ball to them: this presupposes that the high field goal percentages posted by Bynum and Gasol are independent of any contributions that Bryant makes (not just by passing the ball but also by drawing double teams) and also presupposes that, with or without Bryant, those big men could maintain their shooting percentages even if their field goal attempts dramatically increased. This seven game stretch provided an interesting test of those contentions: Bynum and Gasol, as expected, shot more frequently and scored more points than they did when Bryant was in the lineup but both players experienced significant declines in their field goal percentages:

Andrew Bynum's performance in 51 games with Bryant this season: 18.3 ppg, 12.5 FGA/g, .583 FG%

Andrew Bynum's performance in seven games without Bryant this season: 23.1 ppg, 19.6 FGA, .467 FG%

Pau Gasol's performance in 56 games with Bryant this season: 17.0 ppg, 13.6 FGA/g, .510 FG%

Pau Gasol's performance in seven games without Bryant this season: 21.1 ppg, 18.3 FGA/g, .469 FG%

Bynum has shot .500 or better in 43 out of 58 games this season--but four of his 15 sub-.500 performances came in the seven games that Bryant missed; Gasol has shot .500 or better in 35 of 63 games this season--but five of his 28 sub-.500 performances came in the seven games that Bryant missed. It is indisputable that both Bynum and Gasol shot much worse without Bryant than they did with Bryant. A seven game sample size--while not definitive by any means--represents a little more than 10% of this compacted season's schedule. I believe that this field goal percentage decline was predictable--indeed, I have been predicting it for years in terms of what would happen when Bryant retires or if he missed extended playing time due to injury--and is largely attributable to the defensive attention that Bryant draws: Bryant is regularly double-teamed, which means that Bynum and Gasol usually have the luxury of only facing one defender and they often are merely facing a defender who is rotating to them as the defense tries to recover after a trapped Bryant passes the ball. Bynum is not an explosive athlete and when he faces defensive resistance he often either turns the ball over or misses his shots, even from point blank range; Gasol is a very skillful player but he is not very aggressive in the post, so he can be pushed off of his spot and/or relegated to shooting faceup jumpers.

It must be noted that Bynum's field goal percentage without Bryant is much worse than the above numbers suggest if we take out his 12-14 performance last night versus Golden State's "twin towers" Mikki Moore and Mickell Gladness; Bynum should certainly dominate those guys with or without Bryant being on the court but Bynum's .423 field goal shooting in the other six games without Bryant is a stunning number, even worse than what I would have predicted: Bynum shot no better on point blank shots sans Bryant than Bryant has shot over the course of the season on contested attempts as a 33 year old, banged up, 16 year veteran perimeter player! The media killed Bryant for supposedly shooting too much when Bryant's field goal percentage dipped below his career norm of circa .450 but after Bynum shot .375 in the Lakers' narrow escape against Dallas one addled writer for the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader declared that Bynum had proven himself to be the best center in the league! Field goal percentage is not the sole way that players should be evaluated but it makes no sense to blast a perimeter player for shooting less than .450 but laud a big man for shooting less than .400 on point blank shots.

There are two issues here:

1) A skill set evaluation of the Lakers' overall roster strongly suggests that this team is just not as good as Oklahoma City and San Antonio and that, over the course of a long season, would struggle to earn a playoff berth in the West sans Bryant; the Lakers squeaked to a 5-2 mark against a weak schedule without Bryant but, much like the Philadelphia 76ers feasted on a weak schedule early in the season and are now leaking oil, the Lakers would fall off if they had to endure an extended period without Bryant: the Lakers' big guys cannot consistently create high percentage shots for themselves and World Peace would not shoot .500 or better over the course of dozens of games.

2) Instead of objectively evaluating players and teams, "stat gurus" make bold declarations that are not supported by observed facts and they refuse to amend their declarations even as contradictory evidence emerges; also, media members--some of whom are "stat guru" sycophants, while others reach idiotic conclusions of their own free will--apply nonsensical and often contradictory standards when they evaluate players. Bryant's field goal percentage and shot selection are regularly criticized without any semblance of understanding of the context in which Bryant takes those shots, while other players are evaluated by much more lenient standards: Derrick Rose won the 2011 MVP over LeBron James largely because Rose supposedly carried a weak supporting cast to the best record in the East and Rose's frequent subpar, high volume shooting performances were excused because he allegedly had no help--but this year the Bulls still have the best record in the East even though Rose has missed nearly half of the season and the young, athletic Rose shot worse than Bryant in 2011 and has only shot slightly better than Bryant this season. Why is Bryant evaluated mainly by FG% and FGAs while a different, more lenient standard is applied to Rose? I think that both Bryant and Rose are great players--as I made clear in my 2011 NBA awards article--but I evaluate Bryant and Rose (and all NBA players) based on their skill sets, not based on media-driven story lines ("Rose carries talentless Bulls team") or the bleatings of "stat gurus" ("Bynum and Gasol are great, efficient big men, while Bryant is an inefficient gunner"). "Stat gurus" and media members regularly issue incorrect evaluations of players and teams because they are more concerned with preconceived story lines than they are with objectively and intelligently analyzing what actually happens during games.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:47 PM

