Preview & Chat: The Oklahoma City Thunder

Kurt —  February 10, 2009

NBA: NOV 07 Thunder at Jazz

Records: Lakers 41-9 (1st in the West) Thunder 13-38 (14th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.5 (1st in league) Thunder 103.4 (27th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.5 (7th in league) Thunder 109.4 (21st in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Thunder Russell Westbrook, Kyle Weaver, Kevin Durant, Nick Collison, Jeff Green

Saving Adam Morrison: While the trade of Clipper killer Vladimir Radmanovic (did you see the game last night?) for Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown was primarily a salary cap move, it also has some possibilities for the Lakers. I haven’t seen much of Morrison this year, so I asked Anthony Macri (coach at IMG in Florida and writer for Basketball Prospectus) for his thoughts on Morrison.

1.) Morrison can make shots. He did not magically forget how to do so in between college and the NBA. I think so much of an individual’s success in the NBA depends very heavily on fit that it is pretty impossible to write a player off after one stop and a few bad years.

2.) The Triangle could be a great fit for Morrison. We will have to see if he “gets it”–if he understands how to operate in that offense. If he does, he could make an impact quickly just by making shots. Because the Triangle is at its best when the ball is shared via the pass and not pounded into the ground, Morrison will not be asked to dribble, but rather to pass, cut, and flash. He can operate out of the high post and from the key spot (the wing).

3.) I’m not sure he has to do much of anything, anyway. This is not the move to put the Lakers over the hump, it is insurance and roster-related (read salary move). It may turn out to be a pleasant surprise for Los Angeles, but if not, there is no real loss for the Lakers.

If there is one guy Adam Morrison should be excited about playing for, it is Phil Jackson. Not this year, because this year he’s going to wear a suit a lot and try to chat up the Laker Girls. But he is the kind of guy Jackson and his system can really help find a niche. Through it all, everyone still thinks Morrison could be a good NBA shooter. What he needs is confidence, the confidence that comes with success in the game. Jackson (and this is what Radmanovic never grasped) asks role players to fit in very tightly-defined roles for the team — but within that role is where you can succeed. The Lakers don’t want Sasha Vujacic as a playmaking PG — that’s not what he does well. But as an energy defender and guy who can spot up the three, he is good. So stick to those things your good at. That is how the Lakers got decent production out of Smush Parker and Kwame Brown — tightly defined roles. Jackson will eventually ask Morrison to do just what he is good at, but that may be something useful.

Quick thoughts: Thoughts on a few things today:

• This got brought up in the comments by Mark Sigal and I mentioned it as key at that other gig — Maybe the most impressive part of the road trip was the start of the Fourth Quarter against Cleveland. The Lakers had battled back in the third quarter and were up five to start the fourth. Phil Jackson did what he does every game and played four bench players with Pau Gasol. The Cavaliers, in a little bit of a panic, played LeBron James, Mo Williams and their best lineup. It didn’t matter, the Lakers pulled away — stretching the lead to 10 and holding it there until halfway through the quarter when the starters returned. The Lakers bench was better than the Cavaliers starters, because they had a plan and stuck with their system even under pressure. Last season’s Lakers did not always do that.

• Derek Fisher has a new Web site up that is worth checking out.

• About Jamie being eliminated from Top Chef, it took me a few days to get over it, but she screwed up and had it coming. Forced out of her comfort zone, she floundered. What can be frustrating about that show is to watch someone like Leah coast through. She is not going to win, better chefs than her have been eliminated, but because she plays it safe she never gets in too much trouble. She doesn’t win, she just tries not to lose. Jamie had a chance to win it, now it’s just Stephan. Really, if he doesn’t win it that will be a miscarriage of justice.

• My latest idea for improving FB&G: Bacon!

The Thunder Coming In: Oklahoma City has actually been playing pretty well of late, having gone 5-5 in their last 10 games. What’s more, if you watch them, this is no fluke. This is a team that is young, but in a couple of years (with some smart drafts) could be very good.

Leading the way is Kevin Durant, who has been playing All Star level basketball. Let’s let the Daily Thunder take it from there

In December, Durant mounted an impressive stat line: 25.1 points and 7.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 6.5 free throw attempts per game while shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from behind the arc. Then in January, he showed it was no fluke, notching 27.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 8.7 free throw attempts per game while shooting 49.4 percent from the floor and 39.6 percent from deep.

