Preview and Chat: The Cleveland Cavs

Reed —  January 19, 2009

(First, Happy Martin Luther King Jr. day. It seems to mean a bit more this year.)

Lakers: 31-8 (1st in West), Cleveland (1st in East, by % points over Orlando)
Offensive Rating: Lakers: 110.4 (1st), Cleveland: 110.0 (2nd)
Defensive Rating: Lakers: 102.0 (5th), Cleveland: 96.2 (1st)
Rebound Rate: Lakers: 51.6 (5th), Cleveland: 52.1 (3rd)
Pace: Lakers: 97.5 (4th), Cleveland: 91.8 (25th)
Projected Lineups: Lakers: Fisher, Kobe, Radman, Gasol, Bynum
Cleveland: Williams, Pavlovic, Lebron, Wallace, Varejao

Lakers Coming In:

When the schedule came out over the summer, a few stretches stuck out as extra important – in which the team would be tested and revealed as true title contenders or needing improvement. We are in the midst of one of those stretches right now, and it is not going particularly smoothly. This game finishes off a brutal four game gauntlet: at Houston and San Antonio back to back, followed by Orlando and the Cavs at home. I’m not particularly worried about the consecutive losses. We were missing key players in both, having to play unnatural lineups to compensate for the total lack of guard depth off the bench. The Spurs game was the second night of a back to back on the road against a team that was playing possessed. Despite having all three of their stars bring their “A” game (all had 20+ points), and shooting at a scorching rate (57% from the field and 50% from three), the Spurs needed a lucky last minute shot, foul, and non-foul to beat us by one. Sometimes that just happens. I’m confident that if we played them 10 times they’d only play that well once. The Orlando game also showed us how hard it is to beat a great team firing on all cylinders – Howard went off for 25/20, Nelson had 28/8, and all five starters scored in double figures. They couldn’t miss down the stretch and we couldn’t make. Again, sometimes this happens.

Yet, all of this begs the question: why are teams playing so well against us? There are some recurring red flags. Our last seven opponents all scored over 100 points (even with our increased pace, that’s a bad sign). Houston and SA both shot over 53%, an alarming rate. Houston and Orlando both destroyed us on the boards (Orlando by +14, with 15 offensive rebounds). SA and Orlando both made more than 10 threes at over 42%. Too often, our defense seems to be lost in its rotations – the slightest bit of penetration off a pick and roll or otherwise leads to massive over-help in the lane, with other teammates either not helping the helper, or doing so very slowly. The result is too many open three pointers and poor positioning on the rebounds when shots go up. I don’t think the loss of Farmar, Sasha, or Walton explains any of this. Or a fundamental weakness in our personnel. It’s simply a failure to execute our defensive schemes and play smartly. This must change.

Walton might play tonight, but I wouldn’t expect him to get many minutes with Lebron the opposing small forward. Ditto Radmanovic. When Lebron is at the 3, I suspect we’ll see a lot of Ariza, as Radmanovic and Walton simply have no chance against him (unless Kobe surprises me and guards him heavy minutes, which I don’t think would be good). When Lebron slides down to the 4, then we’ll probably put Odom on him. I look for many of our key players to have fresher legs given the two days off. Fisher has played 36+ minutes in seven straight games; Kobe has been over 40 the last three and over 37 in seven straight. Sasha is back to spell both. This could help as our guards really seemed worn down at the end of the Orlando game (Kobe just ran out of gas and started throwing up impossible threes).