21 comments

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21 Comments:

At Thursday, April 19, 2012 7:05:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

Great stuff as usual. The main thing that happened is that MWP and Barnes have started playing much better. Let's see how that will continue. I didn't know MWP was hurt, might make some sense to how bad he was playing, and refreshing how he didn't try to milk this injury, similar to Kobe. MWP is all over the place sometimes, so hard to know. But, someone said he's shed some weight and is in better shape now. His defensive intensity has really picked up.

Overall, I saw a little better play out of Bynum, but not much better. He did what he was supposed to do while Kobe is out, and that's to take more shots. However, few in the media will understand that his FG pct. is much worse sans Kobe because Kobe was out, and much worse at that, even with the GS game.

I've had a recent conversation about double teams with the lakers and have heard about Bynum basically only being doubled this year and Kobe very little. I want to specifically know your take on some of this stuff.

I've seen Kobe being doubled a lot more than Bynum has been while they're both in the game at the same time. Bynum is often only doubled while Kobe is in, when he has the ball late in the shot clock, and he obviously has to shoot the ball, but this rarely happens, usually Kobe has the ball late in the shot clock. Any little double team usually seriously confuses Bynum. If Kobe is out, then Bynum gets doubled more. Pau has very rarely been doubled this year, or even during past years while with the lakers.

Also, I do see Kobe doubled on the perimeter sometimes immediately after catching the ball even 20-25 ft. out, and sometimes before he gets the ball(or the 2nd defender is anticipating Kobe getting the ball and is already on his way over even before Kobe gets the ball). The latter probably happens moreso in the 4th during crunch time.

Also, isn't it worse for the defense to double a player on the perimeter than in the post? I know it's easier to double a post player, so it would only make sense that if it's harder to double a player on the perimeter, then the defense would be in a worse overall position.

 
At Friday, April 20, 2012 12:18:00 AM, Anonymous khandor said...

re: "Stat gurus" and media members regularly issue incorrect evaluations of players and teams because they are more concerned with preconceived story lines than they are with objectively and intelligently analyzing what actually happens during games.

Bingo.

 
At Friday, April 20, 2012 1:13:00 AM, Anonymous Charles said...

David,

You hit the nail on the head. The "conventional wisdom" even according to many Lakers fans is that Bynum has stepped up impressively and solidified himself as an excellent first option during this Kobe-less stretch, which I find hard to believe considering how much his efficiency has fallen since opposing defenses have been freed to concentrate much of their attention on him. The large drop in his FG% and consistently poor decision-making when pitted against heavy defensive pressure are generally just conveniently glossed over in favor of the narrative. Some drop off is naturally expected with more shot attempts but sub-.500 shooting is really unacceptable for back to the basket big men. The other often missed subplot is, as you mentioned, Metta World Peace going from one of the league's worst starting forwards to a borderline all-star on offense.

I have been fairly lenient with my evaluation of Bynum during this stretch, particularly on defense, where he often still loafs ("conserving energy" seems to be the popular euphemism here) but I have seen a lot of negatives that offset the obvious positives. As you noted Kobe is consistently criticized even by Lakers fans for his shot selection and percentages and I have seen precious little of the same standard being applied to Bynum besides the occasional mention of his bad shooting as an aberration on a game-by-game basis despite the fact that he generally doesn't have the same obstacles as a perimeter shot creator ('hand grenade' buzzer beaters, longer shots, etc).

I don't see the onus being on Bryant to adjust and "fit in" to a Bynum-centric offense but rather it being on Bynum to realize his shortcomings and work to improve on them.

 
At Friday, April 20, 2012 3:07:00 AM, Blogger jackson888 said...

david,
totally agree with your assessments regarding the lakers' 7 games without kobe.
other superstars are evaluated on a different set of standards from kobe. stats are manipulated to conform to a certain agenda/storyline. and i particularly disdain the way mvps were selected for the past few years. storylines were pushed and proper dues weren't given. i particularly agree with you on how players/mvp candidates should be evaluated. skill sets. team achievements. proper context. what is good for the gander should be good for the goose.
also disdain those tv panelists who are either ignorant are far too inept. i will agree with you that most veteran coaches are better analysts than former players (shaq, jon barry) and better evaluator of players.
i am generally a basketball fan. i appreciate the game not the casual fans do... but i am a big fan of magic, bird, hakeem, barkley, nash and kobe...

