Starting To Get Serious

Kurt —  March 3, 2008

The games are starting to take on a playoff feel — more physical, better defense, crowds more into it. The Lakers game yesterday against Dallas was like that — which is one reason it was a quality win. With the tightness of the West right now, I think we could see a lot more games like this before the playoffs roll around, and winning games like this gives the youngish and still meshing Lakers a lot of confidence.

One key thing I took away from the last couple of games— the Lakers need Bynum back to make a serious run at the title. I think we all knew that, but these games confirmed it. I love Pau Gasol. He has been everything we could have hoped for. But he is not a powerful physical presence in the paint, someone we can count on to bang away and get boards and play tough defense at the rim (or on the pick and roll). Yesterday Dampier was very physical with Gasol and it threw him off. Dampier led the Mavs in scoring midway through the third quarter and looked like a guy who deserved that fat contract.

Gasol made smart plays down the stretch defensively, but he can’t be expected to bang for 48. He can’t be expected to do it for what promises to be three tough playoff series in a row in the West (followed, ideally, by the finals).

We need Bynum back and healthy enough to be that guy. I’m not one of those terribly worried about how Gasol and Bynum will blend — I think their games will complement each other beautifully. Josh from RespectKobe.com sent me some thoughts along these lines the other day:

How will Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum mesh? Will they be able to play together? Everyone seems to be in wait-and-see mode, but I can answer that for you right now: It won’t be a problem. It will be perfect. It will be beautiful.

It seems to me that those questioning whether or not Bynum and Gasol can co-exist in the paint are making one key mistake: They’re judging a book by its cover. That book is Pau Gasol. He’s 7 feet tall and has often played at the center position, including during this first stint with the Lakers while Bynum is out. And therein lies the problem.

Because Pau Gasol is a 7-footer, the incorrect assumption that most people are making is that he prefers to operate under the basket, and that he doesn’t have the range to score outside the low post. After all, isn’t that true of most 7-foot tall centers? But Pau Gasol isn’t most 7-footers, and he’s not a center. Not only does he not have to operate in the low post to be effective — he actually prefers not to! He prefers to play off the elbows, and he’s much more comfortable facing the basket than he is with his back to it. He can shoot the jump hook with either hand, and he’s jot a good mi-range jumper. With all the attention Kobe and Bynum will draw, he’ll also get plenty of easy layups and dunks by cutting to the hoop.

The simple fact is that Gasol is not a center. He’s a power forward. He’s size leads people to assume he plays a center’s game, and the fact that he has filled in at that position has further reinforced this idea for many. But the reality is that Pau Gasol is a power forward — like any other, except taller — and if he were 6’10, we wouldn’t be talking about this.

Gasol’s game and Bynum’s will form concentric circles, with Bynum playing in the low post with his back to the basket and Gasol facing up on the elbows and baselines. And, as many have already pointed out, the passing ability of both big men, the attention that they will draw from Kobe (and vice versa), and the fact that neither demands the ball, can only make a good thing that much better.

We need a few games for that meshing to happen prior to the playoffs starting. But bottom line, we need Bynum back.

A few other thoughts:

• I said he had not been playing well, so let me say I loved the energy Luke Walton brought to the game yesterday. He was diving, hustling, scrapping. If he can play like that coming off the bench (when Radmanovic then Bynum return) it will be a huge boost for the Lakers.

• Kidd played better in the Mavs system than I expected, because they are running better and more than I expected. I knew Kidd could run the break, but as Bill Simmons said the question was who would run with him. So far, not bad, Terry and Stackhouse are doing well in that role. Still not sure Kidd was worth Harris and two first round picks (meaning the future), but he played well.

• Late in the fourth quarter, the Mavs had to put Stackhouse and Kidd on Kobe in isolation — that is going to come back to haunt them, and not just against the Lakers. Those are not great defenders in space (in Kidd’s case anymore, he used to be) and if that is what they’ve got they will pay a price late in games in the playoffs.

• Yes, you have to foul late in the game and up by three. Jackson said he feared the four-point play or giving up three free throws. If you do it right that is not an issue — foul the guy who gets the inbound pass instantly. Even if the guy is shooting the three, unless it is Steve Nash the chances of hitting three straight free throws are less than hitting an in-rhythm three. Hope that was a lesson learned.

• Yes, Kobe may have vaulted himself into the lead in the MVP race. Horses often change position down the stretch, but Kobe has the lead and maybe a clear run to the trophy. As I said before, I think he gets the “body of work” vote this year as well (LeBron will have more chances, some voters will think).

Kurt

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98 responses to Starting To Get Serious

  1. Another question that I didn’t put in the post: Did the Rockets win over the Nuggets say more about Houston or Denver?

  2. As a fan I love it, but I’m torn between the idea that all that these play-off-level games in the regular season are good for the team because they give us experience (which we need) or bad for the team because it will wear us down (especially Kobe). The Lakers really need to learn to execute in the final minute of close games, so the experience is probably worth it.

  3. If you’re up by three with 6 seconds to go and the opposing team inbounds the ball to someone inside the 3 point line with his back to the basket, then you foul every single time.

    I am not one to criticize Phil, who I think is one of the greatest coaches ever, but I think his no fouls whatsoever policy when leading is flat-out wrong. It cost against Phoenix two years ago when LO did not immediately foul Marion after he rebounded Nash’s miss (leading to Tim Thomas’ open 3) and it nearly cost us last night.

    I think Kobe won the MVP when he elected to forgo surgery. The difference between his choice and LeBron’s choice to sit out with a much more minor finger injury defines the difference between the two players, atm.

  4. Kurt, I think it says more about Denver. That’s a squad that has “one and done” written all over it.

  5. Actually, since they’re #9 in the West at the moment, it may well just be “done”.

  6. well…getting settled in here at the new job…and it rules…here is a view outside my office…

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3247/2291705246_52017d6b64.jpg

    What has impressed me is the Lakers looked not so good in both games (Portland and Dallas) this weekend and they still kept playing…and playing hard. This is different than the last few years….they palyed hard till the end….even when they are not feeling it (note: Kobe always seems to “feel it”). You know what I am saying here? The guys kept energy up and hustle and everything and tried to win the games they were in and not just surrender and half-ass it.

    This more than anything has impressed me this season.

    And…that 24 guy is pretty good I think….

  7. I’ve been all over Walton this year too (rightfully so), but the last two games have been his best. This is as good a time as any for him to start playing well. I think a couple days off will be great for Fish.

  8. - def. says more about Denver. Should be “Enver.”

    – so hopefully everyone read Kurt’s post and comes to grip with this fact: Pau is a natural 4 plugging in at the 5 till Bynum gets back. Yes, he could be a better rebounder. Yes he could be a lot tougher. But let’s please wait and see how he does at his natural position for a few games before we decide to knitpick his effect on the team.

    – also, as Kurt noted, lets come to grip with the fact that yes, we need Bynum back to win a title. No one can convince me otherwise. I think the main reason there has been so much optimism around here lately is because we have been playing so well WITHOUT Bynum. We can only get better. There’s still a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. We should be happy with the way the team is scrappping for those boards right now.

  9. Most of us seem to forget that we traded for Gasol to play power forward, not center. We weren’t going to give up Crit and our $9M chip for a temporary solution at the center position.

    Gasol has been very good at filling in – as he did in Memphis – but my opinion is that both he and the Laker office can’t wait until he gets to play his natural position. He has brought things to our team that we needed from the power forward (say Lamar here), but he has not brought things we needed from a center. We are good because Lamar is so versatile and we have Kobe – not because Pau is such a great fit at center.

  10. Although I agree with Josh’s overall assessment that Gasol will fit quite nicely with Bynum, I think its hard for people to grasp b/c not only is Gasol not a natural Center, but he’s also not a natural PF.

    Obviously, as a center he has his deficiencies like everyone has mentioned (weak, no defensive or rebounding presence). But he’s also not your prototypical ELITE PF either.

    In my estimation, he’s kind of a tweener. Sure, he likes to play the elbows and pick/roll/pop, but he doesn’t have the game like a traditional ELITE power forward (ala Rasheed, Duncan, KG, Bosh, Amare, etc.). Even Dirk isn’t your traditional PF, but he compensates for it by having ridiculous range (but he can’t bang).

    All those other guys can shoot well from distance (by that I mean at least 12-15 feet out……I think Gasol’s range is about 10-12ft), can shoot turnaround/fadeaway shots (like Rasheed/Duncan), and at times pound it in (Gasol can do that, he’s just mediocre and relies on his jump hook). . Against lesser opponents Gasol does well regardless if he plays as a PF or C only b/c…well…. their lesser opponents!

    But I’d be curious to see what Gasol’s stats will be like when he is moved to the PF position and play the elite PFs. Especially in the playoffs when he have to deal with the Dirks, Duncans, Amares, etc. I mean, how well will he do guarding the Dirk, Amare, Duncan, KG, Rasheed? Or will the Lakers use LO to double and have Bynum on the weak side for help? Will that leave someone open for a 3? Thus, I wouldn’t say he’s the perfect PF for us. But he may be turned out to be the perfect “fit” only b/c those other guys (LO, Bynum, Ariza, Kobe) can makeup for his defensive deficiencies. Having said that, can you imagine if we had a true natural PF on our team (i.e. Rasheed + Bynum, Duncan + Bynum, Elton Brand + Bynum)? That would be sick!

