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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Rick Barry Offers His Take on LeBron's Game and Kobe's Trade Request

Rick Barry appeared on ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" to talk about how LeBron James could become even better and about Kobe Bryant's request to be traded. Barry made a total of six main points, which I will list below, with my comments in italics.

1) LeBron James has been in the NBA for four seasons but does not know how to properly use a screen on a screen/roll play. This is the fault of Mike Brown and the coaching staff for not giving him better instruction.

Barry did not specifically explain what James could do better on screen/roll plays but in this article he mentioned that the Cavaliers should involve Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the play and not Anderson Varejao. The Cavs do in fact frequently run screen/roll plays with Ilgauskas, who usually steps back to shoot a face-up jumper, but the reason that Varejao is often in the game is that he moves his feet better on defense. The screen/roll play with Varejao has been very effective for Cleveland in the playoffs the last two years, particularly against Detroit. If Barry means to say that James should take a harder angle off of the initial screen and attack the basket, then he may have a point; James often tends to string the play out, draw two defenders away from the hoop and then look to make a pass. Still, what James does leads to a wide open shot for a teammate and he willingly gives the ball up, so to say that he does not know how to use a screen and has not been coached properly by Mike Brown--who led the Cavs to the Finals in his second season as head coach--is a bit harsh.

2) Along these same lines but speaking more generally, Barry asserted that today's players, including James, are more talented than players were in his day but that they don't know the little nuances of how to play the game. Barry said that his 13 year old son is a better ballhandler than he ever was and that he (referring to himself) would have to learn how to dribble more proficiently to play in today's NBA but that today's players would be even better if they understood the fine points of the game.

Barry cited a specific example in this case: players run to the backboard and try to use their great athleticism to get rebounds but if their opponent has a half step on them then he will get the ball. Why don't guys put a body on their opponent, thus ensuring that they will get any rebound that drops in front of them, Barry wonders. He is right to an extent about the lack of fundamentals in today's game, although if you look at old tapes you may be surprised to see that the fundamentals were not always as great as some people think; plenty of players "back in the day" could not dribble with their off-hand and shooting percentages were lower back then (even without the extra point from the three point shot). Overall, though, Barry is on target with this criticism; my personal pet peeve, which Barry also mentioned as well, is the constant overdribbling that has crept into the game (yes, this means you, Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis): instead of getting the ball and making a strong move straight to the hoop, guys do a lot of "east-west" dribbling that runs down the shot clock and kills any chance of their team developing an offensive rhythm.

3) LeBron James has a fundamental flaw in his shooting stroke.

Barry is right about this. I have mentioned more than once (for instance, here and here) that James shoots more "Oh no--good shot!" attempts than any player in the league; in other words, as I explained in the first post cited above, "shots that look like they are forced or off balance but that he makes with amazing consistency." Needless to say, his lack of good shooting fundamentals came back to haunt James big time versus the Spurs. James has actually improved his shooting form somewhat since his rookie season but he still needs more work in this area. Sometimes, players who are gifted with great jumping ability lapse into the habit of simply elevating from anywhere on the court and firing away, knowing that no one can block or even contest their shot--not that I know this from personal experience, mind you, but you can see this with guys like Clyde Drexler and Dominique Wilkins. Michael Jordan was not a great jump shooter when he was young but he worked and worked until the mid-range turnaround jumper became one of his go-to moves. James needs to put in the same kind of work on this aspect of his game.

4) Kobe Bryant's trade request should have been kept in house.

I about fell off of my chair laughing when Rick Barry said this--the same Rick Barry who talked himself out of Virginia by making derogatory comments about the South that appeared in Sports Illustrated. Barry played for so many teams in his career that an early autobiography that he wrote was titled, "Confessions of a Basketball Gypsy"--and his departures from those teams were hardly handled in the quiet, behind the scenes manner that he now proposes that Bryant should employ. Barry very well be delivering the right message regarding Bryant's situation but it is certainly ironic to hear him say this. By the way, this is why it would be nice if guys like "Mike and Mike"--and other radio or TV talking heads--actually knew enough sports history to call out someone like Barry in this regard: "Hey, Rick, what about the time that you talked your way out of Virginia because you wanted to play on the West Coast?" It would have been interesting to hear Barry's response to that.

5) Barry declared, "I know for a fact that Kobe is not responsible for the Shaq trade," adding that Bryant is rightly incensed that he has been blamed for this over the years.

Barry is 100% correct about this and the particulars of the situation have been publicly documented by none other than Lakers owner Jerry Buss himself, so anyone who continues to blame Bryant is simply ignoring the facts.

6) Barry added that Kobe Bryant "is not selfish" but that he does sometimes force things because the Lakers have failed to give him enough help.