 
At Friday, April 20, 2012 7:42:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi David,
I can't find the link but after the Lakers last win a reporter asked Bynum how he felt about Kobe returning and his answer was something like "I'll get less double teams and more space to attack". Stats gurus and Bynum for MVP supporters may think that Bynum is the MVP of the Lakers but even the imature Bynum knows better than that.
The improvement of World PEace may be decisive for the Lakers future in the playoffs. That combined with a rested Kobe Bryant can be the basis of a more extended Lakers run in the playoffs than some would guess. Champions? Doubtful but not impossible.
Nuno Rechena

 
At Friday, April 20, 2012 8:54:00 AM, Blogger jackson888 said...

David

excited to know your all nba team breakdown for this season...

mine would go like this...
first team lebron james, kevin durant, dwight howard, russell westbrook, kobe bryant
second team kevin love, dirk nowiztki, lamarcus aldridge, chris paul, steve nash
third team carmelo anthony, pau gasol, andrew bynum, tony parker, dwyane wade.
hate to leave josh smith, al jefferson, rudy gay, danny granger, tyson chandler, paul millsap, kevin garnett, monta ellis and deron williams off the list but i can't replace any of these with those i have listed...
you will notice that current nba sensationv(dunking only) isn't even on my have-to-leave list but i just don't think his plays defense well enough though he is extremely athletic, fast and quick, and his offense is not polished yet. seen too many games where he could not even score on a single coverage.

 
At Friday, April 20, 2012 10:06:00 AM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

It is obvious as to why a different, more lenient standard is applied to Rose. He is simply not as good a player and is not as highly regarded as Kobe Bryant or Lebron James.

We're seeing the same double standard being applied in favor of Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant. They are always given credit whenever the team does well and are given a free pass when they play poorly.

At the end of the day it is the truly elite that are held to a higher standard and accomplish the most. Undue, and often unfair, criticism comes with the territory but the cream will generally rise to the top.

I still believe Lebron will overcome his weaknesses and find ways to win championships. Hopefully he will leave Miami for greener pastures - the environment there seems toxic and the sooner he disassociates himself from "The Decision" and South Beach, the better.

 
At Friday, April 20, 2012 10:13:00 AM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

As for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, getting that 3 seed will prove useful in the first round but won't make a huge difference in the later rounds. They'll have to win some games on the road to in the playoffs unless the Clippers or Celtics pull off a few upsets.

It was good to see the Lakers to play well without Kobe. If Bynum and Gasol do a better job getting low post position instead of standing around for 15 seconds, Sessions continues to learn the offense, and guys like Metta World Peace and Barnes start making significant contributions, the Lakers' chances of winning the championship become much more realistic.

While they would be underdogs vs. Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Chicago, or Miami, they surely have a puncher's chance against any one of those squads.

 
At Friday, April 20, 2012 1:35:00 PM, Anonymous Eric said...

Great points David, as always.

I really do believe that the casual fan is taking Kobe's greatness for granted. I think that after Kobe retires his legacy will be even more uplifted due to the post-Kobe Lakers struggling mightily (unless they acquire a true franchise player). History will look back at Bryant's illustrious career and give it the proper respect that it rightfully deserves now. His numerous accolades on the important All-NBA 1st Team and the All-Defensive 1st Team along with the championships place him amongst the greatest players ever to play this game.

For this upcoming decade 2011-2020, I envision either Durant or Rose to carry their teams to the championship. I had felt from the moment the Heat were assembled in 2010 that they would not win any championships only because they were not complementary and more redundant. Wade is surprisingly 30 years old, Bosh is terrible as a third option, but effective as the second option as we've seen him in the games when Wade would be sitting out.

Who are your takes for the favorites of this upcoming decade? Do you agree in that Bryant will get his due after his retirement?

 
At Friday, April 20, 2012 4:20:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

Your observations about the double teams that Bryant and Bynum have faced are correct. Whoever was disagreeing with you does not know what he is talking about. You may recall the game versus the Nets when the Nets doubled Bryant in the fourth quarter anywhere on the court; in fact, Coach Avery Johnson started waving his arms frantically if the Nets hesitated to double Bryant. Johnson was willing to give up an open shot to anyone other than Bryant. Ironically, Bryant hit the game-clinching three pointer anyway.