    Be that as it may, let me reiterate that I still think Gasol/Bynum tandom will work not b/c he’s a natural PF………..but b/c of our system and our surrounding players.

    Either way, it makes for a great coaching chess game and an exciting playoffs!

    NBA……..it’s faaaaaantastic!

  11. Everyone seems overly concerned with picking apart the perceived holes in Pau’s game. I’m not worried at all in the long term – I think he’s going to mesh very, very well with Andrew – and in the short term, at the center position, he’s doing exactly what the Lakers hoped for.

    The trade was made, in part, to make sure the team could keep winning games while Bynum was out. Last I checked, that was working out pretty well. (With the help of Kobe’s MVP gear kicking in, naturally.)

    Does anyone think the Lakers would have won 13 of the last 15 with Kwame still starting at the 5? Can you imagine how impatiently the hordes would be clamoring for Andrew to get out of the pool?

  12. I think it’s hard to remember what things were like after a few games without Bynum but before we got Gasol. When we started our dreaded road-trip it seemed, suddenly, nightmarishly, like we were going to start dropping games left and right and fully collapse in the second half. Then, boom! we got Gasol, and we were all ecstatic, but a lot of it had to do with the fact that we felt like, “Maybe with Gasol, we can keep our heads above water–perhaps even do a bit better than that–and that way when Bynum comes back will have a real shot at this.” Then, we started winning. And kept winning. And really, we haven’t really lost since then (2 losses ain’t bad).

    The point I think is that we’ve actually overperformed once Gasol added that jolt, and now we’re coming back to earth a bit (and still not really losing). I don’t think it’s anything to worry about, but as Kurt and others have mentioned, it just reinforces the fact–which we knew even when we got Gasol but seem to have forgotten–that we really do need Andrew to make a serious run. Gasol was never meant as a replacement. But what a complement he has been and will be.

  13. Here’s my counter-question: Are the Rockets for real?!

    I don’t think so, not in the playoffs, not without Yao.

    Imagine what it feels like to be Andrew, sitting at home, reading FB&G (hopefully!), and hearing that the Lakers’ playoff chances depend on you. What a vote of confidence — but also loads of pressure!

  14. the biggest advantage the lakers have when bynum comes back already exists……the triangle. given a rick adelman or popavich type system, i think they’d have a harder time assymilating when both are in the game. within the triangle, bynum goes to the strong side, pau on the weak-side and both can function seamlessly, because each side of the triangle plays to their offensive strengths. defensively, i believe bynum and pau will be formidable, with bynum providing a safety net/last line of defense. pau will make it so bynum can take a longer look at timing his entrance into the defensive scheme…….

  15. Heading to Lakers at Kings tomorrow. Any special requests?

    Will be wearing a Jordan Farmar jersey about 15 rows behind the Lakers bench.

  16. #8 – Nice one.

    And couldn’t Pau and Dirk both be characterized as “Euro PFs”?

    Who are these people supposedly getting impatient about Pau’s game and ignorant that he’s not a true center? Because I haven’t heard that from you guys, but obviously you’re responding to certain people here. I didn’t think anyone was under the illusion that Pau was going to play center permanently.

  17. Will Pau work well with Bynum? Of course, for all the reasons Josh pointed out in the post and what others have said and have been saying. Once Bynum comes back and gets into the swing of things again, there won’t be questions at PF or C. The question will be at SF. This is what I was trying to point out the other day in one of my posts. What will defenses do against a lineup of Fisher, Bryant, LO, Gasol, and Bynum? They’ll sag away and force Fish, Kobe, and unfortunately LO to score over the defense with 18+ feet jumpshots.

    That is what scares me. The five best players at there position out on the court all at the same time would create a weakness in our offense. To me that means we might have to sit one of our five best just so we can have the skillset on the court needed for the offense to run effectively. I don’t like the thought of sitting LO for Rad or the Machine, he’s too much better than them at rebounding, defending, and keeping the team engaged on offense, but he feels like the odd man out of the group. And if we wanted to keep defenses stretched out so Bynum and Gasol can be effective, I think we need a legitimate jumpshooter at the 3 (or 2 if Kobe’s playing the 3).

    But hopefully I’m wrong. Hopefully we can dissect defenese with Fish/Farmar, Kobe, LO, Gasol, and Bynum playing long stretches together.

  18. 15. Hey 81, now I’ll be looking out for you on the broadcast. Write up anything interesting you see in the comments (or to me in an email) and I’ll try to give them a little play.

  19. Hey Kurt,

    Love your site, first time posting here…

    The one thing I would say about Phil deciding not to foul…he said in the interview after the game that he told Lamar to foul if Dirk put the ball on the floor or if anyone received a pass inside the 3 point line to foul immediately. But otherwise to play solid D.

    I think Phil prefers not to foul by default because it says something to your team about confidence. They could be in the same position later in the season or the playoffs except leading by only 2, and then you need your team to play D. Better to have the experience, especially for a team that, because of youth and a short time as teammates, needs to learn how to play together in these situations. I wonder if he almost wants them to fail sometimes so he has film to show them: “See how we got beat there, we’ve got to be smarter.”

    The problem was Lamar should have been up in Dirk’s face on the inbounds pass, then even impeding his way to get the ball back, but Lamar SAGGED big time, then turned his head and tried to recover before getting picked off. Result: open 3.

    I love what Lamar brings in rebounding and 3rd option scoring, but he has mental lapses and problems with intensity in the toughest circumstances. Just a few seconds later he threw away the inbounds pass to J Kidd. Another mental cramp. Then later he missed 2 free throws to ice the game. Then he caught the Dirk airball and didn’t immediately give the ball to Sasha, one of our best free throw shooters. Finally he made 1 of 2.

    Phil continues to trust Lamar and give him critical duties because Phil believes this team cannot succeed without a confident Lamar. Phil is a teacher and knows the value of failing as a tool, so he let’s his players fail or succeed on their own merits. See his timeout policy for proof of this.

    Anyway, just my two cents. Obviously, Phil is doing a lot of things right to have the team performing this way.

    Again, great site!

  20. I have a confession. The last two lakers losses are not because they were second of back to backs on the road against young(energetic) energetic teams. Nope. Those are the ONLY two games I have missed so far this season. So I have to take the blame for it. Hawks game – DVR/Cox problem, Blazers game – went camping with buddies who are laker haters and wouldn’t let me listen to the game.

    With regards to the “Bynum and Gasol playing together debate” I think Bynum said best himself, he will get to play pitch and catch with Pau. It is a perfect high-low situation. I believe Paus rebounding numbers will go up since opponents will have to man up on both bigmen. If Tim Duncan plays the 4 we know where Pau goes. Even though Duncan will play the 4 when the center is 6′ 9.

    Quote of the game was from JVG “Eric Dampier is the Human Illegal Screen.” Even my buddy who is a Mavs fan 100% completely agreed. Good win against a good team. Next tough opponent won’t be for over a week. Time to take care of business again.

    Watching Kobe do his thing is a lot of fun.

  21. The MVP race has to be between CP3 and Kobe because, as ESPN pointed out this morning, LeBron’s Cavs wouldn’t make the playoffs if they played in the West.

  22. laughing hard March 3, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Kelly Dwyer on why Kobe should not be the MVP:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/nba_experts/post/Why-Kobe-Bryant-is-not-your-MVP;_ylt=ArCyLsATqVdVZES7_2rRJTK8vLYF?urn=nba,69681

    I don’t know if I agree with his definition of “most valuable player,” but an interesting read…

  23. This LIttle Pinky March 3, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    What is the status on Trevor Ariza’s broken foot?

  24. Agree with post 19 by drewpaukobe…

    Watch Kobe’s reaction after Dirk hit the 3 to send it to overtime – total frustration. I’m guessing after watching the tape he’s gonna talk to LO about it. If the Lakers had lost the game after that, no doubt Kobe would’ve been heated.

    Either way, it makes me wonder what happens behind the scenes: is Kobe gonna call out LO for his brainfarts ( a la Jordan)? Or maybe some constructive criticism? Or does he not approach him at all and leave it to Phil to handle the situation? Or does Phil let Kobe get first crack at the whip? Or do they just let Lamar slide? Or was it not that big of a deal and I’m looking into it way too much? Man, what I would do for a t.v. show on the post-game locker room and practice sessions between games…

  25. The discussion concerning the integration of Bynum too often focuses solely on his working with Pau. What also needs to be considered is that Kobe likes to occupy that high post position frequently. This means that when Bynum comes back and Kobe takes the post position, Pau will be pushed farther out onto the perimeter (assuming Bynum stays low opposite side), beyond his comfort zone. Lamar’s versatility as a power forward comfortable on the perimeter currently means Kobe posting up poses few problems for the movement of the offense. While Lamar’s three point shot is weak, his penetration and effective passing into the post area and to cutters makes him a dangerous perimeter player. If Pau gets pushed out to the perimeter with Kobe posting up, can he do the same? Or are we to assume that when Bynum returns to the lineup Kobe won’t be posting up nearly as frequently?

  26. drewpaukobe,
    The problem is that this is the 3rd year Phil has coached Lamar and Lamar’s basic confidence and habit patterns haven’t changed. My question is: When is Phil going to learn?