The Thunder also have been getting solid play the last 10 games from Jeff Green, who is shooting 56.4% eFG% and 47% from three in that span. Also, Russell Westbrook is showing why some of us fell in love with his game at UCLA. How about some David Thorpe on Westbrook:

As I’ve written before, one of the things I love about Westbrook is his willingness to get things done in the paint, usually crashing for offensive rebounds and finishing in transition. But now he’s more comfortable getting inside in other ways.

He’s been using his explosive crossover or hesitation dribble move to get in the paint, where he lowers his hips and drives right through defenders. And sometimes he uses his length and strength to back guys down in the post. In other words, he’s become a nightmare matchup — he’s too quick for shooting guards to stay in front of when he’s matched up with them, and he’s too powerful for point guards to stop.

He’s averaged 18.8 ppg in his last five games, with 5.4 boards and 4.4 assists. He’s No. 5 in PER for all rookies, and No. 1 for guards and for rookies playing 30-plus minutes a game. Imagine what he’ll be like when he improves his outside shooting.

Keys To The Game: It sounds like a broken record, but here goes — they key to this game is in the paint, and the Lakers should pound the ball there. Nobody on the Thunder can stop Gasol or Odom on the block, the Lakers need to establish that and other things will open up. Also, to counter their size issues, the Thunder are willing to front the post — the Lakers have struggled with this when they don’t rotate the ball quickly. If there is fronting the ball has to be reversed to the weak side, and things will open up.

It’s an interesting case because while the Thunder are smaller along the front line (6-9 is the tallest the starters go) they are a good team on the boards, at both ends. They scrap. Giving up offensive boards is one of he flaws for the Lakers (they are tied for 17th in the league). The Lakers need to be focused, particularly on the defensive glass, not to give up the easy second chance points.

Easy baskets are the way the Thunder can hang in this, which brings us to transition defense. The Thunder do not play at a fast pace but Westbrook and Watson are good in transition, and Durant can close in the open court. The Lakers simply have to get back and take this away.

If the Lakers can take away transition, what they will find is a young team that wants to “out athlete” you in the half court, sort of 90s isolation basketball not a lot of consistent team play. Force them to execute in the half court, play good help defense and you can stymie this team.

However, the Lakers, particularly the bench, should be able to get points in transition and run on the Thunder.

Personally, I want to see the Lakers crush this team because I’m not over the Seattle thing yet.

Where you can watch: Back home, it’s a 7:30 start out West on Fox Sports and online at your favorite locations.

236 responses to Preview & Chat: The Oklahoma City Thunder

  1. I look forward to this game as one of the few chances I get to watch Durant play. He’s a special player. I don’t see him ever being the #1 guy on a contending team, though. Reminds me of Lamar.

    Still, he would have been a deserving all-star this year, and I look forward to watching him tonight.

    Anyone know about Kobe’s health today?

  2. I’ll be at this game tonight. I really hope the rest of the fans appreciate what the Lakers just did and give them the standing O when they come out on the floor.

    Thunder have been playing well, and really are just a few pieces/a little maturity away from being similar to Portland. If they can keep their core of young talent they will definitely be a good squad in a couple of years.

    Pau should have a field day with Collison, dude is pretty foul happy also so that should really help us. Go early and often to Pau/Odom and it should make for a fairly easy win.

    Are the ‘stache and Shannon dressing/sitting on the bench tonight?

  3. One of the few Laker games I will not be watching.

    It’s too bad that Green, Westbrook and Durant are on this travesty, because I would love to watch them play…

    Conversely and perversely, I would have been turned around had The Team That Ethics Forgot gone with “The Robber Barons” as a team name. If you are going to be money grubbing-back stabbing-dirt gnawing-scum sucking-city killing- vociferous varmints, embrace it!

    Go Lakers!

  4. PeanutButterSpread February 10, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    I like Shannon Brown’s interview on the Lakers website, he seems like a really nice young man, you can tell he was completely excited and happy to be with the Lakers.

    It’d be awesome to see the Lakers have no letdowns tonight, rest the starters (Pau’s been averaging 44 minutes or something like that since Memphis), and play Morrison and Brown in garbage time.

