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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Kobe Bryant Literally Molded This Lakers' Team in his Hardworking Image

People often speak of someone "making his teammates better" but it is not clear what this actually means or how one would go about doing this in the first place. I have declared that instead of that vague phrase I prefer to say, "Great players create openings and opportunities for their lesser talented teammates to do what they do well." However, an excellent article by Kevin Ding discusses how Bryant literally made his teammates better by coaching them and even sharing with them detailed workout programs/practice regimens. Ding's article is not about Bryant drawing double teams and creating shot opportunities, though Bryant obviously does that on a regular basis; Ding reports that Trevor Ariza traces his dramatic improvement as a three point shooter directly to Bryant giving him a specific summer shooting program that Ariza treasured so much that he compared it to the Bible. Ariza told Ding, "Getting that from him? Kind of cool, kind of cool. Because before I got here, you always hear how he's this certain type of person. And when I got here, you realize he's not what everybody says he is. I just got in the gym every day and worked. I used what he told me, used some things that he gave me to do. And I just worked." Ding rightly notes that although Bryant has evolved and grown as a leader that it is "simplistic to say this is about trusting teammates. What must happen is ensuring your teammates are trustworthy."

Regular 20 Second Timeout readers may recall that I reported a similar story about Bryant regarding Andrew Bynum in the wake of a Lakers victory over the Pacers. Prior to that game, Bryant schooled Bynum about Jermaine O'Neal's pet moves and Bynum responded by blocking two of O'Neal's shots:

Basketball Clinic: Kobe Mentors Bynum, Lakers School Pacers

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:55 AM



At Tuesday, June 16, 2009 2:43:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


"One culprit behind the great macro-flub: the “Control Illusion,” in which economists are blinkered by overconfidence in computer models just because they, as Levitt recently wrote, “solve a problem that is really, really hard mathematically.” "

Sound familiar?

At Tuesday, June 16, 2009 5:20:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Free Cash Flow:

Yes, that sounds very familiar. In fact, I did a post on March 5 about "black swans" and the limitations of quantitative analysis.

Despite all of their pretensions, economists are not scientists--and many of the "stat gurus" are economists by training, so it is hardly surprising that their basketball-related work is so deeply and fundamentally flawed.

Just to clear, as I have mentioned before there are some stat gurus like Dan Rosenbaum and Dean Oliver who fully understand the limitations of basketball statistical analysis and don't pretend that they have all the answers--but too often they get shouted down by guys like Berri and you can blame people like ESPN's Henry Abbott for that: Abbott so relentlessly hypes up Berri's work while being blind to its flaws that you almost think that Berri is paying Abbott under the table, because Berri has certainly received thousands--if not hundreds of thousands--of dollars worth of free publicity from Abbott, who rarely if ever mentions that even in the "stat guru" community Berri is not considered to be authoritative.

At Tuesday, June 16, 2009 6:01:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

They aren't even modeling the correct variables! And if they did, they would see what a complex web of interactions is involved in winning basketball.

At Tuesday, June 16, 2009 6:27:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Free Cash Flow:

As I discussed with Orlando Magic Senior Vice President Pat Williams--who has great first hand knowledge of both sports--baseball consists of discrete actions and is a stop/start game, while basketball is a free flowing game involving, as you said, a "complex web of interactions."

At Tuesday, June 16, 2009 7:17:00 PM, Anonymous Joel said...

Always good to see someone actually provide an example of a player's leadership, instead of simply spouting cliches for the sake of it.

Of course, Ariza (and Shannon Brown) are just the latest in a long line of players who have improved while playing alongside Kobe, despite the fact he apparently only learned to 'make his teammates better' about 18 months ago. Pau Gasol sure as hell wasn't being called a top 10-15 player even during his days as a one-time All-Star in Memphis.

At Tuesday, June 16, 2009 8:42:00 PM, Anonymous Jack B said...


Does Bill Simmons have any knowledge on the Lakers or is he just trying to gain more page hits by writing ridiculous columns? He wrote a column about how Kobe's relationship with his teammates is kinda like an arrangement. He also said that the celebration between him and his teammates seems coordinated and not genuine.
He said that Phil Jackson secretly doesnt like KObe. And only came back with the lakers because he wanted to win a 10th ring.

At Tuesday, June 16, 2009 10:37:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I made this point years ago when Kobe carried a team to the playoffs with Smush as the starting pg and Kwame as the starting center. Kobe obviously "makes his teammates" better and he has done so for years in multiple ways, including by drawing doubling teams to create open shots and by setting a tremendous example with his work ethic, focus and dedication.

At Tuesday, June 16, 2009 10:40:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jack B:

As I have said repeatedly, Simmons has no special insight about the Lakers or the NBA in general. He is a humor/entertainment columnist and, while some of his work is indeed humorous/entertaining he is hardly a basketball expert. Simmons is also, by his own admission, a huge fan of Boston sports, so it is no surprise that he regularly trashes any city/team that is a rival to Boston.

At Thursday, June 18, 2009 4:22:00 PM, Anonymous Jack B said...

I stumbled upon the chat today with John Hollinger, your neighborhood stat geek. read this:
Phil (Toronto)

How is the draft rater at picking busts? DeMar DeRozan is projected to go top 10 but you had him 54th. I know from the article that the Rater has picked some sleepers but there was little evidence regarding busts.
John Hollinger

Rater did a fantastic job picking busts until last year. ("bust" being defined as somebody chosen among the first ten collegians that the Rater had well down the list). The only bad miss in the first six years was Charlie V. But last year it didn't like Randolph, Mayo or Gordon. Gordon's stats were ruined by the thumb so I can excuse that one a little, but the other two were plain misses.
Notice how he said that the Draft Rater's wrongly labeling Mayo, Gordon and randolph as bust were misses instead of admitting that the draft rater might be faulty??? Of course he wont say that because its a system he created.


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