  27. While Pau is not a bona fide center, the reality is that he actually can play center pretty well. Like #10 said, he’s a “tweener”, much like Lamar is. But as I said in the previous post’s comments, the recent drop-off in Pau’s game is not because he can’t bang or whatever, but rather it’s because the Lakers’ shooters have been ice cold. When the Lakers go a combined 10-50 from three in the last two games, the defenses are gonna sag off the “shooters” and clog the lane instead. The Lakers need their 3-pt threats to actually be threatening or else the interior game is going to continue to stagnate as well.

    I feel like the shooting slump will probably end soon and things will go back to being productive like they were before; but to address Pau’s ability to play with Bynum (and Lamar’s ability to play with both), I think the fact that both Pau and Lamar are “tweeners” will help both players acclimate to their new positions quite well for one simple reason: Phil may use different rotations so that all 3 are not on the floor together for a lot of the time. If the 3 together aren’t meshing all that well, that’s easily fixed by just subbing one of them out for a bit and then inserting them as different pairs to give the other teams looks.

    For instance, if the three players start off and Lamar is getting eaten up on D by the SF he’s guarding, then sub him out for Ariza/Rad/Luke; then rotate Odom back in when Bynum or Pau comes out. Simple enough.

  28. I loved the game yesterday. I was living and dying that entire last 5 minutes of the fourth and the overtime.

    IMO, Kidd definitely makes the mavs better. I’ve seen two or three of their games lately and they are definitely getting some of their shots in close without having to go one on one. Josh howard’s game seems to have suffered a little bit. I’m sure he’ll pick it up again when he realizes that if he makes good cuts to the basket Kidd will find him. If nothing else, look at how many good looks dampier got directly from Kidd. He even got a sick alley oop.

    I think Nicholas makes a good point about Kobe occupying the post. I think if that happens, it won’t be a big deal. Ronny has the same distance problems and he finds ways to get along in the offense. I imagine Pau and Bynum can make more dives to the basket as Kobe draws the double team. Ronny, Lamar, and Radman have been doing this effectively the past month. Kobe in the low post is usually just a clear out anyway with the other players looking to find open space on the perimeter to hit a shot.

  29. Nicholas,
    I don’t think you have to worry about Kobe. He seems to be able to figure out exactly where the team needs him to play from minute to minute. If the low post is being adequately manned by Pau or Lamar around Bynum, then Kobe will move out and slash in only when the offensive motion allows it. If others are rebounding and dunking then Kobe would rather save his body. It is not only a winning technique, but it saves energy for defense.

  30. #’s 19 & 24:

    Even though Lamar sagged on the inbounds and took that false step towards the sideline, I actually think that play was Farmar’s fault. Farmar was denying ball reversal to Terry, playing on his inside shoulder. But by playing that inside position, he allowed himslef to be pushed into the area where Lamar got screened. Thus, Farmar, not only contributed to picking off Lamar, but he was out of position to switch to Dirk and contest the shot. I was most upset because, as alluded to by the announcers, this is a play that Phoenix runs every time they have a late game situation where they need a 3 pointer, and they have run it against us in the past. So, once that ball is inbounded, and the motion starts, the play must be recognized and the defense has to adjust.

    Now, was Kobe mad at Lamar? Maybe. Did Lamar mess up? Could be. But Farmar can’t allow himself to get caught up in the wash of that play…he needed to play an angle on Terry, preferably giving up the back door play and playing on the top side (this would maximize Farmar’s positioning on the play since Dallas needed a 3). So if Terry is going to walk over to where Kidd was and screen Lamar, Farmar can still deny Terry, but he would play on the topside of Terry and bother Dirk coming off that pick when Kidd passes the ball. Sorry if that is kinda tough to visualize (I see it in my head though). If I had a dry-erase board, I would draw it up.

  31. Well, UCSB Shaw, you better not slip up like that in the future.

    Is WildYams the same WildYams that I keep seeing .. everywhere?

  32. Renato Afonso March 3, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Why is everyone worrying about the starting lineup? Actually, the only reason to be worried is the fact that Phil sticks with his gameplan the whole game.

    Anyway, the 3-point depth in a lineup with LO, Pau and Bynum is not a problem. Would you let Kobe shot a free 3 pointer? Would you let Fish? Would you let any other Laker able to play the PG and SG, take a 3 pointer? The fact that we have many skilled players allows us not to be double-teamed as often, and therefore get shots from almost anywhere.

    Now, let’s, for arguments sake, say that LO and Pau are shooting threes from the corner because they are giving them the room… The triangle allows you to keep moving the ball and shoot the mid-ranger. I just hope that when time comes, LO will actually make a dribble and shoot 3-ft closer to the rim.

    Also, I just hope we adapt our team to the opposing team everytime, and keep changing lineups as much as possible, making the Lakers a harder team to read…

  33. Craig W #26,

    Can’t say I disagree…I think Pau could trigger inbounds plays (Phil prefers someone with length who can see over the defense) and could have been matched up with Dirk on the out of bounds…

    Darius #30,

    All of that is true, but why is Lamar not up in Dirk’s face, blocking his vision and then bumping him as soon as he steps onto the court, or at least shadowing him so he can’t be picked off. Dirk is their guy!!! Would anyone give Dallas an excuse for not covering Kobe like that on the out of bounds? Team defense may have had holes but this seemed like individual defense was the problem…

    Of course, I’m guessing the coaches didn’t tell Lamar to be right in Dirk’s face, so maybe it’s PJ’s fault?? I dunno…Seems like they thought Dirk was going to work the sideline (why else is Lamar giving so much room) except Dirk loves to shoot the three up top, even I know that and I don’t get paid by anyone! LOL

  34. I completely agree with Josh about Pau and Andrew. The problem will be with Lamar.

    Lamar has never had a natural position with the Lakers–certainly not at the 4. That’s why the Lakers have been looking to trade for a PF for some time. This year, his experience as a three did not work out very well.

    Lamar is happiest where he can be a ball handler. He’s not really happy in the front court. Maybe we could call him a “tweener 2.” He likes to rebound and bring up the ball a la Magic Johnson–but not always with Magic Johnson results.

    Lamar might work best as the unusual matchup–only occasionally playing on the front court. Lamar might even be the 2 with Kobe as the 3.

    Some of you seem to be unaware of Pau’s range. In practice recently, Pau hit 17 out of 20 three pointers. Pau self selects to focus on near range shots even though he can hit the three. Lamar self selects to focus on the three even though he can’t.

    The Lakers certainly intend Pau to be the permanent 4 with Andrew as the permanent 5. What is amazing is that with Pau’s unorthodox “sitting in” at the 5, with obvious exposed weaknesses, the Lakers have never been out of a game since he started playing–and lost only two.

    Not bad for such a “flawed” player.

  35. I really love this site, and for that reason I’d really hope people stop with the “flawed” player/indirect shot a person that Kurt has had post in his absence, and just gave his (valid) opinion. Nobody wants the Lakers to fail, nobody wants Pau to fail, and I hope we stop with the “flawed” crap, its not cool.

  36. As drrayeye says, the 4 & 5 are pretty set positions for the Lakers for the foreseeable future. It is the 2/3 that is the real variable on this team. Kobe can play either position and Lamar can play 2-3-4, depending on the matchups.

  37. The best thing about Bynum coming back is that the layup line against the Lakers’ D should come to an end pretty quick.

    81 Witness — How about a taking a sign that says “FB & G crew wants Kobe for MVP”, or something like that?

    UCSBShaw — We forgive you. Just don’t miss any playoff games.

    burningjoe — Wow, I feel bad for you having to look out the window at that every day. My condolences.

  38. Yeah, ask Chris Paul what he thinks about Bynum. Last time they played the Hornets he was sending everyone’s stuff back.

  39. If Bynum doesn’t come back until literally, say 5 games before playoff time, is anyone worried? Or do you think Bynum and Gasol can segue so well that they need only a few games to get used to each other? I believe they can work together and that if Gasol who’s never played triangle in his life can make it work as well as he has since he joined the team, then Bynum who’s been having it drilled into his head for three years and performing pretty amazingly for the start of this season can certainly adjust to this one new player. I also think Bynum is a much smarter kid than he’s given credit for and that he’s not at home sipping a beer and waiting for that knee to heal itself, he’s watching tapes and figuring exactly what it is he need’s to do when he comes back. I think he, with Laker’s coaching Staff, is realizing his importance to the grand plan of a title this year and working out the intricacies of his game plan via game tape (and watching the game courtside as i believe he does) so that when he comes back, the meshing period will be very short or barely even noticeable.

  40. kwame a., I’m with you. Not only can I physically not read the comment board on other sports sites, but I actually enjoy reading and being a part of this one. Kurt has often and rightly been credited with running a fantastic discussion of basketball, and that’s been because there’s a prevailing fun, intelligent atmosphere. Animosity, even if if disguised as jest, just brings the content level down and tension level up. We were never here to show each other up.

  41. There’s a poll on the Espn.com main page asking who the NBA MVP is. Right now Kobe has 45% of the vote, LeBron 26%, Chris Paul 16% and Garnett 13%.

    Better still, when you vote and the map pops up showing the vote geographically, Kobe wins 44 out of the 50 states.

