Ugh. (And not just the Lakers)

Kurt —  March 2, 2006

I’m not going to talk about it, no need to rehash the ugliness. The late runs should never have had to happen, and they spent so much energy fighting back they couldn’t get over the hump. (By the way, look at the game flow and see that the Lakers fourth-quarter run ends when Kwame gets inserted for 16 seconds.) That game makes us 1-2 this season against the worst team in the league (by my rankings) but they’ve actually split two games against Dallas. Of course, they’re motivated to play Dallas.

The “easy” 10 games where I said the Lakers needed to go 7-3, they are 4-5.

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Instead of the ugliness, I want to talk about a sentiment I heard and read a couple places yesterday, but I’ll use Bill “Sports Guy” Simmons as the example, specifically his piece about the upcoming World Championship and Olympic basketball teams. I think he mostly hits the problems and solutions on the head, but adds an easy but costly mistake.

No, this isn’t about him leaving Kobe off of his final 12. Although I will say this as a regular reader and fan of his: It’s clear he just doesn’t like Kobe. That’s fine. But just come out and say that’s why you’re leaving him off the Olympic team, rather than coming up with a convoluted reason that doesn’t really hold water. Kobe’s rusty at playing “real team” basketball, and you base this on what happens at an All-Star game? Just own up to your biases.

My bigger issue was his and others suggestion of having Shaq on the team. If this were the pre-2000 Shaq I’d be all for it — that was an athletic big man who could run the floor and dominate inside. The current version of Shaq is exactly the kind of player we keep sending to the Olympics that is poorly suited to the international game. International ball, with its trapezoid key, is a poor fit for classic low-post players. Look at Ben Wallace.

One of the big problems with the last Olympic squad was Larry Brown’s insistence at running the offense through Tim Duncan in the post. Great idea in the NBA, but with the shorter three-point shot and the wider lane the international game is better suited to motion-style, flash-in-the-lane offenses. Shaq can’t shoot from the outside and is not going to deal well in a motion offense. I’d say defensively he could be an intimidator inside, but what happens when his man starts going out and dropping threes? International centers do that all the time (they’re poor man’s Nowitzki’s).

Plus, look at Shaq’s conditioning and health now. How is he going to be in two years? Amare, even Brad Miller (with a good outside shot) are better fits inside for Beijing than Shaq right now. Shaq is still a great player, but he should not be on the Olympics squad.

Kurt

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8 responses to Ugh. (And not just the Lakers)

  1. “Just own up to your biases.”

    Hmmm… the only bias I’m picking up is a strong pro-Kobe bias coming from a Lakers fan board. Criticism of our star player can’t be fair-minded, it must be complete nonsense fueled by hatred and loathing.

    Simmons’ comments weren’t unreasonable — even if you disagree with them. Let’s take a second look:

    “1. Kobe: Too much baggage, too much of a walking soap opera, spent too much time in a situation where he was the only viable scoring option. Even in something as dumb as the All-Star Game last month, you could see his rust in terms of playing team basketball; these last two Shaq-less seasons have been more damaging to him than anyone wants to admit. Plus, if he’s on the team, you have to play him. And I don’t think you need him — not when you have Wade, Redd, LeBron and Pierce.”

    I’ll also note that this comment came under a section titled “Toughest Omissions”. And Kobe was the first listing. That’s hardly the expected method of a Kobe-hater. (Compare this with his comments about Marbury.)

    He just prefers four other all-star swingmen on the Olympic team for chemistry issues. But there’s no way that can be a reasonably held opinion. It must be driven by bias.

  2. You come to a Laker blog and expect it not to be pro-Kobe? That said, I think my logic is solid. Four responses Andrew:

    1) You ignore the paragraph after the one you quote. It discusses how Shaq would not play on the team if Kobe was on it and it would be better to have Shaq — which is the point of my post. Simmons said he would rather have Shaq and Pierce than Kobe and Amare — that would be a very poor trade for the international game.

    2) Kobe’s baggage is a thing of the past for players,even Shaq to a degree, but not the media because it makes an easy angle. Kobe’s work ethic is needed on a team like this that is slapped together, he would be far from a chemisty problem.

    3) Josh Howard over Kobe? Really? Kobe is an equally good defender and a far more dangerous offensive player. I could question going with Pierce ove Kobe as well, but he’s a Boston guy and PP has played well this season and for some time now, he deserves the shot.

    4) I base my comments on Simmons not liking Kobe over his body of work, not that paragraph.

  3. Put Lebron or Wade in a starting lineup of Smush, Odom, Kwame, and Mihm and see if they do any better. Shall we say New York Knicks. Even Jordan had a legitimate second option. Yes, Jordan made his teammates better. And, certainly Jordan made Piippen better. But, Pippen was a pretty damn good player to begin with. Made smart decisions and had a winning killer instinct. I would argue that a Jordanless Pippen is better than Odom, even if he had the help of MJ. Odom is a fine a third option. Kobe has a hard time playing team basketball because he has no consistent scoring threat to dish the ball to. Look at the All Star as to how he set Tmac up.