Barry is right on target about this as well. He could have added that, at least in the last month of last season, when Bryant "forced things" it was specifically because Coach Phil Jackson told Bryant that Bryant would have to score a ton of points in order to save the Lakers' season. Earlier in the year, when Lamar Odom and Luke Walton were healthy, Bryant passed the ball more frequently and did not have as many high scoring outbursts. After those guys got hurt--and then came back at significantly less than 100%--Bryant had no choice but to try to score 40-50-60 points. Amazingly, he did that often enough over the last month to set several NBA records and carry the Lakers into the playoffs.

posted by David Friedman @ 4:53 PM



At Tuesday, June 19, 2007 5:05:00 PM, Blogger jeff smith said...

rick barry was right about lebron they dont utilize the screen correctectly and mike brown has not and lebron shoots too many fadeaway shots .

he said that kobe should of kept it in house i agree he said he doesnt think kobe is selfish he's all about winning i agree for the most part but kobe wants to be the one option when he wins he did not like the sidekick role. kobe forces things sometimes unnecasry sometimes he has too.

At Tuesday, June 19, 2007 8:29:00 PM, Blogger element313 said...

Kobe absolutely did the right thing in going public with it for 3 reasons:

1) Kobe plans on opting out in 2 yrs, and the Lakers deserve notice about that

2) to trade him, as he desires, they need other teams to know that he will waive his no-trade clause; otherwise no one else will negotiate seriously with the Lakers

3) to trade him, as he desires, they need Laker fans to understand that he wants out

if the Lakers don't trade him, then it may go down as the worst decision in sports history. they have no shot at a title in the next 2 years, unless they can get Garnett, which is doubtful. in that case, in 2 yrs, Kobe opts out and LAL gets NOTHING IN RETURN for a top-five player (maybe even top 3 or the best) -- destroying the franchise for the next decade probably...

by contrast if they do the trade w/Chicago & unload some terrible contracts in the process (VladRad, for one), then they can get young talent (Luol, Gordon, Tyrus) and combine that with other young players. then get a few veterans, and in a few yrs, after Duncan is done and Phx disassembled perhaps, LAL can be a west contender

Kobe did them a huge favor by publicly declaring that he will opt out -- if the Lakers fail to pull the trigger then they have only themselves to blame. they got nothing in exchange for Shaq, except for Brian Grant's albatross contract -- if they make the same mistake with Kobe, then Magic shd ask to change it so that he is in the Hall of Fame as Clipper

the longer LAL waits -- i.e., the closer to the end of '09 season -- then the less leverage the Lakers have in making a trade, b/c everyone else will see how desperate they are to unload him

from Kobe's own standpoint, I'd like to know what on earth his agent was thinking -- as the media has pointed out, whatever team trades for him will have to give up so much in return that they'll have no better chance of contending than the Lakers (unless they're an East team, merely "contending" for the consolation prize); plus, Kobe's contract goes up if he's traded, meaning that team would have more cap space ... in short Rob Pelinka (the agent) must be smoking some real funny stuff, b/c he may be ruining Kobe's career

but from Lakers standpoint, Kobe did them a huge favor, and they'd better act on it now

At Tuesday, June 19, 2007 8:30:00 PM, Blogger element313 said...

("that team would have more cap space TAKEN up by kobe," is what I meant)

At Tuesday, June 19, 2007 10:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous 2

kobe is using his leverage and now the lakers have to act now. i knew kobe was mad during the season about whhat he felt and many felt was clearly a weak supporting never a huge kobe fan but i respect that he seems to want to be on a winning team no matter what even if he got to leave la.

he's not going anywhere this year if so it will be before the draft to chi or ny, the problem is ny doesnt have enough and chi might not want to tinker with there future, the lakers are not going to win with the present roster unless they could get jermaine o neal from pacers. he provides scoring and rebounding that kwame and lamar cant to me garnett is like kobe he a 6'11 2 guard he is not the answer like oneal is to me anyway the lakers need to see what they going to do.

At Wednesday, June 20, 2007 12:49:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


You make a very compelling argument that Kobe's public "trade me" stance is more helpful to the Lakers than if he simply kept his mouth shut and then left when his option comes up. I can't recall anyone else pointing this out.

It's hard to really know what to make of all of this until everything shakes out and Kobe is either dealt or not. That is why I have not written much about this subject, other than responding to items in the comments sections. I'm not real impressed by the reporting that has been done on this issue by the mainstream media and I prefer to not write about things that are just speculation. If Kobe is traded, that is certainly news--potentially blockbuster NBA news, depending on the particulars of the deal--and I certainly will have a lot to say about that.

The whole thing about should he have gone public or shouldn't he have gone public is, from my perspective, pointless at this stage. None of us knows if Kobe tried to handle this behind the scenes and was totally rebuffed. Sometimes it takes awhile for all of the facts to come out and it does not interest me to comment obsessively on every public statement about Kobe being traded prior to him actually in fact being traded. Barry has a point that, on the surface, it would seem that handling things privately would be better--but Barry, with his history, is the last guy who could possibly say such a thing with a straight face. Fortunately for him, the two "Mikes" are too young and/or too ill informed about Barry's career to ask the logical follow up question.


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