Cleveland Coming In:

The Cavs are also banged up, but you wouldn’t know it from their play. Even though they lost to Chicago on Thursday, they rebounded the next night and throttled New Orleans. Last week, they destroyed Boston. That said, I do not think we will see their best side. First, Ilgauskas and Delonte West are both out, arguably their second and third best players (West is second in +/- and Z third; both figure in Cleveland’s most effective 5 man lineup by point differential). Despite the continued parade of victories in his absence, Z has been missed. He’s always been underrated and is having another solid season: 21st in PER (21.15, ahead of Garnett, Billups, Joe Johnson, David West, Alridge, Carter, Durant, etc.), spreads the floor for Lebron on offense with his perimeter shooting at the center position, and is part of perhaps the best rebounding front line in the league. Despite all the buzz about Mo Williams, West has been the better player, making more threes at a much higher %, playing better defense, and sporting almost double the assist to turnover ratio. Williams arrival has influenced the Cavs rise, but maybe not as much as West’s improvement. With him out, everyone slides up a notch: Pavlovic starts, and Wally and Gibson get more time. All can shoot lights out from distance, as well as Williams, so things are always set up for you to get drilled if you help too much on Lebron. Varejao and Wallace are first rate rebounders and defenders (both on and off the ball), so they will make life difficult for Drew and Pau. Really, the team has no discernable weakness: 2nd in offense, 1st in defense, 3rd in rebounding, guards who shoot lights out from 3, bigs who defend and rebound, and . . . some guy named Lebron.

Lebron vs. Kobe
:

Which, brings us to the subplot we care about most (or, better said, The Plot): Kobe vs. Lebron. They are widely recognized as the game’s best two players, they lead perhaps its two best teams, they spearheaded the Redeem Team to gold, they are the league’s preeminent marketing personalities. A favorite nba pastime is to debate this vs. that star’s merits. For the last season or two, that debate has often centered on Lebron and Kobe. A word about that.

First, I’m an unabashed Kobe homer. I have researched and argued the technicalities of certain provisions of the Colorado criminal code. Last week, I was teaching my two year old girl how to write letters for the first time and led with, “think of a word you really like, some person or thing you love and I’ll write that word.” Her immediate reply, unprovoked: “Kobe.” I’ve advocated for him endless times in mvp debates, his place among the greats of all time, his feud with Shaq, etc., etc. Yet, in this current debate, I must give way to clear reason and cry uncle. As a basketball player, Lebron is better. Than Kobe has ever been.

Random Lebron points:

• His PER this season is 32.0. That would be the best mark . . . ever. Jordan’s high was 31.7, Wilt’s 31.8, Magic’s 27.0, Bird’s 26.3, Kareem’s 29.9, Shaq’s 30.6, Duncan’s 27.1, and Kobe’s 28.0 (24.7 this year).
• To put his PER in perspective, Lebron uses 33.16 possessions a game. Those possessions result in 42.5 points. That means that if Lebron used all of his team’s possessions, they would end up with an offensive rating of 128.3 (LA leads the league at 110.4). Kobe uses 31.51 possessions a game and those result in 37.9 points, leading to an all Kobe offensive rating of 120.2. Both are off the charts, but the gap between the offense Lebron and Kobe create is huge.
• Lebron is more efficient in scoring the ball because he shoots a better percentage, which is primarily the result of both getting to the basket more and finishing at a higher rate when there. Lebron shoots 40% of his shots inside at a 74% clip; Kobe shoots 23% inside at 65%. Kobe shoots better on jump shots, but only by 5%.
• Lebron shoots 2.1% higher in true shooting %, assists on 5% more of his possessions, and rebounds at a 3% higher rate. He simply creates much more offense, more efficiently than Kobe, and uses the ball at about the same rate. And, remember, all of this comes in Kobe’s preeminent year in terms of scoring efficiency.
• Whatever the difference is between them on offense, it is bigger on defense. When Lebron is on the court, other teams score 97.9 points per 100 possessions; when he sits they score 105.9. When Kobe is on the court, other teams score 104.9 per 100; when he sits they score 104.2. Lebron makes his team 8.0 points per 100 better on defense; Kobe makes his team 0.7 worse. As a result, Lebron is 4th at individual defensive rating and second in defensive win shares. Lebron is the anchor of the league’s best defense. Kobe is a significant component of a strong, but far worse defense.