  42. I also agree with DrewPauKobe about the fouling situation. Although he told the media what he wanted to do on that play, I still think their was something else to it. I also doubt what he said to the media because they have veteran guys on that last play and anyone of them could’ve fouled someone on the floor.

    Here is my repost from the la times blog:

    “A lot of people have been questioning the lack of foul before Dirk hit the 3 pointer to go to overtime. I think from Phil’s philosophy, you want your team to know they can stop the ball in tight situations. You want your team to trust their defense down the stretch. Fouling the other team basically is telling your team, your d ain’t good enough or that the coach does not trust your d. It might lose games, but in the long run, it will hopefully help your team gain confidence which will be more important than just one game.

    That’s the same kind of reasoning why people question Phil’s sometimes weird substitution or lack of timeout. Phil is more a teacher first and a coach second. Many people will doubt him, but you can’t deny his 9 championship rings.”

    I think that’s why Phil is such an unorthodox coach. We always find fault with his reasoning, especially when leaving in players when they obviously are not helping the time. Also, trusting one self is also why Phil doesn’t like the zone defense.

    Case in point is the only Suns game we lost when Kwame was in and was doing horrible to say the least. Phil chose to leave Kwame in those 5-6 possession when Kwame just broke down into a guy who hasn’t played basketball before. Phil wanted to Kwame to learn. I was frustrated as well as the rest of the fans. That might have costs us the game, BUT maybe that brought the team together by having everyone, EVEN Kobe, rallying behind Kwame’s dismal performance. The thing with Phil is, he’s always looking at the big picture. He’s always looking to teach the game of basketball and I think that’s why he’s so successful.

  43. Lamar is doing his job right now. He is playing his ass off…no one better deny that.

  44. This is a great site by the way, and I read it religiously since last season. Keep up the good work Kurt!

  45. Burningjoe — count me in those who are jealous.

    45. Here’s the thing about the MVP award, it’s nebulous. Best player in the league. Best player on a top team. Guy who matters most to his team’s success. All of those are valid ways to define it, and while Kobe is at or near the top of any of those lists, you can make cases for others. KD is a smart guy with a valid opinion, even if I disagree with his assessment. And he’s right, this year might mean less if Kobe had won this once in the last few years, as he should have.

  46. Warren Wee Lim March 3, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Fixed Positioning is so overrated. Whoever said Pau will disrupt Bynum or vice versa is not looking at things the “phil-colored way” instead, you are looking through “kb54-colored glasses”.

    If it was Kwame asked to play PF to Bynum, there is where I worry. But Pau? Cmon. I think I may still choose to get Pau even if I already had a legit PF and C on my team if he were available for “kwame-price range”. The point is, you can never have too many good players on your team. The only problem with too many good players is ego and I think our current crew has a perfect blend of this.

    Another one I’d like to stress out is basketball IQ. Pau is an intelligent player and it shows on the decisions he makes. Forget Skill, Forget Height – in crunch time, its the head that counts.

    And so I have come up with this little inspirational piece about one commenter here that mentioned that the players on our team have a special bond that makes them want to be Lakers – not just on the Lakers. Props to you (whoever you are) and forgive me for forgetting.

    1. Kobe Bryant – its a no-brainer. If he could salvage more than 6 rings and not having to move to another city, his name will be placated in the pantheon of greats – of the team that has the richest traditions of the NBA. I think there would be no better way for Kobe to end his career (around 6-8yrs from now) than being a Laker for Life. Then perhaps, we the fans, can start arguing which number to retire? Or will it be both? He definitely owns a spot or two in the rafters…

    2. Pau Gasol – forget what JVG and Marc Jackson said about the ducks in the Memphis hotels… its LA baby and its california – where movie stars become governors and 7-ft Spaniards are adored to death. Its his 1st month, but I think he likes it here. And we love him as a Laker.

    3. Andrew Bynum – not even MJ took as much criticism as he did. And his name was dangled in just about every blockbuster trade as a requirement. That speaks volumes of who he is – and how good he can be. Notice I used “can” instead of will – I just think “can” goes beyond borders rather than “will”. I think Drew has the opportunity to call this his team in 3-4 yrs time. If he wants it…

    4. Derek Fisher – sure he ventured into GS and UTAH. But there is no homecoming better celebrated than that of Fish’s. This is where he started it, this is where he ends it. No better storyline…

    5. Trevor Ariza – well he is LA native and he is getting the love… his contract will be negotiated in 2009 and he will accept it.

    6. Jordan Farmar – he is local and we all love him. He’s got a long way to go but he’ll get there soon enough.

    7. Ronny Turiaf – left his heart in LA. NO wait, he is in LA and the Lakers stood by him on his surgery. I think that will reflect on the organization and it will reflect next year – when he re-signs.

    8. Sasha – u kiddin me? the machine?! he would be utterly jobless in the NBA if not for Mitch and Phil sticking with him. They even traded Mo Evans just to give him some PT. He will re-sign.

    9. Luke Walton – well, Luke has been a homegrown talent to integral piece in his 4 years under Phil. I think he has awesome intellect but awful athleticism. As Kurt says, he cannot guard someone not named Luke Walton. But he’s a vital cog, and a keeper IMO.

    10. Lamar Odom – I’m not so sure… but his improved play emanates from him not having pressure to play. If he were traded to another team, the pressure gets back to him UNLESS that team has 3 better options before him. Pretty expensive 4th option but if he re-signs cheap in 2009, I love the guy. I purposedly gave him the #10 spot because he seems to be the least-intelligent among the ten we have.

    Then there’s the “other” Lakers… the best player among the rest is Vlade the Space Cadet but if he gets it going, he can stroke it. Coby, Chris and DJ are all backups. If they stick with us next year, I think its all good. Our top 10 is our core. Regardless of who 11-14 are, we are set.

  47. read the Dwyer post, and he’s out of his mind when he says ‘best scorer’ is ‘best player’ and forgets about 81 and the 40+ stretch. and as we’ve seen this season, Kobe still can score. he’s right that we often need a reminder that he’s good, but that’s about it.

    as for Pau/Drew/Lamar meshing, i really don’t think that’ll be a problem. they’ll get warmed up together since their confidence/ego needs the starting introduction, but we’re not forced to play players 48 minutes. Besides, it’s not so much how THEIR games will mesh, but it’ll also have to do with our opposition, and hopefully the other weapons we have at the positions – Turiaf, Radmanovic, Ariza and Vujacic. Typing those names and knowing that they’re our BENCH makes me all giddy ;)

    Besides, we can really play SMALL, with Pau moving to the 5, Lamar to the 4, Bryant to the 3, and really tall, with Drew, Pau, Lamar, and Bryant, not to mention play ‘spread the floor’ with Rad, Kobe, Sasha all demanding respect. Now if only Mbenga would actually BANG…

  48. Referring to the Kelly Dywer article, all Kelly needs to do is listen to the words that come out of Lebron’s mouth: “Kobe is the best player in the game.”

  49. just wanted to share a funny video with you guys from yesterday’s game.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IB1jNJN81zE

    It was Kobe after doing his interview with the ABC sideline reporter and heading back to the locker room when he tosses a towel he doesn’t like and a poor old lady pays the consequences.

    I think I might be paranoid, but I don’t sense as much “love” between Pau and Kobe, and say Kobe and Farmar. In the OT, when Lamar got an off. rebound and had Kidd guarding him, Farmar was telling Kobe to give the ball to Lamar, but Kobe was like “No, no. I got this” and he had to give up the ball b/c he was double-teamed, and eventually Pau made two FT’s. I’m hoping Kobe is more trusting in his teammates, but I get the sense more and more that this is just how Kobe is. Great, terrifying talent. But in the end, he wants to do it himself.
    I agree with Dwyer’s article when he says Kobe’s been playing the same way like this since 2 years ago. It’s just that this year, his teammates make the shots when he passes it to them; that doesn’t mean he necessarily passes more. Bynum and Vujacic are better players and with the addition of Pau, we are a legit team. Kobe is the same if not, a little better, player from previous seasons, but he’s been playing at a high level since the ’05 season.
    I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but my main argument is that Kobe will rather lose with him shooting a contested 3-pointer than having a wide-open 15-footer from Pau Gasol.

  50. 30. Great insight into the x’s and o’s, Darius. Your insights are always helpful.

  51. 50> could you be more specific when it was happened?

    i don’t see why you get that idea…but i would like to know, since chemistry is the best thing i would say, this lakers had compare to the team of last year.

  52. Sure thing Kurt.

    Kobe 4 MVP from FB&G.

    Was thinking of doing a KCAL sign, not sure if I will have time though:

    Kobe a
    Championship
    Awaits the
    Lakers

    About the Kings: The Lakers can dominate if they take the ball to the cup early and consistently. While the Kings perimeter defense is good, their interior defense is terrible. I do not give much credit to Miller and Moore. They also get into foul trouble easily. I know Kobe has recently tried to get his teammates involved, but it would be nice for him to get to the rack early and often.

    Sometimes Artest will bring the ball up. Luke, Sasha, and Kobe need to give up space and let him shoot. This was how he destroyed the Kings under Musselman. However, do not let him take you to the interior as he will out-muscle most of the Lakers and draw a foul. Same thing goes for Salmons. He has been struggling from outside lately.

  53. “Even if the guy is shooting the three, unless it is Steve Nash the chances of hitting three straight free throws are less than hitting an in-rhythm three.”