    I’m sure most of the fans attending the game want to see three human victory cigars instead of the usual one courtesy of Sun Yue.

  5. PeanutButterSpread February 10, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    3Threelll, while I agree with you on the sentiment that moving the Seattle Supersonics to OKC was a travesty, the real person to blame for that was Bennett, not the “team” in general as I’m sure none of the players wanted the move to OKC.

  6. Something to make you guys laugh for today:

    I swear.. this one’s so ridiculous, it’s actually funny. I never get people like this.

  7. Peanutbutterspread:

    Sure, I know that rationally, and I know it is a business, and all that, but, you know, those are the bad guys.

    Lots has been written about it, so we all know that it was a bad thing. Stern should be ashamed.

    Personally, I will not help them in anyway, including TV ratings, for 3 seasons or Bennett selling/leaving the team.

  8. Who do you guys think will be guarding Durant?

    Odom is probably the best matchup in terms of size and length, but that would leave Kobe on Green who can post up smaller players. I don’t like the idea of Walton guarding Green either but at least he wouldn’t be giving up size.

  9. 6

    That’s 30 seconds of my life I will never get back, thanks a lot.

  10. I don’t mind starting Luke on Durant, he’s been playing great D as of late. If he can’t handle him I think we’ll see bigger minutes for Ariza.

  11. By “online at your favorite locations,” what locations are there? I didn’t know you could watch games online. I’ve just been listening to them on the radio.

  12. 11:

  13. #11. Someone will provide a link during the game on this site. Lots of non-LA residents usually catch an online feed that broadcasts the game. The quality isn’t that great, but you can at least see what’s going on.

    As for Durant, I may be in the minority on this, but I think he’s going to be a fantastic player that will be a major player on a team that will be in the playoffs year after year. I’ve seen a fair amount of him and follow his boxscores and I’m seeing fantastic production. And as Kurt pointed out, recently his team has been winning much more. I honestly think that when his (former) coaches had him playing SG it was a gross injustice to his development as a player and ever since he’s moved to his natural SF position, he’s flourished. Understand in the end though, that it takes a team to contend and not just one guy. I do think he can be the foundation for a very good team that will compete and make some deep playoff runs.

  14. Bill Simmons’ article is equally and infinitely as bad as the CBS one.

    To summarize, he states, “Lebron dominated all aspects of the game while Kobe selfishly scored and his teammates stood around and watched.” I guess Simmons missed Al Harrington light LB23 up for 39 pts, and 11+ rebs during the same game. Not to mention Gasol’s monster game in NYC. Sometimes I don’t even know why I read this stuff.

    Anywho, I hope this isn’t a letdown game tonight. Maybe D. Fish, Kobe and Pau can get some rest with an early victory.

  15. That Simmons article certainly made me scratch my head. That aside though, he’s just repeating what other people have said negatively about Kobe before, and at the same time is washing his hands about it.

    Old stuff.

  16. Nothing new with Simmons.


    I agree with you… Seattle deserved better, so… I hope that team in Oklahoma can be as bad as the Clippers for years to come!!

  17. #14. I think we should all just take anything Simmons says about Kobe or the Lakers and just let it slide. Regardless of what he says, he has an agenda. I like Simmons and read what he puts out there because on general basketball stuff, he usually offers a very informed and intelligent opinion. Getting back to the article that he wrote, I think it’s funny that the one thing that he admits to being a “hater” on is that he lets his opinion of Kobe as person creep into his analysis of him as a player. In my mind, that tarnishes any other defense that he can put forward where he talks about the ways that he gives Kobe the benefit of the doubt. Essentially he’s saying that because he doesn’t hold Kobe the person in high regard, that those feelings spill over into any professional analysis he provides. And in the rest of the article he talks about (essentially) giving him the benefit of the doubt in various ways. I don’t see how that one fact (not liking him as a person) doesn’t corrupt everything else. He can point to example after example of where he lobbied for Kobe (his fantastic 2001 season, promoting him as the 2006 MVP, etc) but those examples are all just exceptions to the overall tenet of him not liking the guy. So in the end, what does it matter what he says? In reality, the one thing he admits to is the only thing that matters. He’s outed himself with that one admission.

