Kevin Ding Once Again Hits the Ball out of the ParkKevin Ding is one of the few NBA beat writers who not only can write a basic game recap but also uses his close access to the NBA to provide genuine insight about the sport. Ding's latest column explains the major difference between an all-time great like Kobe Bryant and Bryant's talented but not elite big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol:
It's precisely what the Lakers' brass feared after the humiliating end to last season: Gasol and Bynum--along with Lamar Odom--having made their safe deposits of multiple championship-ring boxes ... and just not wanting it enough anymore.
It's why the Lakers were so right and so ready to trade Gasol and Odom for ringless Chris Paul before the season and plotted the follow-up trade-deadline swap of Bynum for ringless Dwight Howard.
As wrong as it seems to condemn people for having proved themselves already, it's human nature to let up after difficult accomplishments. In this regard far more than even the mental toughness of playing hurt, Bryant is superhuman. Frustrated by a second consecutive game of missing killer instinct from his teammates, Bryant lifted his flame up to the light Thursday night for a rare moment of full disclosure about his drive.
"Psychologically, you have to put yourself in a predicament, in a position, where you have no other option but to perform," Bryant said. "You have to emotionally put yourself with your back against the wall and kind of trick yourself to feel that there's no other option but to perform and to battle. When you have that, when you put yourself in that mind state, then your performance shines through."
Ding also makes the same observation that Jeff Van Gundy repeatedly stated last season and that I have mentioned as well: the Lakers' bigs "have jogged slower instead of racing faster to get back on defense," something that Ding attributes to the flagging motivation levels alluded to in the preceding paragraphs. Ding concludes with words that must alarm any Lakers' fan:
A better effort back home should be enough to win Saturday night, but how many mind games and magic rabbits can Bryant pull if Gasol and Bynum already have hats in hand and Oklahoma City truly wants it more?
Here in the first round, Bryant is already down to his final trick.
He has to take one must-win game ... and make all the complacency of Gasol and Bynum suddenly disappear.
posted by David Friedman @ 3:21 PM