    Not quite – say a 50% chance of hitting a three (which is probably an exaggeration).

    An 80% free throw shooter has a 51% chance of hitting three in a row; an 86% FT shooter (like Nowitzki) has a 66% chance of hitting three in a row.

  54. 53, mathematically, that’s right, but statistically, an 80% free throw shooter is usually 80% because he misses high-intensity, pressure shots. if they were a steady 80% regardless of the game situation, we’d call them ‘clutch.’

    of course, only ‘clutch’ players usually take the shot leading to the foul anyway, so fouling may not be a great idea anyway.

  55. 54) I disagree with that. I would say that the majority of their missed free throws are in less high-pressure situations, when they aren’t focusing.

  56. Not Charlie Rosen March 3, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    39 – Drew is apparently very intelligent, like straight-A nerd smart. I think it was an ESPN Mag article that described how much of a computer and car geek he is: he’s got a room full of computers he’s built and random parts for the next ones he’s going to build. And then he went on to describe to the reporter the various situations of “expansion and contraction” of the defense at a theoretical level that left the reporter (presumably an experienced sports reporter) completely confused. I’m sure he plays some X360 in between treatment, but he’s also probably got Tex’s book out too.

    50 – I remember that play, and specifically remember thinking the same thing: “Lamar’s got Kidd on him, mismatch, get him the ball.” Then I remembered several things: 1) Lamar tends to miss layups; 2) Lamar tends to draw a lot of offensive fouls, particularly when forcing a mismatch; 3) Lamar tends to miss free throws, particularly in crunch time; 4) Kobe was getting the Wade treatment, driving to the hoop at will and getting a whistle nearly every time; 5) Kobe had hit something like 10 or 12 free throws in a row at that point.

    I do also think that it’s a bit much to extrapolate that one play into “rather lose with him shooting a contested 3-pointer than having a wide-open 15-footer from Pau Gasol.” That was definitely true in past years, when “Pau Gasol” was actually named “Kwame Brown” and/or “Smush Parker”. But this year I cannot count the number of times I have seen Kobe drive and kick, or leave off to a cutting Lamar, or even just take the pass on the outside and swing it around and let Lamar and Farmar do a two-man game.

    Maybe one of the stat junkies we have here could figure out actual usage percentages for this year compared to last: how many times Kobe touched the ball and passed it compared to touched the ball and took the shot.

    Seems to me that part of being a leader is making the smart decision, not always the “No Child Left Behind” decision (i.e. “I’ll pass to you, because it’s more important to share than to win.”) It just doesn’t endear you to the typical fan/reporter, who is generally the one hoping that the cool kid might pass it to them (myself included).

    There’s a number of other things that KD is just wrong about in his article (besides comparing 81 to anyone else in history besides Wilt), primarily the old “make your teammates better”, and how that myth compares to what Kobe said recently, that being a leader is about “empowering your teammates”, which is a totally different thing, but I’ve typed too much already to go into that now.

  57. While the Rockets have a brual stretch starting in Mid-March,the other teams they’re competing against for Playoff positioning all have brutal road stretches around the end of March,beginning of April. Utah not only has fewest games left,but most at home,so barring a monumental collapse,they should win their Div. The Lakers seem all but assured of winning the West. GS has a huge amount of road games left.
    Suprisingly,the secret to Rockets run has been great defence. In some ways they are better defensively w/out Yao than w/him. On offense everybody is chipping in,so it doesn’t all rest on T-Mac.(Since he has better games on the road than at home,the Rox have a nice little thing going-the team carries McGrady at home,he carries them on the road.)Scola and Landry have been huge since Jan,w/Scola being a crafty inside guy-he’s like the old guy at the Y who throws up unbelieveably weak s*** that always seems to go in-and Landry being the hi-flyer who has a knack for the ball. Jackson has been a subtle addition that finally gives the team a vet PG who knows how to weather another team’s storm. I don’t see them losing enough that both GS and Denver can overtake them.(And there’s slight chance they could still be on the winning streak when they meet the Lakers-4 games against East sub-500 teams,at Mavs and hosting NO before meeting LA.)
    The Nuggets really geared up for the Rockets-players coming in early,Karl running the shoot-around instead of letting his assistants do so-so the loss might be esp mentally devastating-but then they’re the Nuggets so who knows?(Had to laugh when the mini-in-game interview had Karl say he was happy that his team was close as Rockets had been blowing everybody out early recently.)

    If Gasol is a tweener,the so are Duncan,Stoudamire and Bosh.To me he seems a very talented player who fits your system and who’s weaknesses are not fatal.Esp when other players on your team can do well what he does “averagely”.
    The Rockets used a set where both Yao and McGrady set up on the elbows and it worked pretty well.Neither players defender could sag off or double the other,leaving open cutting lanes to the basket for the other players as well as multiple rub/screen/driving options. If the Triangle is utilized as a motion O,the double hi-post should work even better for LA as Gasol is better passer than Yao.
    Imagine Bynum on low post,Kobe on one elbow,Gasol on other.Pass comes in to Kobe. If passers’ man drops to double,quick return gives open 3. If Kobe is guarded by smaller player,he can simply wheel,elevate and shoot a glorified free throw. Kobe has ball,Gasol rolls to basket,if defender slow to react pass to open Gasol near hoop. If Bynums defender leaves to help can you say crowd pleasing lob w/dunk? Kobe has ball,Bynum sets pick on Gasol’s defender,Gasol rolls.Often causes confusion on D where scramble to pick up Gasol leaving Bynum free to dive,or Kobe’s man inexplicably leaves him to cover paint(and yes I’ve seen a man leave T-Mac all alone at elbow to cover Yao). Pass to Gasol,Turaif in low post.Kobe cuts hard toward rim,Turaif steps back as his man goes to cover Kobe and is wide open for little baseline J.Gasol has ball,Bynum/Turaif come and set pick for Kobe,then turn and dive. The double high post for two players who can turn and shoot or pass can be deadly if the rest of the team continues to move. Eventaully the other team starts to pack the paint conceding wide-open jumpers.If everybody just stands around it can look pretty bad.The Rockets eventually abandoned the set because Yao was forcing too many bad passes.

  58. Another bonus w/Gasol in the hi-post…long rebounds off of missed 3s.He won’t have to worry about being bodied up and w/his long arms should be able to gather in quite a few missed 3s.
    In the double hi-post set the initial cutter was often covered,but the second often had a free path. That’s why there has to be constant motion.

  59. (35) Kwame a,

    My “flawed” comment was a general response in support of the magical multidimensional benefits of Pau Gasol to the Lakers. I was not trying to indirectly put down anyone. If I did have a specific response to someone, I’d identify the person in my reply.

    Warren (47) has studied Pau extensively and concludes:

    “Pau is an intelligent player and it shows on the decisions he makes. Forget Skill, Forget Height – in crunch time, its the head that counts.”

    It will take us all considerable time to fully appreciate the complexities of Pau-especially as he continues to develop and change before our eyes. Josh Coleman (Spartacus) of “Three Shades of Blue” emailed me that he was still enjoying Pau’s exploits after 6 years and would miss him.

    On coming to the Lakers, Pau said that his one wish was for kinder fans. I’d like to extend that wish to this blog.

  60. 1331,

    I miswrote when I said that I didn’t sense “as much love between Kobe and Pau, as compared to Kobe and Farmar.”
    I meant the other way around. Kobe seems to really like Pau (hugging him, high-fiving him a lot) and I know this is from a very biased point of view, but he seems to be annoyed when
    Farmar can’t get him the ball when Kobe demands it.
    This is just me paranoid and I’m rambling on so I’ll stop there.

  61. exhel, i think people tend to miss free throws on pressure situations, especially in the last game as we saw everyone not named Kobe miss crucial shots. unless you’re shaq, who claims to step up in crunch time, you’re far more likely to sink the free throw with your team leading by 10 in the first quarter, not the one throw with 2 seconds left in regulation that has to go in for you to force overtime.

    i’m pretty sure if we dig around, there is an actual stat/record for these things… just can’t seem to find them ;)

  62. 45 /46 – I think what Dwyer is failing to point out is that while LeBron may be having a fantastic statistical season (maybe even better than those of Kobe for the last couple years on paper), his team is faring very poorly in a weak eastern conference. Right now, they are in the 4 spot with 34-26 .567%, however if you look at their offensive/defensive differential, they’re at -0.6 or 7th in the east.

    What does this mean? It means that the Cavs are losing badly unless LeBron comes up with a massive performance and clutch scoring (sound familiar?), which he has countless times this season. What this doesn’t mean is that it gives him a better shot at winning the MVP in my opinion. If you look at the history of the award this decade, it becomes clear that to be an MVP you need to have a team that’s in a different league that where LeBron has the Cavs at now:

    2006-07 – Dirk Nowitzki : 67-15
    2005-06 – Steve Nash : 54-28
    2004-05 – Steve Nash : 62-20
    2003-04 – Kevin Garnett : 58-24
    2002-03 – Tim Duncan : 60-22
    2001-02 – Tim Duncan : 58-24
    2000-01 – Allen Iverson : 56-26
    1999-00 – Shaquille O’Neal : 67-15

    Right now, they’re on pace for about 47 wins. Not gonna cut it for an MVP nod, but an impressive season nonetheless. However with the Lakers on pace for about 58, there is a definite MVP candidate in Kobe Bryant.