 
At Friday, April 20, 2012 4:22:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jackson 888:

I will reveal my selections for the All-NBA team (and the various other NBA honors) next week when I publish my annual awards article.

 
At Friday, April 20, 2012 7:40:00 PM, Anonymous Joel said...

David,

First of all, this is a great line:

some of whom are "stat guru" sycophants, while others reach idiotic conclusions of their own free will

Second, it is interesting how the plummeting efficiency of Bynum and Gasol has been swept under the rug. Never let the facts get in the way of a convenient/facile narrative.

I read an article recently where the suggestion was that Kobe needs to 'allow' the likes of MWP, Barnes, and Blake to continue to take the shots they've been making over the last couple of weeks. Unknown to those of us who have been watching the Lakers all season, it was actually Kobe who was responsible for MWP's masonry and Blake's indecisiveness. Hopefully now Big Bad Kobe will allow these guys to shine when he comes back.

Alternately, they could end up getting the same unmolested looks they've had all season, and maybe even continue to knock them down!

 
At Friday, April 20, 2012 9:51:00 PM, Anonymous Jorge said...

Hi David,
The same situation happened in 2001, when everyone was criticizing MJ for his FG% and SportsCenter presented a chart detailing his made and missed shots after every game. He was 38 at that time. But nobody analyzed the shot selection of Allen Iverson, who was chosen the MVP the season before.

When Kobe scores... "he shoots too much". When Kobe passes the ball... "he's not shooting on purpose"... What can he do? Most of the fans and media here in the US despise him. But ask in Europe or South America who's the best and you'll not hear LeBron's name. You'll only hear the name of the player that stepped up in the 2008 Gold Game in Beijing when the rest of his US teammates disappeared: Kobe Bean Bryant.
Do you agree?

Sincerely,

Jorge

 
At Saturday, April 21, 2012 2:46:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Joel:

It is baffling to me that so many people cannot understand that Bynum and Gasol's field goal percentages are so directly linked to Bryant's ability to draw double teams and it is equally baffling that people cannot understand that--as you pointed out--all that happened with MWP and Barnes during Bryant's absence is that they started hitting the same open shots that they had been missing all season long. MWP and Barnes are role players for the Lakers; they were getting open shots when Bryant was doubled and they also got open shots when Bynum or Gasol were doubled during Bryant's absence. Unless MWP and Barnes suddenly become very efficient scorers, it will be safe to assume that their shooting during Bryant's absence was a bit of an aberration.

Speaking of aberrations, it looks like the Lakers' blowout win over the Spurs was one of the biggest aberrations/flukes of the season. OKC and the Spurs are both much better teams than the Lakers.

 
At Saturday, April 21, 2012 9:12:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jorge:

I agree that Kobe Bryant played a crucial role in the 2008 Olympics, a subject that I wrote about here:

Kobe Takes Over in the Fourth Quarter, Team USA Defeats Spain 118-107 to Claim Olympic Gold

 
At Saturday, April 21, 2012 10:47:00 AM, Blogger Matt said...

"The same situation happened in 2001, when everyone was criticizing MJ for his FG% and SportsCenter presented a chart detailing his made and missed shots after every game. He was 38 at that time. But nobody analyzed the shot selection of Allen Iverson, who was chosen the MVP the season before."

I hardly think a single Sportscenter graphic amounts to persecution. No recent player has been criticized more for their shot selection, especially by the stat gurus, more than Allen Iverson. Only Kobe and Antoine Walker come close : http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/2008/12/allen-iverson-and-wages-of-wins.html

 
At Saturday, April 21, 2012 12:01:00 PM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

David:

Surely it's not baffling that there are a lot of people who simply hate Kobe Bryant and will find any way possible to discredit him.

No matter how much you break things down or explain things to others, it will not cause people to unhate Kobe.

 
At Monday, April 23, 2012 12:17:00 AM, Anonymous boyer said...

Interesting anti-abbott website here: http://wrongagainhen.wordpress.com/

Mainly just calling out Abbott for how ridiculous he is.

Abbott often posts a few different plays in last-second situations in which he thinks Kobe should pass the ball. There's probably times that Kobe should pass instead of shoot, but each example he gives is utterly ridiculous.

One of them is the bulls/lakers christmas game. Kobe drives and goes up to shoot against 2 defenders, and the 3rd comes when he's in the air. When he goes up to shoot, there's absolutely nobody open. When he's up in the air with about 1 sec. left, and after the 3rd defender leaves Pau, Pau kind of gets open. If Kobe somehow can see through 3 defenders like a Jedi might be able to, and somehow also pass through all 3 of them for a perfect pass, and Pau catches it cleanly, and goes up immediately and scores, maybe just maybe he gets the shot off in time.