To me, these individual stats from Lebron reveal why Cleveland is so dominant as a team. When you first look at the team around Lebron, you see a lot of solid players, but nothing overwhelming. None of his teammates will be all stars this year, even in the weaker East; none will compete for all nba or all defensive honors; the bench is okay, but nothing like LA’s. Is Cleveland’s second best player (probably Ilgauskas) as good as LA or Boston’s fourth? Yet, Cleveland leads the league by a wide margin in both point and efficiency differential. They are having a historic season on both fronts. The reason is Lebron. Whatever you think of PER, he is having one of the single best seasons that any player has ever had – at both ends of the court – and is doing so in a way that directly translates to team dominance. And that’s not a point to glide past. He is putting up all time dominant individual numbers and helping all of his teammates have career years themselves. He is one part Michael and one part Magic. And he’s only 24.

Now, none of that is to discount Kobe. He will go down as one of the ten best players of all time, the second best shooting guard, perhaps the all time scoring leader, and owner of multiple rings. Beyond all of that, Kobe brings something to the table that Lebron does not. Kobe captures our attention and imagination in a way that Lebron has not, and probably could not. Lebron is like Shaq in the sense that his success is almost entirely physical – with Shaq an unparalleled combination of size and power, and Lebron adding speed and skill to the equation. As with Shaq, there has never been someone with Lebron’s physical gifts before, and there may never be again. He simply is bigger, faster, stronger, and jumps higher than everyone else. This is not the case with Kobe. There have been endless players with his physical traits that have not made it, or that have not made it like him. (Put another way: if Lebron had Kobe’s body would he still be a superstar? what if Kobe had Lebron’s body?).

Kobe’s success, much like Jordan’s, comes through mastery of detail, mental dominance, and unbounded intensity, will, and ambition. He is, and always has been, obsessed with the nuances of the game. His entire focus and energy has always been directed at one thing – basketball excellence (whatever you think of how he balances personal and team success). Kobe’s “faults,” his “dark side,” all stem from this mad desire to be the best at the game. This is a two sided coin, with “heads” producing possibly unmatched clutch performance and spurts of brilliance, and “tails” leading to destructive interactions with underperforming teammates or team officials. The result, ironically, is a personality that transcends the game. Kobe, perhaps more than any present athlete, commands interest, passion, love, hate – he forces you to take a side, and to do so zealously. We marvel at Lebron’s almost unfair physical abilities and accomplishments, but he does not move us like Kobe. Everyone is happy when he succeeds; no one cares when he fails. Lebron makes us wonder at his physicality; we marvel at his dunks, his leaping ability, his strength. Kobe draws deeper reactions; we wonder at his mystique, will, and spurts of godliness. We won’t care about Lebron’s day to day life when he retires, like we do with Jordan, and like we will with Kobe. If someone wrote a tell all biography of Lebron’s non-basketball activities, it would be greeted with a shrug and a yawn; such a book about Kobe would be impossible to put down.

In a sense, both players are deep contradictions. Kobe grew up the son of a professional basketball player, living in Italy or affluent suburbs. He didn’t need basketball to make it in life. Yet, we have perhaps never seen an athlete so driven, both mind and body. He has the work ethic of someone who fears life is on the verge of collapsing, but he’s always had everything. He is that strange rich kid with a chip on his shoulder, who goes on to rule the world, but does so coldheartedly. He grew up on the basketball court, with his father’s teams, but has always found being part of a team unnatural. He plays as if the embodiment of the American Dream, but grew up to riches and the finest of Europe. Despite unbounded personal ambition, he hasn’t overly “branded” or “corporate-ized” himself, letting (whether by choice or Colorado) his focus extend first to the game. We are left confused, but always captured. We care not only what Kobe does, but why, and what he thinks, and what he’ll do next.

Lebron is also a mystery. He is the kid from nowhere that speaks of himself in the third person, and has open (and realistic) dreams of being the Global Icon. Despite goals that clearly far transcend on the court success, and that are purely individualistic, he is perhaps the consummate “team” superstar, playing in a way that unites individual and team success, making others better, always preferring the easy pass to one on one play. His is the face of Nike; branding personified. He is openly willing to turn his back on his hometown and the throngs that worship him there for a higher corporate platform; but he plays with uncanny unselfishness. He also confuses us, but our interest only runs basketball deep, despite his broader pursuits. Sometimes his antics get old.