  63. (61) Chocomm,

    I think you are right. Pau Gasol appears to be Kobe’s soulmate–and it is not just basketball IQ. It may be that they are about the same age, that they can communicate in a foreign language, that they’ve both been champions already (but not the way they want)–but it is more.

    Maybe it started on the first game when Kobe only scored 6, and Gasol suddenly turned into a 4th quarter scoring machine–and they won. I never saw Kobe so happy.

    Kobe’s suddenly got this big brother who’s got his back, who has a similar sense of humor, and thinks like him in the game . . . . .

    and by the way, since Gasol’s been a Laker, they’ve never lost–just run out of time.

  64. Good point KurkPeterman. On top of what you just mentioned, I really just feel like this is Kobe’s year. He is showing his half god, half man skills as usual, but now also has the support of a team to allow them to win 50+ games, win the division title, NBA championship, etc. I know Kobe is MVP this year, it’s already been decided. Commentators know it, coaches know it, journalists know it, fans know it, players know it, sport analysts know it, statisticians know it, David Stern knows it, and the world knows it. NBA, you now know what time it is. It’s Kobe time.

  65. n 1988/89, MJ averaged 32, 8 and 8 on 54% FG shooting for the 47-35 Bulls. Better numbers than Lebron. The MVP? Magic for the Western Conference Champion Lakers (57-25). IF MJ didn’t win in 88, no way Lebron wins in 08.

  66. I smell a cross post! Great research though Bill. The Lakers were definitely clicking on a ridiculous level in 88. It’s sad Riley ran the Lakers’ chances for a 3-peat into the ground the next season, literally.

  67. I’m sorry Kurt but I’d have to disagree that Dwyer provided a valid argument. I was lost when he started comparing Iverson, Anthony and Wade to Kobe with regards to scoring ability. Is he serious?!

    Honestly Kurt, can you even hardly believe that? Dwyer might be a smart guy but those three are incomparable to Kobe. The closest to Kobe would be Iverson, but that was way back when in his prime. Maybe Arenas rarely -when- he is hot, but Wade and Anthony don’t nearly have the statistics to hang with Kobe.

    I’m a Kobe fan, so maybe I’m crazy… Can someone else please tell me I’m sane and that the comparison Dwyer made was ridiculous?!

  68. Kobe is like the Hillary Clinton of hoops, the most polarizing figure, so for him to win MVP, he has to get all the people who haven’t completley discounted his contributions to his team.

  69. Kurt,

    Your boy KD at Yahoo really destroyed whatever cretibility he had left after getting canned with this Kobe isn’t the MVP article.

    His article is full of hypocrisy and omissions. A case can be made that Lebron should be MVP, but this article does do it. Overall it really is a piece of crap.

    I feel sorry for the guy, but I generally thought he was a good writer. Why didn’t someone critique that terrible post before releasing it to the world?

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/nba_experts/post/Why-Kobe-Bryant-is-not-your-MVP?urn=nba,69681&cp=6#comments

    That Lebron scores 2 more points a game is irrelevant as Kobe adds significant “value” to his team by spreading the wealth.

    That Lebron averages 2 more rebounds a game is relevant but not meaningful when considering Lebron plays a more rebounding position and Kobe has had Bynum and Odom destroying the glass (and now Pau as well).

    That Lebron averages 2 more assists is relevant, but doesn’t tell the whole story. First, the triangle offense doesn’t lend itself to getting assists. Kobe’s passes are usually the first of two passes that lead to the basket. Kobe’s highest assist total for a season was the year they didn’t run the triangle offense. Kobe is doing what is necessary as far as ball distribution to make everyone around him better (and so is Lebron).

    That Lebron has a slightly better field goal percentage is offset by Kobe’s better three point shooting and free throw shooting. Not to mention that Kobe has played numerous games this season injured which has clearly lowered his field goal %.

    The article fails to give proper due to Kobe’s team having the best records in the BY FAR the best conference. Lebron may have a worse supporting cast, but for DECADES the MVP goes to the best player on the best team. This is why Kobe has never won the award. This year Kobe is the Best player on the best team.

    Kobe’s defense is vastly superior to Lebron on defense. Night in and night out Kobe’s effort on the defensive end sets the tone for the Lakers and is a major reason why they have the best record in the West.

    The year Jordan average something like 35, 8, 8 HE DIDN’T WIN THE MVP but his team wasn’t close to being one of the best teams in the league. Same with Kobe the past few years. Kobe destroyed the league but never even got consideration for MVP because his team sucked. This year the CAVS are about the 15th or 16th best team in the league. The Lakers are currently top two and even first by some measure (see ESPN rankings).

    Kobe’s leadership and work ethic cannot be measured by stats. He has set the tone for the team from game 1 and he has ever player on his team (except Luke) playing at the highest level of their career. This is the single most significant impact Kobe has had on the Lakers and KD doesn’t even mention it in his article because it isn’t a convenient STAT.

    I really did lose respect for KD as a blogger after that post. Guess it doesn’t matter much since he basically got fired anyway.

  70. Ty Lue to the Mavs. As much as I like the son of George, I’d rather have Lue bringing his speed against Parker and Paul. Missed chance?

  71. Not Charlie Rosen (57) I’d have to agree, well said. I think the main point is that Kobe has always wanted to win, and in years past that meant (in his opinion) taking a contested 3-point shot over passing to an open Smusher, etc. This year, I think it’s become obvious he trusts his teammates in big spots, but the ultimate deciding factor is what gives the team the best chance to win — sometimes that’ll be passing to an open man, sometimes he’ll realize he’s getting calls when he drives, sometimes his shooters are cold, sometimes he is just simply on fire and can smell blood in the water. It’d be interesting to see a stat regarding how this has played out, you’re right.

  72. #39 & 57,
    On Farmar and Kobe’s relationship. Note how BOTH Fisher and Farmar handle the ball with Kobe in the offense. They do not always pass to him, but look toward the most open player or the best potential score. That is one job of the PG and if they can’t take the heat of the superstar player wanting the ball, then they need to get out of the kitchen.

    Kobe always wants the ball, that isn’t news. What we see this year is that he is more willing to give it up once he gets it.

    Regarding Kobe passing to Lamar at the end of games and when he is matched up on smaller players; Kobe knows what Phil apparently forgets — Lamar often does not do well in pressure situations and is a 1for2 freethrower at these times. Also, he apparently doesn’t think to take advantage of smaller defender except to power through them (offensive foul). In this area Kobe is tactically minded — realizes exactly who he is passing to as well as why he might be passing to them.

  73. 68. I think KD’s argument is valid in this way — there are about 1,000,000 ways to define MVP. And, you can make an argument to fit half a dozen players at least into the MVP argument depending on how you want to define MVP. The people in Boston, if you haven’t noticed, are starting to try to push KG back into the discussion.

    Because in the past I thought there were some questionable choices for MVP, I don’t get that worked up about the race anymore. It’s in the hands of 50+ white sportswriters who long for the “good old days” and as a group I don’t care that much what they think.

  74. 71. Missed chance? Yes, let’s take minutes away from Fisher and Farmar to give it to Lue. He couldn’t stick in Atlanta, what does that say about him?

    By the way, people around here still think he is a good defender — he isn’t. His defensive numbers are Smush-like. He had one good series against AI seven years ago. Let the Mavs have him, the more minutes for Lue the better for the Lakers.

  75. One player missed part or all of 6 games ’cause he sprained a finger on his non-shooting hand (letting his team go 0-6 in the process).

    The other player is playing with a torn ligament on a finger in his shooting hand, even though his doctor recommended surgery.

    Clearly, one player is going all in this year and the other is playing for the future. The MVP choice should be just as clear.

    I am not sure why this is even a discussion, tbh.

  76. LeBron is certainly putting up eye-popping numbers, but that’s all there is to his MVP case. MVP, if you haven’t noticed, was NEVER about individual performances. Heck, if that was the case, Shareef Abdur Rahim of his Hawks days would’ve been a valid candidate, but i honestly don’t think he ever was.

    So it’s a team game, and the only measure of a team that’s thrown about readily is WINs. Basically that’s where the ‘best player in the best team’ approach comes from, as well as the ‘making your team(mates) better.’

    Of course most winning teams have more than one superstar. So the best player in a ‘great’ team has a shot. But even in that argument, i’d have to take Chris Paul over LeBron. CP thoroughly dominates LeBron in the ‘wins produced with no co-superstar’ department, and has put up numbers that are the best in his position, and has won just about every head-to-head matchup with other great PGs in the game today.

    So like i said before, I could really stomach CP3 winning the MVP over KB24, but LeBron really has NOTHING over Kobe this season.

  77. Kurt,
    You made my point about the MVP and sportswriters better than I ever have. Thank You!

  78. All apologies fellas, I think other teams are reading some of the posts in here. I left two messages regarding Portland’s physical play from last week. This is from the OC Register:

    Lakers having to deal with physical play
    Coach Phil Jackson hears his team is soft, but that’s news to players.
    By CURTIS ZUPKE
    The Orange County Register
    Comments | Recommend

    EL SEGUNDO — Everybody seems to be giving the Lakers their best shot these days — literally.

