Two things of note I wanted to point you toward.
One is Roland Lazenbyâ€™s interview with Laker assistant coach and NBA player in the 80s and 90s Brian Shaw. Some very interesting stuff (as always from Roland):
â€œYou have someone like Kobe who is so competitive and so dominant,â€ Shaw observed. â€œWhen he senses that things arenâ€™t going right he does everything in his power to take over and try to right things. In the process sometimes, some of the other guys become an afterthought. So they struggle. Itâ€™s difficult for them to figure out how and when to fit in. When they are so young, itâ€™s difficult.â€
Lakers guru Tex Winter has often expressed admiration for Shaw as a young coach. What makes him so effective for these Lakers is that he remembers clearly those days as a young Celtic trying to find his way playing alongside a fierce competitive nature like Larry Bird.
Larry and Kobe?
â€œItâ€™s like comparing apples and apples,â€ Shaw says.
Thatâ€™s because Bryant and Bird share something special.
â€œWhen Larry would maybe miss a shot that would have won the game for us, or something like that, heâ€™d stay after and shoot,â€ Shaw recalled. â€œHeâ€™d be there first thing the next morning, shooting, working on his game at game speed. Kobe is the same way. He doesnâ€™t want to lose in any thing. Cards, whatever it is heâ€™s playing. Larry had it. Michael had it. Magic had it. All the great ones do. And Kobeâ€™s right there with him.â€
Dominique Wilkins once said of Bird: â€œLook in his eyes and you see a killer.â€
Shaw sees the same thing when he looks at Bryant. â€œBasically, Kobe is a killer,â€ he said. â€œI say that, meaning that heâ€™s not going to reach out and embrace you. Heâ€™s not going to respect you, if you arenâ€™t true to your craft and you donâ€™t show that killer instinct as well. To him itâ€™s a sign of weakness. As long as youâ€™re out there giving it your all, heâ€™ll respect you, because he is, heâ€™s giving it his all.â€
The other thing worth reading, particularly if you are a fan of the new breed of NBA statistics, is a piece by Kevin Pelton at Courtside Times.
For those out of the loop, in recent weeks there has been a debate about what is a better system for rating players â€” john Hollingerâ€™s Player Efficiency Ratings (EPR) or the Wins Produced system championed in the recent book Wages of Wins.
My question is, â€œWhatâ€™s the point?â€â€¦
Hollinger has said in the past that he intends PER as a jumping-off point to start a discussion about a player, as a summary of the other stats we track for players. Thatâ€™s difficult, however. Intellectual laziness makes it easy to look at Chuck Hayes posting a higher PER than Jason Kidd and say that implies Hayes is better than Kidd. In Basketball on Paper, Dean Oliver paraphrases Bill James to say, â€œReducing quality to one number has a tendency to end a discussion, rather than open up a world of insight.â€ I tend to agree.
Take a second and think about your favorite pieces of writing by Hollinger or Berri or any other APBRmetrically-inclined writer. Think about something that challenged your perceptions or made you think. Now think about this â€” did that writing center around a player rating? Iâ€™m willing to bet it didnâ€™t.
I use PER fairly often on this site, but I try to use it as a quick snapshot of a playerâ€™s offensive contributions, not as a definitive statement. When I see someone like Luke Walton, whose PER jumped from a 9th man level of 11.6 last season to the good starter level of 17.8 this season, it is a snapshot that makes me ask why.
Which is why I basically side with Pelton in this debate: Whatâ€™s the real point between Wins Produced or PER? The real interesting stuff is in the details.