If I had to choose which player to start a team with today, I would pick Lebron. If I had to choose a player’s career to follow, from cradle to grave, it would be Kobe. I have had the good fortune of fulfilling the latter, watching most of his games since he was a rookie, and I doubt any future athlete will so completely be worth my time and emotion. We should be grateful for these days when gods again grace the court.

Keys to the Game:

Back to the game at hand. Both teams need this game. Cleveland needs to continue to prove that they are legitimate cream of the crop contenders. LA needs to prove that the last two games were bumps in the road and not indicative of deeper problems. It appears as if every game will count in the race for home advantage, which is so crucial in the bizarre 2-3-2 finals setup. I think the Lakers win this game by over-neutralizing Lebron. Double and triple teams, traps as soon as he gets the ball, etc. This won’t always work given his ballhandling, speed, and incredible passing ability. But without Z and West, he will more often be surrounded by unskilled bigs clogging the lane and shooters that can’t create offense if chased off their spots. As the numbers above reveal, when Lebron “uses” a possession (by shooting or assisting), Cleveland’s offense is off the charts. Make others beat you, especially as his teammates are banged up and might be less sharp on the road. On offense, run the offense inside-out. Wallace is a great defender, but he gives up significant length to both Pau and Drew. Put those guys on the block and let them shoot over him. Force Cleveland to collapse in and work the ball weakside to open shooters or Kobe for a pick and roll. Don’t, under any circumstances, let Kobe get sucked into a duel, especially if Lebron is guarding him.

This is a game to care about. Put on your Lakers (or Forum Blue and Gold) gear, give the kids cough syrup and send them to bed early, fire up the grill, and enjoy basketball at its best – two elite teams trying to prove themselves, and, above all, a battle of two very different basketball gods.

–Reed


Reed

Posts

223 responses to Preview and Chat: The Cleveland Cavs

  1. I really hope when Farmar comes back Phil will still give Kobe time at the PG. Im enjoying Kobe playing back up point guard alot more. I always felt it changed up the dynamic of the offense with Kobe bringing up the ball. Pau and Kobe running the pick n roll has been real efficient for our offense. Its been freein up Pau for alot of open shots(He’s a great shooter…Im happy we’re starting to take advantage of all aspects of his game). Kobe having the ball also puts alot of pressure on the defense, which is always great. Mixing that up with Kobe getting the ball within our regular sets with the starters will make us that much better.

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  2. 197 – Melo has missed too many games due to injury for a shot at the All-Star game. That and he hasn’t really played as well as we thought he would without sharing the ball with Iverson (the 33 points in one quarter thing aside). Memphis’ record is too poor for Gay to make it, and there’s better forwards than him that deserve to make it.

    FWIW, the West will probably look like this:

    Guards: Paul, Kobe, T-Mac, Roy
    Fowards: Duncan, Amar’e, Nowitzki, Gasol
    Centers: Yao, Shaq
    Extra two: Billups, maybe Parker

    Of these players, Paul, Kobe, Duncan, Amar’e, Nowitzki, and Yao are locks. T-Mac might bow out due to injury and frankly isn’t playing well. Roy is likely a lock given how well Portland is playing and how good his numbers are. Nowitzki is playing well enough, and Gasol edges out West due to the Lakers’ record. Shaq likely gets the nod from the coaches given how well he’s been playing. The rest of the applicable center candidates (Biedrins, Jefferson, Camby) are on teams with losing records.

    As for the additional two, Parker and Billups are probably a safe bet. Other players from winning teams are usually one-dimensional; Terry for instance. OKC’s record is far too bad for Durant to get on ahead of more applicable forward candidates.

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  3. Looking at the all star voting and Yi Jianlian isn’t too far out in the east. What’s next China? Sun Yue for the all star game?