Another example is the lakers down 3 in one game this season. Kobe goes up for a tying 3 at top of the key. Pau is on right wing and his defender leaves him. Pau then for some reason steps inside the arc. Again, when Kobe goes up for shot, Pau isn't open, and even if he was open earlier, they needed a 3 to tie, and Pau stepping inside the arc, which he rarely has this year, is an odd decision, and even if Kobe passes to him, it's pointless, and they still lose.

Many more examples like this. Yes, more ball movement could be beneficial in final minutes for all teams, but you can't do that on final possessions. Every team very rarely doesn't go iso, because you just can't with the clock winding down.

Interesting to hear what Brown said to Kobe right after the game today. He said good job for keeping the team calm when things were getting ugly. Sure, Kobe was momentarily angry a few times, but eventually calmed down and his team followed. Let's see how the media spins this one with sessions and bynum sitting in crunch time. But, ebanks and hill, seldom-used reserves come up big. Probably that the lakers are much deeper than they really are.

Today's game reminded me of game 7 of the 2010 finals. Almost everyone shot awful, but instead defense and timely shooting won out. Kobe's defense the last 2 games, especially today has been outstanding. Westbrook looked completely lost. Obviously losing Harden was big, bigger than losing MWP.

 
At Tuesday, April 24, 2012 10:00:00 AM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

Unfair criticism comes with the territory of being one of the faces of the NBA.

I also recall Lebron being criticized for passing out of a double-team to set up a teammate for a wide-open jump shot earlier this season.

With that said, it's a joke to see four guys stand around and do nothing while the star player dribble up and down for 10 seconds then put up a contested 20-foot jump shot out at the buzzer. It's a play straight out of Hoosiers - I wish Jimmy Chitwood had missed that shot so we wouldn't have to see that same play run over and over again in real life.

As for the Lakers, they obviously need Kobe to be at his best but the other four guys need to actually move and do something when he has the ball.

 
At Tuesday, April 24, 2012 3:47:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

The problem with LeBron James is not that he passes to open teammates but rather that--despite being a big-time scorer throughout his career--he often plays very passively in crucial moments, particularly against elite teams. It is irresponsible for a great scorer to suddenly refuse to attack in crucial moments and when he does this his teammates are not sure how to react: James usually attacks, so when he does not attack they are placed in an uncomfortable position. We saw this with the Cavs versus Boston in the 2010 playoffs and we saw it again with the Heat versus Dallas in the 2011 NBA Finals. There is nothing wrong with being unselfish but there is a big difference between being unselfish--like when Kobe drew two defenders and passed to Artest in game seven of the NBA Finals (in a fourth quarter during which Kobe scored 10 points and thus earned the double team)--and being passive.

 
At Tuesday, April 24, 2012 4:03:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

I really dislike the connotations that the word 'unselfish' means now in the nba. It's so overused. It's like a lot of people think that every player needs to be a pass-first player always. I remember JVG recently saying that the spurs were unselfish on one possession, particularly Jackson, who passed up a wide-open 3, but then he blasts him for not shooting the ball. He's right he should've probably shot it, but then don't applaud him for being unselfish. It's not a matter of being unselfish or selfish, it's a matter about being aggressive and taking what the defense gives you, and not passing up open shots, unless you're a terrible shooter.

Nash is a great player, and he's the poster child for being unselfish. But, I often see him passing up great shots for himself, so that his worse-shooting teammates can get a shot, and often his teammates are having to then shoot contested shots often. If he's supposedly the best shooter of all time, or one of them, then shoot the ball when you're open, that's what I would want to see out of him.

When it's the last possession of the game, you have to control the clock, and the best way to do this is to go iso. And it depends on if you're ahead, tied, or behind, and by how much(if ahead or behind). You want to give the opposing team no time to counter, should you miss and they get the rebound. If it's tied and the shot clock is off, you can't be moving the ball around, and then take the first good look you find, say with 8 seconds left or something like this. You have to at least guarantee yourself of overtime.

However, I see the defense once in awhile run a 2nd guy at the offensive player with the ball at the top of the key with plenty of time on the shot clock still. This is risky, but what it does is force the offensive player to either dribble attack or pass off, so the defense is creating chaos on the offense, and even if the offense scores, then the defense will get the ball back with enough time to at least get a shot off. And especially against someone like Kobe, this makes a lot of sense.

 

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