Kobe: Doing What He’s Supposed To

Kurt —  March 26, 2007

What struck me as odd on Monday, in the wake of Kobe only being able to muster 43 points while being triple teamed and denied the ball, was the debate in some of the media about whether Kobe’s streak was good for the team.

The argument goes like this: Kobe has been shooting and not been getting his teammates involved, not doing the things that made the Lakers a dangerous team early in the season. He has stifled team play and growth, things that will come back to haunt the Lakers as the playoffs roll around.

My reaction — are you kidding me? The streak was not going to last forever, everyone knew that, but what it did was jumpstart a moribund team.

Let’s start with the very basic bottom line — the Lakers had lost seven in a row before the streak and had played like crap for a month. Now, they have won five in a row, solidifying a playoff spot just a week after people were whispering that the team would drop out of the postseason all together.

And what about those “other players” who have been left out in the cold. Since he came back from injury (six games ago), Lamar Odom has shot 58% from the floor and averaged 16.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, including 24 and 19 against Golden State. Luke Walton came back five games ago (timed with the winning streak — coincidence?) and is shooting 50% (eFG%) while averaging 9.4 points, 7.4 assists and 5.6 rebounds a game. They are doing just fine with Kobe scoring a ton, thank you.

Then there are the other guys getting room to step up as Kobe has drawn the double and triple teams. Shammond Williams is coming off the bench, shooting 53.8% from beyond the arc and taking care of the ball, which is why he and not Smush closed out the game against Golden State. Ronny Turiaf had 7 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks in the fourth quarter against Golden State off the bench. Against the Nooch, Kwame Brown stepped up with 10 points on 5-7 shooting. Each of the last five games has other examples.

Kobe’s points have come at the expense of some — like the slumping Smush Parker (shooting just 45% [eFG%] and 23% from three in his last 10 games) and the injured Brian Cook. But is it really bad when you best shooter takes shots that would have gone to slumping or injured players?

The bottom line is this team needed someone to take over and get them winning again, and Kobe has done that. He’s done that in spite of the team playing some of its worst defense of the year. He’s done it without passing much but now his teammates have started to respond and step up to help him.

He’s brought the team back to doing what it did early in the season, when the offense was so good it won in spite of the weak defense. With some confidence building, players getting healthy, normal player rotations returning and the energy of a playoff drive building, maybe the defense will start to come around. Maybe not. And if not it is that long-porous defense that will stymie the team come playoff time, not the fact Kobe went on a scoring binge.

What Kobe did was get his team back on a winning track. And that’s what you ask a superstar to do.

Kurt

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26 responses to Kobe: Doing What He’s Supposed To

  1. five man taichi March 26, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    Hollinger’s Rankings make me crazy. http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/powerranking
    So, the Lakers have gone on an absolute tear recently, and their Hollinger Ranking has dropped to 17th, behind the Warriors, Kings, Clippers, and even the Magic. Methinks it’s time to tweak your formula a bit. At least on the old fashioned power rankings on Espn.com, they are ninth.
    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/powerranking?season=2007&week=21

  2. Completley agree Kurt, the season was slipping away, now there is excitment and optimism, all because of Kobe

  3. Yes. Indeed. Hard to believe it even needed to be said, given the evidence of our eyes, but apparently it did, and thank you for saying it.

  4. There will be always be haters..

  5. Mannie Jenkins March 26, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    I agree to a point. I don’t think Kobe’s scoring binge has hurt the team, but it has definitely continued to hide glaring problems. Our defense has to be the worst its been all year the last 10 games or so. there is simply no way we’ll come close to taking a single game in the playoffs playing the way we’ve been on that end.

    Also, despite some good plays by guys at the ends of the last two games, our offense hasn’t looked crisp. I’m not an expert but our spacing looked poor. Kobe would be double or triple teamed, but we still had issues passing to the open men. Often resulting in turnovers last night. Maybe part of that has to do with Vlade and Cook (ostensibly our two best outside shooters) going out at the same time Smush, Odom and Walton have fallen way off their own production from outside, but the point is, when Kobe isn’t diminating the offense it doesn’t look that good. Especially when he’s out of the game altogther.

    The defense had a lot to do with it, but yesterday and Friday it was a lot clearer to me that Kobe’s getting worn out with the extra production. We can’t ride him for another month like this, but I haven’t seen the signs that we’re ready to go back to normal for more than a quarter or two during this stretch.

    To put it more concisely: I think what Kobe’s done (and Lamar and Walton with their injuries) has been heroic, but I’m still far from optimistic.

  6. Off-topic aside to kwame a.:

    I got confirmation that your alma mater has slowed its coaching search to wait for UCLA assistant Kerry Keating to be available. (By the way, got told that from someone I trust while at the Dirtbags/Fullerton game Saturday night at Blair Field.) The concern is that Santa Clara and some other schools may also be interested and Long Beach would have a hard time winning a bidding war. (Reynolds made $185K last year and Long Beach can’t really go a lot higher than that, so it would be a pay cut for many top college assistants.)