    Further, in the Shaq years, you see Kobe deferring to and setting Shaq up pretty damn well. The problems arose when Shaq started to gain weight and lost a step defensively (how did Tony Parker get to whole so much in those series? Yes he beat Fisher off the dribble. But, in the day, Shaq would have plugged the whole in heartbeat with getting a foul called on him.) In this case, it was the job for Shaq to play second violin to Kobe as he is pretty much doing for Wade, with a lot better supporting cast and deeper bench than the Lakers ever had, and they’re still not winning championships.

  4. I agree, Paul,

    And the Shaq and Penny Orlando Magic squad
    was dangerous, a photo-positive opposite
    to the talent-packed but careening Trailblazers
    of Rip City fame–

    and yet even they couldn’t get to the promised land
    because Shaq took his strength for granted
    and didn’t sharpen his skills.
    And this was when he could really move.

    Mental toughness, discipline is not easy to achieve
    ( even with miltary in your family )

    The possession where Luke and Lamar
    kept looking to pass and nearly ran the clock out
    is the latest in the long list of illustrations
    of self-checking that keeps the “potential” label
    pasted on these guys and the inconsistent play
    continues, and indeed, the energy to catch up
    is ultimately wasted and should have been spent
    coming out of the gate beginning each half.

    Man.

    Who’s “uncoachable”?

    – 5 -

  5. It would seem insane to me to keep the best basketball player in the world off of the national team if he wants to play. Kobe has to be on the team.

    I like the open invitation to Shaq. Imagine using him in prelims or qualifying or friendlies. Just putting him out there has to cause every other team to think twice about its plan. He shouldn’t really go however. The thought of a bunch of Euros running drills to TRY to prepare for a Shaq that isn’t coming makes me smile.

  6. Lots of good arguments. Shaq may be a bad fit for the international game. Kobe may not be as problematic as some suspect him to be.

    My intent wasn’t to argue these points either way. I was complaining about the effort to dismiss opposing viewpoints by claiming bias stemming from a personal dislike. I didn’t think that was fair, or helpful, and it demonstrated a runaway hypocritical bias itself.

    I thought Simmons comments were reasonable — though they may or may not be right. Basically, with lots of talented individuals to choose from, he chose the four that he thought would form the best team chemistry. And Kobe just missed the cut…. in his own words, one of the toughest omissions.

    If you think otherwise, then make your argument. But don’t fall into the common fan neurosis of dismissing unpleasant opinions by playing the “he’s just a hater” card.

  7. And I’ll just respond to a few other points:

    “You ignore the paragraph after the one you quote.”

    I thought the points you made about Shaq were great. But it wasn’t relevant to my argument, so I didn’t mention it. I was just focusing on that one paragraph of your original post.

    “Josh Howard over Kobe? Really? Kobe is an equally good defender and a far more dangerous offensive player.”

    You have to consider the role Simmons had in mind. He wasn’t talking about starters, he was talking about the 11th man. Someone who would be happy with little or no playing time.

    (As for defense, I’m not so sure. Kobe certainly has the ability, but he seems to take plays off, lose focus, and make bad gambles. But this is a whole other argument.)

    “I base my comments on Simmons not liking Kobe over his body of work, not that paragraph.”

    There’s an important distinction between not liking a certain aspect of a player’s game because you think it’s not effective, and not liking a player for reasons that have nothing to do with winning basketball games. The first is legitimate, the second is not.

    So, of course Simmons doesn’t see Kobe as the ultimate team player. You don’t need to read past articles to see that. But isn’t that a valid basketball opinion? In the same way that one might “not like” Walker because he misses lots of threes?

    But if you’re suggesting that he has something personal against Bryant that affects his judgement, I just don’t see it. It can’t simply be that he makes jokes about him, because that’s his job. He makes jokes about everyone.

  8. Simmons is not your typical “journalist”, so he can and does show bias. His tuff is about his opinion, so his opinion can and should be critiqued. This is not your typical conspiracy “everyone hates the Lakers” theory because he is an admitted Boston fan and thus he has an historical dislike for the Lakers. The body of his work bears this out.

    From Wikipedia.com:
    Simmons has earned a love/hate relationship with his readers, who often complain he writes far too often about Boston-related topics. A native Bostonian, Simmons is a passionate fan of the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots and Boston Celtics. He also passionately roots against certain teams, specifically the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Lakers. Having moved to Los Angeles at the end of 2002, he is currently a Los Angeles Clippers season ticket holder.