Preview & Chat: NOOCH

Kurt —  March 23, 2007

Kobe is amazing. Here’s the thing, while he’s scored 175 points in three games (which is just crazy) he’s doing it efficiently. He’s shooting 60.8% (eFG%), or if you just want to go old-school field goal percentage you still get 54%. He’s shooting 53.6% from three-point range.

It’s one thing to take a lot of shots, but to score this efficiently while taking on that much of the offense is all the more incredible.

Understanding Kobe’s drive. Roland Lazenby, from a perspective that only he can provide, talks about Kobe’s psychology:

His ambition has been blamed for wrecking a Lakers dynasty. He has battled himself, his teammates, his coaches, the game itself. He has done so fearlessly, relentlessly, with little sign of regret or doubt, only the dogged pursuit of his vision of what he is supposed to be.

There was no question that Bryant could on any given night be blinded by his own brilliance, just as his teammates could be mesmerized by it.

Soon many fans came to equate his every action with selfishness, so that no matter what he did, or how brilliantly he did it, his accomplishments were met with derision.
The realization of this first drove Bryant to despair; then it drove him to compromise.

I like to hammer Phil Jackson in this column, almost as much as I like to extol the virtues of Tex Winter. Both men deserve much credit for their work with Bryant. Winter guided and nurtured him through the harsh phases of his career.

And after being Bryant’s uncommunicative enemy for several seasons, Jackson has become his ally, the man responsible for guiding him toward a team mind-set.

Often Jackson and Winter have differed in their opinions on how to handle Bryant. Now, though, they seem to agree that the Lakers absolutely need Bryant and the full firepower of his arsenal to push the team out of its doldrums and back on track toward the playoffs.

As a result, Bryant is now realizing his vision of 50-point games, of dominating, of “being the man.”

The latest elbow. You can see the video here. To me, Jones is running at Kobe, who puts his arm up to create a little space and inadvertently caught him in the face. I can see calling the foul there, although Jones embellished to draw the foul, but it’s not a suspendable act. Or you wouldn’t think so.

An item for us stats guys. If you stat friendly types have not been following the most recent thread of discussion on Dave Barri’s work over at APBR, you should be. Non-stat types, Henry at True Hoop did a quality wrap up.

I do not believe there is a “holy grail” stat out there that can summarize a player. I use Hollinger’s PER, but to me it is a snapshot stat, one that gives you the big picture. The real info is in the details.

The value of an assist. In the comments a few posts back, Ian started a little talk about the value of an assist, with of course Nash taking center stage. But as I said there, sometimes people ignore there are two parts to the assist — the pass and the guy who made the shot.

What would happen if you took Steve Nash and put him on New Orleans? The only two guys on the Hornets who play significant minutes and shoot over 50% (eFG%) are Peja and Tyson Chandler. And you don’t want Chandler to shoot a lot. (Compare that to the Lakers, where 8 guys are over 50% and Odom is at 49.5%.) While Chris Paul is no Nash, our Canadian friend’s assist total would drop if he needed David West and Desmond Mason to drain shots and not Stoudemire, Marion and Bell. Chirs Paul gets a lot of assists but he’d get a lot more if he had guys around him who could finish.

The only two things to watch tonight:
1) Will Kobe continue on his torrid pace? (To answer a common question [via Skigi and old friend Dan Reines— and I mean OLD — in the comments] Wilt scored 50+ in 7 straight, then did 5 straight another time. He was a true man among boys.)

Will the Lakers play any defense? While the Lakers have won three straight it’s because the offense has bailed the defense out, or maybe it is more accurate to say Kobe has. Last time the Lakers played NOOCH they lost, giving up 113 points — and that was without Chris Paul in the lineup (David West had 26 and Rasual Butler had 20 and was 4 of 7 from beyond the arc). The Lakers need to play better than that, better than the last three games.