  7. Yeah, Kobe’s play is bad for the Lakers. They’re only on their first 5-game winning streak all season and over those 5 games averaging 26 assists per game (better than Phoenix’s season average), 45.2 rebounds per game (better than the season average for the league’s best rebounding team, Chicago), and shooting 51.9% from the field (55.8% for Kobe, 49.2% for the rest). Clearly Kobe’s ballhogging is making the players around him worse.

  8. Thanks for the update Kurt. I hope Cameron Dollar gets the gig, even if its for a lower salary, I’m sure he can build his resume and eventually get paid.

  9. Things people are completely missing from what Kobe is doing.

    1) Double and triple teams allow our bigs to position for rebounds and slow down fast breaks.

    2) As Kurt pointed out, Lamar and Luke are shooting at fairly high percentages, and I’m sure Cook and Vlad would be loving taking wide open threes.

  10. The 5-game streak means they have squeeked by 5 non-playoff teams. I wouldn’t call it a track.

    Its not that his play is hurting the team’s record (but is it really worth crowing about eeking it out against Memphis or Portland?), its the implications for the quality of the team overall. We know Kobe “bought-in” to the triangle going into the Phoenix series last year and then threw a tantrum in the second half of game 7. (Can we kill the “Kobe can win a playoff series all by himself” noise until he actually does it? I wasn’t that impressed with his recent work vs Detroit and his fold vs Phoenix.)

    What does this reversion to last season’s record-breaking ballhoggery mean for the long term? Is it an indication that the early season play was a fluke (I think I convincingly showed that it was thanks to some very friendly officiating which has since dried up and look what happens…) and this team is actually just as poor as last year and the year before? Is it the latest incarnation of Kobe’s emotional elbow flailing? If you can’t elbow dudes in the face, jack that usage up to the 30’s.

    One thing’s for sure, the defense is atrocious.

    If Hollinger’s rankings makes one crazy, one should definitely get on some meds. They are as cold, calculating and unbiased as they come. In fact, there is every reason to believe he doesn’t even look at them. Beating one of the worst teams in the league by 2 doesn’t impress the machine. Beating Utah by 30 without a proper PG, however, should and does.

  11. Terrific points Kurt. Perhaps Kobe’s critics believe that Kwame taking more shots would be better for the team.

  12. No one believes that Kobe can produce at this level for the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs. However, he may have helped “jump start” the team into life. Lamar and Luke had some decent games during the last five (I think Luke had one off night). But they had recently arrived back from injury. What Kobe did was buy those guys some time to get back in the groove. Kwame too for that matter. He’s missed many games and still isn’t quite back to November/December form.

    Hopefully now the team can run the triangle as before. Well, not quite like before. Guys are still playing banged up and momentum was lost in Jan/Feb. But the Lakers just had a bit of momentum injected into the team.

    I don’t have all the game tapes, nor the time to rewatch the season’s early contests. But the numbers state the Lakers were average on defense in the first month and a half of the year. Before the injuries. Coincidentally when the offense was running its best. I believe Kurt has said it before, but it seems to be true: If the triangle offense is cooking, it puts the players in better situations defensively after the score. I’m still reading “The Triple-Post Offense”, so I won’t go into why now. As a matter of fact, if anyone here has a good explanation I’d love to hear it.

  13. (1) Hollinger’s rankings theavily weight the strength of schedule of the last 25% of games, the record of the last 25%, and the point differential of those games. This means that as we have played 70 games we are taking into account basically the last 18 games. If you remember in the 13 games before the 5 game win streak we were getting blown out , and had two atrocious losing streaks. This will factor much more heavily than the first part of the season when the lakers rocked.

    25% of 70 = 17.5 call it 18. The Lakers games before the streak, the number is the margin of win or loss:
    DEN L -27
    DAL L -36
    PHI L -16
    MIL L -20
    MIN L -10
    PHO L -5
    SAC L 1-2
    UTA W 6
    GS W 17
    BOS W 26
    POR L -4
    CLE L -6
    NY L -1

    Absolutely terrible, and as John R pointed out our schedule lately has been full of what should be cupcakes for playoff bound teams, so winning by an average of less than 5 has not helped the ranking at all.

  14. Mannie Jenkins March 26, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    I would ove to be able to be able to cast doubt on Hollinger’s rankings, and I think what Ian says is a good point- Hollinger weighs the last 25% heavier, not the last five games, as we’d like. But even then strength of schedule and a small + margin wouldn’t help that much.

    But where I really started buying into point differential as a predictor was about at the 41 game mark. We were around 10 games over .500 and feeling great, but our point differential wasn’t good. I started feeling edgy and sure enough we soon dropped 13 of 16 games. Yeah, injuries played into that, but we’d been injured before that too. It just shows that when your point differential is low, you have very small margin for error.