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  4. A bit off-topic, but I thought this was so bogus I had to note it:

    http://www.fannation.com/truth_and_rumors/view/86715-odom-in-lakers-raptors-swap?eref=fromSI

    Odom for J.O.? Really? Wonder what reliable source thinks this is even a remote possibility. On one hand you have Odom’s versatility and on the other hand, you have the litany of injuries and regression J.O. has had in the last couple years. Now, this is not to say J.O. is bad; quite the contrary, he’s an outstanding defensive presence (probably one Bynum should try to emulate; for instance, J.O. ranked seventh in the league last year in charges taken despite only playing half the season), but trading L.O. for him is just preposterous.

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  5. Great write up on the two kings.

    One thing that doesn’t show in stats is the “it’s Kobe against the world” style of play. While this attitude is likely largely responsible for him being where he is today, it has also worked to his and his team’s detriment. Kobe may be the best player in the NBA even though the stats don’t support it because he simply takes harder shots. Especially in his early career he looked for his shot before his teammates and was always convinced he could make it. This has lowered his shooting % as well as giving teams opportunities on defense. The double team (and at times triple team) was and many times still is effective against Kobe so turnovers by him and offensive rebounds against him are more common.

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  6. Yusuf,

    I agree with that.

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  7. 197

    No way does Rudy Gay deserve to make it. He takes too many games off. If you’re going to pick someone from a bad team it should be Al Jefferson.

    Assuming the starters are Kobe, T-Mac (what a waste of a spot, thanks China), Duncan, Melo, and Yao, the reserves should be:

    Dirk
    Amare
    Gasol
    Roy
    Paul
    Jefferson/Shaq
    Billups/Parker

    Hopefully T-Mac will do the honourable thing and create an imaginary injury to concede his spot.

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  8. @nomuskles, I’m Chinese too, and I understand what you’re saying, but it’s more right in the middle between yuu-eh and yuu-uh. Still, hearing English pronunciations of Asian words never sounds right, and Marv’s sounded really weird because he forced it so much.

    Couple of notes to reflect on:

    1.) best defense from Kobe all year. He followed the book that we’ve all preached, where you give James the jump shot and deny him penetration. That and taking him out of his comfort zone with excellent ball denial allowed the Lakers to really disrupt the Cav’s rhythm.

    2.) This was truly a team effort. Everyone on the Lakers pretty much played their best game of the season, with Pau hitting 11-13, Fisher making some big shots, Vlad and Sasha hitting 6 threes combined, Odom with 10 boards and 3 blocks, and Ariza being Ariza.

    3.) JJ Hickson is one of the best examples of the poor application of the +/- stat: His line is 11 points on 3-4 shooting, 5-5 from the line, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks all in 19 minutes, but his +/- is an abysmal -18.

    4.) Anybody else starting to cringe when Kobe shoots threes? He’s so reluctant to shoot them unless he’s completely open, that it’s almost a mini-miracle when they go in, unless it’s crunch-time with the game on the line and a hand in his face; then you know it’s going in.

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  9. Ariza = Lebron stopper

    He wore down and frustrated the game’s second best player. Way to D up.

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  10. Yeah.. Lebron still isn’t better than Kobe.
    We can talk about the stats all we want, but when you talk about what your “eye” tells you, that’s where you need to draw the line.
    Kobe is exhibiting such control of the game that we’re really taking his ability for granted.
    Yes, he’s averaging “only” 27 ppg, but what’s impressive about that is that we’re seeing him get everyone involved in the first half and controlling the tempo of the game like an elite point guard.
    And defensively.. I can’t even believe this is a discussion. It’s not even close.
    Lebron is an incredible player, but he hasn’t surpassed Kobe. He hasn’t mastered the game like Kobe has, and when push comes to shove, you go to war with #24 as your assassin..

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  11. Regarding LeBron’s defense, let’s not take one game as an example. He has been a lot better this year, very good in fact. Did he struggle to contain a focused Kobe? Yes. Now, name one defender who really can?

    Kobe was the better player last night, and more importantly his team was better. Much better. But it was still one night in January. I feel better about this team right now than I did four games ago, but we have a long way to go. A Long way.