    Derek Fisher got whacked upside the head by Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, and Kobe Bryant was practically tackled by Erick Dampier on Sunday. Opponents seem to be playing the Lakers more physically these days, and Coach Phil Jackson thinks he knows why.

    “There was some comment after the Portland game that the way they were physical with us was distracting our players,” Jackson said. “They thought our players were wusses and they weren’t going to be able to stand up and take a physical game.

    “The challenge was sent out to our players. We talked about having to play the kind of game where the referees are not going to make a call. They have to let the physical nature of the game take its course, and you have to play through it.”

    Jackson’s words were news to Fisher, who said the only talk he has heard from players around the league is that his team might win the NBA title.

    “I think that’s Phil putting his thoughts out there,” Fisher said. “You can’t argue with his track record, so to speak. He’s been able to put his teams together physically and mentally in ways that they’re able to withstand for the long haul and come out on top. We feel we have a real chance regardless of what people think.”

    From 2/29:

    Makes me wonder if we have the same refs as the last time we played Portland. Very physical, if they continue, they may have a shot with Roy and Jones back.

    Comment by 81 Witness — February 29, 2008 @ 8:35 pm

    2 days earlier:

    I am rather surprised to see nobody pointed out some problems from last night’s game. The Lakers starting 5 looked very, very soft against the Portland starters. These kids are young and not afraid to be physical. I actually think the starters were rather shell shocked when Portland came out with authority. Hard picks, pesky defense, and bodying on the glass.

    Rather than look at this as a negative, the second unit recovered well. Showing finesse against the zone and firing back with pesky defense. Sasha is very underrated in this area. PJ switched out Luke because Sasha was a pest on Outlaw and others. Brilliant move PJ. Rest Kobe on D and let him take over on O.

    Teams with this same mental toughness combined with referees calling “let them play it out” games will be tough on the Lakes. The front 5 is injured or injury prone (Bynum’s knee, Pau’s back, Odom’s shoulders and knees, Walton’s knees and ankles, Bryant’s pinky, knees, and shoulders). The only player who is not banged up, plays passively on D, not bad, but passively (will stop the PG drive, but will flop from time to time).

    Any of these teams can body up against our starting 5, but a lot of the success will stem from the play of the bench. Like last night.

    Also, Aldridge looked fantastic last night, but he needs to know his body will break down if he continues his physical play.

    Comment by 81 Witness — February 27, 2008 @ 11:13 pm

  79. exhelodrvr (55): I disagree with that. :) I think most players miss their free throws late in games. Kobe’s game against Dallas was an obvious exception, but lots of players get tired late in games and start missing their throws.

    Now, as to whether one should foul in that situation, I happen to think it’s a bit more complicated than people think. Probably it falls down on the side of fouling most of the time, but there are plenty of variables to consider: the state of your free throw shooting,the other team’s free throw shooting, the foul situation with regards to going into overtime, the way the refs are calling the game, etc. The main thing is that a fixed decision to foul, or to not foul–like zero-tolerance rules–is an example of avoiding the need to think, and I don’t believe that’s a good idea for a coach.

    Kurt (74): I read the Kelly Dwyer article, and I’m just not impressed. Frankly, I just don’t think it offers much insight into what makes a player valuable. I’m not one of those folks who think that you need consensus on what makes a player valuable; you can have lots of different ideas on that, and the result of voting–the reason for voting–is that these different ideas are all represented in proportion with the extent that people hold them. Each year, the MVP may be 40 percent “the player who makes his teammates better” (mostly meaningless, in my opinion), 30 percent “the best player on the best team,” 20 percent “the best player, period,” and 10 percent “I like his hair.” I’m OK with that (well, maybe not that last one).

    That being said, Dwyer doesn’t seem to offer anything besides statsmongering. I can do that. What I’d like to see is not evidence that LeBron has better personal statistics than Kobe, but reasoning that those are the main criteria by which MVPs should be decided. Is it clear that LeBron isn’t taking away statistics from other players, much as Kobe has done in years past? Not to me.

    There’s a real statistical sense in which a team is not just the sum of its parts. For instance, the positive part of a player’s possessions are his assists plus his made baskets, because they’re always distinct. For a team, though, that’s not true–we can count just the made baskets, because the assists always coincide with made baskets. To me, that’s a symptom of a broader fact of basketball: that a leader’s value is in helping your teammates do what they’re good at, not necessarily making them better per se. If Kobe says that being a leader is about empowering your teammates, I think that’s a PC way of saying roughly the same thing.

    A few days ago, Brian Scalabrine mentioned how last year, everybody was really pressing to play beyond themselves, in order to eke out every last possible win, and how this year, the arrival of Ray Allen but in particular Kevin Garnett has allowed them to play much more within themselves. Part of that is Ray and KG taking on some of the burden for themselves, but the other players aren’t simply doing less of what they used to try to do–they’re doing almost none, because they no longer have to attempt the things they’re not good at. I think that’s a revealing description of what KG has meant to the Celtics.

    By the way, I also think Dwyer overvalues making a bad team middling-good as opposed to making a good team great. The latter is far more difficult: there are lots of middling-good teams, but only a couple of great teams; therefore, it should be easier for a great player to make a bad team middling-good.

    Anyway, all of that by way of saying I didn’t feel like I learned anything from reading Dwyer’s story, except that he thinks that better statistics make a better player. Having finished his article, I still have no idea why he thinks that.

  80. Oops, that should be exhelodrvr (56, not 55).

    Sorry about the long post, fellas.

  81. This is what I emailed KD about his MVP post from yesterday:

    “Let me just say, I don’t agree. But as a Laker fan, you could see this coming…

    I think the differences in statistics that you mention come down to the role these guys play for their teams and the systems in which they operate. Lebron is Mr. Everything for Cleveland. He is their primary ball handler, scorer, and as a natural small forward he has a nose for the glass. Almost every play ran for Cleveland is a high screen/roll where Lebron has the ball in his hands or some sort of backside screen action where Lebron is coming off a screen into the lane to get the pass. Putting the ball in Lebron’s hands in these situations is giving him the best chance to put up the numbers you cite (just like how the system the Suns run puts Nash in situations to stack numbers). I make these points not to diminish Lebron’s skills, but rather, to put his statistical edge into context. I mean, they put him in all these positions because he is very effective in all these situations and helps Cleveland win a bunch of games. But by proclaiming Lebron’s statistical edges in various categories as the proof that he is the MVP, we need to understand that he gets his numbers because his coach is one of the least imaginative offensive x’s and o’s coaches running an NBA team, and he just continues to put the ball in Lebron’s hands and say “do your thing”. This results in Lebron disecting the D for his own baskets, him collapsing the D and creating baskets for his teammates, and a bunch of highlight reel plays (hello luol deng). His entire offensive system is built to his skills and to create situations for him to excel.

    As for the other guy mentioned in this piece, I am not going to make a case for Kobe, you have eyes, and you have already said you recognize Kobe’s game as being superb. (Here, Here!) But realize that Kobe is being coached by a guy that has a team system in place that requires all players to move, pass, shoot, and make decisions with the ball in their hands. So, even though Kobe is the primary weapon in the Lakers attack, he is not the gun, the bullet, and the shooter like some human Megatron from Transformers the Movie (cartoon not cgi). The Lakers continue to run a diversified attack where Kobe can be rendered a statue at worst/decoy at best in order for the offense to go in another direction and get the entire team in sync. I have seen Kobe call for the ball too many times (this season) and Fisher or Farmar just go into a different option of the offense and ultimately Kobe is just standing on the weakside wondering what the hell is going on. But the thing is, all this is working. The Lakers are winning and are a title contender. This is Phil’s genius as a coach. Randy Brown, Bill Wennington, Jud Buechler were capable pro’s under this guy and he’s doing the same things with Luke Walton, The Machine, etc.

    Anyways, obviously Lebron is a top canidate. And I think he deserves all the recognition and all the hype and all the funny commercials that he can stack up and fit into his basement casino. But to say that he is this year’s MVP over Bryant…I don’t see that. I see a guy that has a sub-standard team and is being asked to do everything and is winning enough games to get into the playoffs, but not winning at a pace of even 50 wins for the season. Basically, I see Kobe from the past 2 seasons, only with a coach that can’t coach offense. That player, for all his genius, is not the MVP of the league (though he may be the best player). I think the great players who’s teams are not good enough to win the MVP is really an indictment of coaching, front office work, or both. In past years, for Kobe, it’s been the Front Office. For Lebron, this year, it’s both. Ultimately, get Lebron some better mates, a coach with some better blueprints, and someone more shrewd than Danny Ferry and Lebron will get his because his team’s accomplishments will dictate that he win the award. I know it works like this because Kobe, like Lebron this year, has earned MVP awards that he has not won, and now after his team’s success Kobe is this years MVP (knock on wood).”

    Anyways….that is my take. Everything must be put into context. Lebron is a great player, as is Kobe. I just think that Lebron has achieved a level of statistical greatness based of the limitations of his coaches offense and the talent of his team. So if you’re going to go off stats realize why the stats are so strong and then ask if another canidate (Kobe) would be doing the same things in a similar system….I think that answer is yes. Add in the disparity in team records and strength of conference, and I think Kobe should come out on top. But obviously, as a Laker fan, I am biased.

    Sorry for the suuuuuper long post.