    Bottom line is, we can prove Hollinger’s equation wrong by playing better and beating bad teams by greater margins. Though ultimately that’d just prove him right…

  15. i think it’s insane that people think Kobe’s scoring is bad for a team. he’s doing what he’s asked to by his coach (who probably knows the game a bit better than everyone else here complaining), his teammates are awed (again, guys who probably have a better idea of what makes their ‘team’ better), and obviously his team is winning (even I can see that).

    now, ultimately, a great team is a team where different people can step up to shoulder the scoring load, but we’re talking about the Lakers here, not the Suns. We have Kwame instead of Amare, and Smush instead of Nash. besides Kobe has been shooting above or near 50% in all those games… how can you fault him?

    sure you can argue that passing out of a double team to an open man is the wiser thing to do, but it’s easier said than done. try passing out of a double team, your chances of turning the ball over is fairly high, and for Kobe, taking the shot becomes a better option.

  16. I disagree with that conspiracy theory nonsense about the Lakers recieving beneficial calls as the reason for their early season success. The only reason the Lakers deviated from their early season success is injuries and an inability to beat Eastern Conference teams on the road.

  17. Another hater, another excuse for an article.

    Where do you get all these EFG% stats from, Kurt?

  18. We should all be able to agree that Kobe can get off shots without being set up–which allows him to take over games on the offensive side. Is Kobe to be punished for this special skill?

    Kobe’s a complete player, so he is difficult to predict. If Kobe wanted, he could make great contributions with his defense alone. He seems to make high percentage shots from almost anywhere on the court. He can drive; he can pass; he can set picks; he can make steals.

    How does that connect with traditional “team” basketball? If Kobe is allowed to show his unique skills, his team will not show typical balance. If he is forced into a completely traditional role, he’ll be just like all the other players.

    Let’s accept that one can’t compare Kobe to anyone, or expect him to play like everyone else, join the crowd, OOH and AAH, and be grateful he’s on our side.

  19. ca-born, eFG% is one I just tend to do as I go. The theory behind it that since a 3-point field goal counts for more on the scoreboard than a two-point shot (50% more), it should count for more in the field goal percentage. So let’s say player X hits 5 of 10 from the floor, but is 2 of 2 from three — 50% of the 2 is 1, so you’d basically divide 6 by 10, or 60%.

  20. I Think it’s easy. This month was a big oportunity the team to rise.
    Thanks for all Kobe

  21. I’ve always told my friends that I’d much rather have Kobe taking quality shots over ANYONE else on the team. Nobody else on the team is a “money” shooter.

  22. Let’s see…Kobe’s scoring is HIDING other weaknesses on the team…and this is supposed to be a criticism of his play???

    I thought good coaches and players were supposed to play in ways that hide their weaknesses. I thought that was one of the cardinal rules of coaching. Isn’t that why we are suggesting to Smush that he stay a step away from his man and not try for so many steals – to hide his weakness in lateral movement?

    Mannie, “I don’t think Kobe’s scoring binge has hurt the team, but it has definitely continued to hide glaring problems”; I don’t know your real motivation in saying this, but I suggest you rethink what you said. What came out contravenes sound b’ball strategy.

  23. Frankly Kobe had no choice but to score. With the injuries and 7 game losing streak and nobody but bench players trying to fill in what else did Phil have in his plans but to give Kobe the green light. When someone has proven that he can score 81 pts you have to use it. Nobody else has stepped up to take the responsibility of scoring until Lamar and Luke joined back with the team. But even with Kobe scoring all these points and people criticizing his play he still is a winner. You put all these young MVP candidates like D-Wade & Lebron on a team of all star caliber players and you end up with a bronze medal. What more do you need to know. They are all media hype players in the truest sense of the game . We all know Dallas should have won the finals last year if not for the refs bailing them out. But with all the hype going international and the team trying to make a stamp on the legitimacy of their games they couldn’t find a person who could shoulder the scoring load. So now who do they look to because the NBA’s representatives can’t even represent. It sets up a platform for Kobe to see if he truly can make everyone around him better. Talk about pressure. But when its all said and done and the US comes back with the gold I can just see the comments again about how Kobe lucked out because everyone else helped him due to their experience from the prior year’s loss. But they still can’t deal with the fact that his jersey is #1 and he is again the scoring champ for 2007.

  24. Whoa you guys have to check this out. Although I do love Kobe I still think he has a ways to go to dethrone the almighty Jordan.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=hill/070326&sportCat=nba

  25. Typically in triangle teams, you have the dominant player that, either through athleticism or shear size, scores a lot of points close to the basket. The other guys (hopefully good shooters) hang out and wait for open looks and drain the shot. In the case of these Lakers, our dominant player and our shooter are one in the same. Kobe, hands down has the best outside shot on the team. So good, that he draws doubles even on the perimeter. So, what should happen is that Lamars and the Smushes should be cutting toward the basket if Kobe draws a double on the perimeter. This would accomplish one of two things: pull the double off Kobe, or give the cutter high percentage shot close to the basket. I don’t see a lot of this. I also don’t see a lot of defense.

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