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  12. Agreed, Kurt.

    The Lakers won a game against a team which is missing two of its starters. I appreciated the Lakers’ efforts but do not take the results as a definite indication of what would happen in June if we met the Cavs in the Finals. Just as I don’t have any special worry about the Spurs or the Magic since they beat us. The most important thing I took from the game: the Lakers have the ability, maybe more so than any other team, to raise the level of their play in key situations or games.

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  13. The Lakers are showing they are willing to be the aggressors.

    So far, good defense on LBJ seems to be packing it in, then swiping at the ball when he gets to the lane. Chicago had success with this when they beat Cleveland last week.

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  14. wondahbap,
    Clogging the lane against Lebron is definitely the blueprint. It’s the same strategy that the Spurs used in the Finals and it led to a sweep. However, it’s a different game if the rest of Cavs start to make jumpers as helping on James then becomes a pick your poison proposition with both choices being deadly. Last night the Cavs really missed Big Z and West. They are two additional spacers that give Lebron the room he needs to drive or guys that will hit the jumper if he hits them with space to shoot. Last night Pavlovic and Varejao were good, but imagine if West gets some of Mo Williams minutes and Z is in there instead of Lorenzen Wright or Ben Wallace. Last night, all those guys had sub par efforts and that’s where the Cavs were hurt. Anyways, it was a good game and I’m very happy we won. We showed that (again) we can pull away from very good teams by playing strong defense and by making shots inside and out. But, I’ve said this before, we don’t need wins like this to uncover what we already know: we are a pretty good team.

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  15. Darius,

    You’re right about that. That’s what makes LBJ so good, because it’s just so natural to gravitate towards him, and other players get so many open looks.

    Big Z makes it a different game, because you can let him have wide open looks , so he draws a big out.

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  16. wondahbap,
    Plus Big Z is a Pick and Pop guy and those are the guys that have given us the most trouble in P&R situations. So, just off that one play alone, you know that the Cavs were missing a crucial part of their offensive arsenal. Not to mention that Z is also a tremendous offensive rebounder and we have had a difficult time this season dominating our defensive glass. I’m not trying make a bunch of excuses for Cleveland, but when we’ve had some key players out, we know it impacts us negatively. So we must also give the Cavs that same consideration.

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  17. PeanutButterSpread January 20, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    In my eyes, Kobe is still the best player on the planet. He’s still clutch when it matters and while he isn’t physically blessed like Lebron is, Kobe’s jumpshooting will always be better than Lebron’s. There isn’t a player out there that has more practiced moves than Kobe.

    I think the best case was in the Olympics, when Kobe’s sheer experience and skill level carried Team USA in the final minutes when Spain was closing in.

    Lebron is a phenomenal athlete, but Kobe’s still got the overall package of an elite basketball player.

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  18. How do you measure “clutch”? I believe that Kobe has an unmeasurable presence at the end of the games. It isn’t always FG% when it counts or last second shots. Its motivating teammates, help defense, or getting in someones head defensively. Kobe is a winner, and winners make other ordinary players, extra ordinary when it counts. I think LBJ has these qualities, but doesn’t yet have them at Kobe’s level. Clutch isn’t measurable, you just know it when you see it.

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  19. Read it a little late, but what a great post. I’m specifically talking about the Kobe vs. Lebron section. I can’t really remember anyone putting the comparison in words like that and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I think you’re absolutely right–Lebron is just such a force of nature that he really has no ceiling. I do not dislike Lebron and enjoy watching what he does on the court. But, to me, he will never capture my interest like Kobe. The way he plays the game night-in and night-out is something I don’t think we’ll see again. Maybe I guess. His ability to create offense is just unmatched. Granted, if I was 6-9 250 I’d get to the paint as much as I could…but the fan in me loves to watch Kobe go to work…to get in that “Kobe zone” that we’ve seen him in so many times before. It’s been a rollarcoaster of a ride thus far and I can’t see what comes next.