  82. Straying from the current discussion, is there a stat out there that measures Strength of Schedule? Respectkobe.com mentioned something interesting on how the East Conf plays less tougher opponents in a season than West Conf.

    It just seems that everytime I look at Boston……..they play a few tough games in one stretch, then play a bunch of weak teams for about 4-5 games.

    I don’t understand why the media doesn’t mention that stat like they do for college football. Shouldn’t that factor (along with all the other subjective factors) into deciding who is the MVP ??

  83. #83, adb:

    If you check out Hollinger’s Power Rankings, he uses strength of schedule (SOS) as one of his variables in determining his rankings.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/powerranking

    SOS, as I understand it, is the winning percentage of the teams that you have faced. It is actually a good tool to determine who is a strong team (especially when combined with margin of victory like Hollinger does). And your observations about Boston are correct; Boston plays in the East, and, that fact alone inflates their W/L record because the overall strength of their conference is low.

  84. adb (83): It depends on how SOS is measured, but assuming one measures it as the average of the records of the teams you’ve played, by the end of the season, there isn’t that much of a difference between the SOS of various teams.

    However, if you buy into the idea that the west is much stronger than the east, then eastern teams have their records inflated by playing primarily against their own teams, while the western teams have their records pushed down by the same token. The upshot is that SOS may not properly account for differences between conferences. Because intra-conference play is fairly balanced, it is pretty representative between teams in the same conference.

    It’s possible to define SOS in a more abstract way that accounts for this; I just don’t think people do this.

  85. This LIttle Pinky March 4, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I just don’t see the Lakers losing a seven-game series to any team, except maybe, MAYBE the Spurs.

    They win on the road, they win at home. Sure, they’re capable of losing a game or two, but to lose FOUR games to one team? I know I have Gold-and-Purple-tinted glasses on, maybe that’s why I can’t see it.

  86. Re Kurt (75): I said Lue instead of Karl on purpose, of course nobody here is in favor of him taking away minutes from Fisher or Farmar. As was discussed often, the Lakers can basically put any needed skill set on the court through a variety of player combinations, the only one slightly lacking (besides shot blocking right now without Bynum) is being effective against the penetration from the PG position.

    I haven’t seen Lue in a while and you could certainly be right that he has lost a step, but my point was not to make him a major contributor but rather a cheap stop-gap for a single purpose in limited action, kind of the same role he played in his earlier Lakers stint.

  87. New Sacramento Kings preview up.

  88. Didn’t get to read all the posts, but one point about Gasol and Bynum:

    Now Phil can have either one on the court with Kobe or Lamar for just about the whole game in the playoffs. So, those scoring lags when we would have to rest Kobe or Lamar (making the offense too one-dimensional) won’t be there because there will always be a very talented inside-outside combo on the floor.

    A very scary thought ….

  89. 83/84/85 – Strength of schedule can be very important depending on the division you play in. In a regular season everyone plays 58 games the same way ( 1 home, 1 road per team in the league), it’s the remaining 24 games that end up determining your strength of schedule.

    The first unbiased determiner is the strength of your division. You play an additional 2 games ( 1 home, 1 road) with each of the teams in your division. The reason I call this unbiased it that it never changes, always 4 games a year against division opponents. If you’re in a strong (SouthWest) or weak (SouthEast) division, you will inevitably play harder or easier opponents than other teams from other divisions.

    The second biased determiner is your remaining 20 games who are scheduled by the league to create matchups and television opportunities. The one caveat is that the teams have to be in the same conference, so it is semi-unbiased towards conferences with stronger divisions. This factor is the most random as you can end up with a tough schedule where you play your extra games against strong teams – see Lakers (2 – Dallas, 2 – New Orleans, 2 – San Antonio, 2 – Utah, 2 – Portland, 1 – Denver, 1 – Houston).

    So is strength of schedule real? Yes. Does it even out at the end of the season? Nope, in fact it diverges more and more with each game the passes. Do the Lakers have one of the toughest, if not toughest, schedule this season? Absolutely.

    When I speak of strength of schedule, I am also purely talking about W-L ratio of teams you face. This of course doesn’t take into account seasonality (having harder games earlier or later in the season) or streaks or the many other intangible factors that could affect things.

  90. 88 – Blast you Kurt! Sheparding people over to the new thread just as I finish my post :)

  91. Thanks Kurt. KurkPeterman, you can just copy everything and paste it over into the next post =)

  92. KurkPeterman (90): I don’t see how you can rationally say SOS literally diverges as the season progresses. Earlier in the season, maybe a quarter of the way through, Lakers SOS was nearly 0.600. Now it’s 0.509. Everybody’s SOS converges toward 0.500, especially with the NBA playing a fairly balanced infra-conference schedule. The Lakers play practically everyone in the conference four times, as do all the other teams. That means that at the end, the Lakers will have played a schedule similar to everyone else in the west. The one exception? The only team the Lakers don’t play is the Lakers themselves, and since the Lakers have a good record, they would tend to have a lower SOS at season’s end than someone else in, say, the Pacific division.

    To bear this out, look at the SOS of the top 15 teams in Hollinger’s rankings. Combined SOS is 0.497, and only five of the teams have SOS over 0.500 (including the Lakers, of course). It’s not because they’ve had an explicitly weaker schedule; it’s because they don’t play themselves. By comparison, the combined SOS of the bottom 15 is 0.504. Considering you’re combining 15 teams into one average at this stage (60 or so games in), that difference is huge. But not unexpected, if you think about it for a moment.

    No one is saying SOS isn’t real. But its main value, as far as I’m concerned, is in comparing midseason records. A 40-20 team with an SOS of 0.490 isn’t as impressive as a 38-22 team with an SOS of 0.510. But by the end of the season, that difference simply won’t be there anymore. It can’t be, because the NBA has eschewed an unbalanced schedule that emphasizes intra-divisional play.

  93. Brian, others: I’ve always thought that about the strength of schedule. Right now, I believe it measures the average winning percentage of the teams played. However, because teams play more in their division and conference, the larger the disparity between one division and or conference from the rest, the more skewed the SOS result is.

    Logically, we can all agree that playing to a .500 record with a western conference schedule is much tougher right now than doing the same on an eastern conference schedule… meaning that, presumably, a .500 team in the west is a better team than a .500 team in the east. In SOS they look the same, though.

    From a measuring standpoint, I think the way to fix this is to introduce a feedback mechanism to generate a rating – a “meaningless number” in that it doesn’t directly correlate to their actual wins – but one that provides an absolute scale for comparison between teams with different schedules.

    Of course, there’s a more logical solution….I’ve recently been of the mind that not only should the playoffs seed the top 16, regardless of conference, but the regular season schedule should also be evened out. Why do teams play more within their division and conference? I suppose at one time, like the old 2-3-2 playoff format, it was dictated by travel, but anymore…. who cares who is a division champ? And does it take anything away from a Conference champ just because they played equal games in the other conference?

    I’d really like to see that. It would totally alleviate all the problems from having such a disparity in conference strength which effects EVERYTHING. For instance… players generally need 50 wins to get MVP… so because of this disparity it actually makes it easier for an eastern conference player to win MVP, right?

  94. sfJayP (94): Your feedback mechanism is exactly the kind of abstract SOS definition I was referring to in my earlier post. This allows you to tie the strengths in the two conferences together, rather than having them so loosely coupled, the way it is when SOS is defined as average opponent winning percentage.

    I suspect the reason they don’t play a totally balanced schedule, aside from travel considerations, is that they (the NBA execs) want to cultivate strong regional rivalries (a la Lakers-Blazers, Lakers-Kings, etc). It’s harder to do that when you play everyone three times (which is what a totally balnaced schedule would amount to, more or less).

  95. Brian (93) – I agree with you point about it being most valuable at the midpoint of the season, however I still think it’s somewhat important at the end. I think I may have chosen the wrong word as you are correct, divergence would imply that the values would get further away as time goes on (true for the first few games where it’s hard to build statistical relevancy with 1-3 game win-loss streaks, but not necessarily for all games afterwards). The point I was trying to make is that that you will not get the same strength of schedule for each team because as times goes on, those teams will end up playing each other a different number of times. Even at the end of the season, no team will have played each other the same number of times. While the differences are subtle (the difference between 3 or 4 games with teams in our conference) having that extra game with the Hornets or Dallas can be a difference maker in computing the SOS.

    You are however correct in that teams that are weaker will inherently have stronger schedules at the end of the season (because they lost to harder teams). I realized this after I posted and was going to post again with this recommendation:

    SOS should only be considered for teams with winning records.

    All in all, despite what I’ve written, I find SOS to be a rather hit or miss indicator and much prefer offensive/defensive differential (point scored – points allowed) as an indicator of strength.

  96. I have never read any article out there saying or analyzing why Bynum and Gasol may not play well together. It’s called the straw man argument. In fact, 100% of anything I’ve ever read has said they will indeed play well together.
    What will take longer than the O to jell will be team D. Also, Bynum even when healthy is not yet strong enough, due to his youth, to hold position either in O or D versus the stronger centers of the league. That will give us 2 seven footers with the length and quickness, but not the physicality. San Antonio with Duncan and Thomas will be stronger physically than Bynum and Gasol down low.
    Even with the triple towers of Bynum, Gasol, Odon we will still be a finesse team.

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