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  20. Interestingly when ever two elite players go head to head in any sport, the discussion of supporting cast comes to the front line. This thinking process came play this past Monday in the NBA, when the Los Angeles Lakers faced the Cleavland Cavaliers. The obvious two stars coming into battle in this game were Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. As the game prgressed the supporting cast behind Lebron James and Kobe Bryant became more evident. In this matchup between the two superstars, it appeared that Kobe the better supporting cast, among the two. This may have been due to reasoning that the supporting cast behind kibe were making more of their shots, or were playing better defensively during the game, and the supporting cast behind Lebron was doing the opposite. When asked who has the better supporting cast behind them, the award goes to Lebron James. Although Kobe’s supporting cast performed better in this direct match up between the two, Lebron has the better supporting cast when both teams are fully healthy. The Lakers have solid backcourt with regards to depth, but when you look into their front court, you see gaps of discrepancy, where you have great depth at the SF, and somewhat at the PF, but almost no depth at the C position other than maybe Chris Mihm, who maybe will contribute numbers, to earn him his paycheck. Lebron supporting cast does not look as deep or as good as Kobe supporting cast on paper, but for the system that the Cavaliers run it is very adequate. Lebron has players around him which can make shots when passed the passed the ball, which is usually the situation, when Lebron drvies to bucket, and dishes it to an open teammate as he is doubled or even triple teamed. Supporting cast is not only about depth, but also consistency, and this year thus far, has demonstrated that the supporting cast has been that. In closing, with the idea that Lebron James has the better supporting cast between him and Kobe, it gives even further reason to elevate Kobe Bryant above Lebron James in the category of importance to his team, and overall ability and skill. I look forward to the next match up between the two, when the next game takes place in Cleveland on February 8th.

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  21. This game was a microcosm of the KB24 vs LBJ debate.

    First Kobe had a better all-around game.
    While Kobe scored less he shot a higher FG%, although neither shot great.

    Kobe had way more assist 12-4
    LBJ had a few more rebounds 9-6
    Both had 1 block, LBJ had more steals 4-1 but also more TOs 6-5

    Bottom line both these players are amazing and quite close.
    But the edge has to go to Kobe.

    He guarded LBJ all game and played amazing D, forcing LBJ to shoot outside shots (which he is very weak at)

    Kobe IS A BETTER DEFENDER!! Even though LBJ had more steals, Kobe showed he was the better defender, so who ever ranked LBJ as #4 for defensive player of the year GET REAL. Kobe has been and does deserve to be again 1st team all defensive.
    Kobe is a far better ON THE BALL defender, while LBJ is slightly better as a team defender.

    The main thing, besides shooting and defense, that makes KB24 better right now, is his mental toughness.
    Only MJ had the tenacity that Kobe shows, that is why they won the game.
    Watch the 4th Q if you do not believe me.

    Kobe’s tenacity, playing even hurt, and rebounding by the bigs.

    I did not hear or see any of the sports announcers say anything about Kobe denying LBJ the ball, that was huge to the game and the W, give credit where credit is due people!

    Granted it was only one game, but it shows Kobe is still the BEST PLAYER IN THE NBA!! Yes Lebron’s PER is off the charts, but numbers are not everything, that is why The BIg O is not the greatest of all time.
    Kobe is playing amazing ball, he has answered every challenge: selfish, good teammate, pass more, whatever.

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  22. Lebron says he look up to Kobe that should end the debate of who Is better Lebron thinks Kobe is the best player In the NBA http://www.nba.com/2009/news/features/dave_mcmenamin/01/20/nba_story.lakers.cavs20090119/index.html

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  23. one word: WOW

    you are a truly great writer and i TOTALLy 100% agree with you.
    i have always defended kobe but still kept it realistic — i just couldn’t put it into words what i observed — you just did.

    the lebron kobe debate always struck a nerve with me — i had to admit that lebron was a better overall player but that he just didn’t have “it”

    it here is some factor that only jordan and kobe and maybe jerry west and larry bird has ever had in my opinion

    ayways — man great article — much better than anything on espn — that is saying a lot too as i go on espn pretty much every 2 hours

    keep up the good work

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