  18. #2

    I will be at this game and i am planning on giving the team a long standing O, they earned more.

    section 306 reppin

  19. I’m pretty mad at myself for missing the awesomeness of the discussion yesterday. Kobe’s D, Bird rights, & mid-level exceptions. This place is platinum on non-game nights.

    Kurt says “decent production from Smush Parker and Kwame Brown”. That loaded statement will propel the rest of my work day. As controversial as Bill Simmons. And I wouldn’t get overly excited about Simmons’ foolishness. I love most of his stuff, but he continues to use kiddie arguments concerning Kobe. 3 rebounds with no assists! Please. Reporter or not, I can get that crap at the barber shop this Saturday. And I probably will.

    Is it too soon for negative comments about LO yet? #1 compares Durant to Odom? That’s a slap in the face. Durant is pure butter. And I agree, this kid is destined to be a dominate force on a winning team.

  20. K (#18) –

    Good to know I won’t be alone!

    These “less-desirable” games (OKC, Minnesota, Memphis, etc.) seem to bring in the better fans so I’m sure it will be good tonight.

  21. I was a Rams hater until Georgia died and John Hall left. I celebrated every misstep that organization made and loved the lopsided losses. The players I liked, but I now celebrate that the ownership is gone and I can treat them in a civil way.

    Why can’t we do the same with the Thunder?

  22. 19. I think for a season, the Lakers got as much out of Smush as one could, same with Kwame. The problem was they were both starters when in an ideal world they were backups playing 15 minutes a night in the previously discussed roles. Having to play them more gave them more time to explore the world outside those roles, and that was their undoing.

    Remember, I was calling for us to sign a PG not VladRad with the midlevel. But I’ll defend saying saying decent. Not good, not championship level, they were key reasons this was a .500 team then. But decent when they stuck to their roles.

  23. When LeBron purposely tries to score 61 points simply because Kobe did it 48 hours before. How is that in the flow of the game?

    I watched both games, and not to take anything away from LBJ, but he took 1 more shot than Kobe, made 2 less, shot 1 less FT, and made 4 less. And that came in the context of the game?

    LBJ referenced Kobe’s 0 rebs, and 3 assists and makes it a point to out do Kobe in that stat line, because he knew what it would look like to incomplete thinkers just waiting to discredit Kobe, that is NOT in the context of the game.

    Say what you want about Kobe’s game or LBJ’s, just don’t say one one was forced and not the other. The Knicks lost the Cleveland game in the final minute. Funny how conveniently Simmon’s forgot those facts.

    I don’t know why I wasted my time addressing it. This is why he writes those damn things.

  24. Personally, Simmons has sat through his share of Clipper games (he was a season ticketholder) so he has paid his penance for anything he has to say about Kobe/Lakers. 😉

    Seriously, the guy is a great and funny writer, enough balance between reporter mindset and passion-driven, nutty fan that I wouldn’t be so quick to dump his perspective in the BIASED bin.

    His take is pretty reasoned, I think. To the extent Kobe is a mixed bag as a teammate, that has to impact your take on his fingerprints as a player in a team sport.

    As a fan and a Laker lover, how could not a thread of thought enter your mind like, “How in the flow of the game does a guy getting double and triple teamed NOT find his teammates with better shots to yield more than three assists? How does a guy this locked in not find an errant shot landing in his hands to collect even a handful of rebounds?”

    I certainly wondered that. The one point that Simmons didn’t note is that this was the game following a blow to the team (Bynum’s injury) that could easily, understandably taken their swagger down a notch.

    Kobe’s game reminded everyone that as long as we got THIS GUY, we can still win it, and the rest of the trip played out accordingly.

    That has to mitigate.

  25. I would have loved to see Kobe in the H-O-R-S-E game.

    Everyone would get a letter when they failed to duplicate Kobe’s reverse spin fadeaway.

  26. Lebron should always average more assists and rebounds than kobe so to me its a dumb argument. The cavs offense is based on lebron driving a kicking to open shooters. so naturally he will have more assists, because he has the ball more often. Second he plays a possision that is supposed to get more rebounds. Forwards and Centers are supposed to get more rebounds than guards. Plus the fact that he is a few inches taller and like 50 pounds heavier hes bound to get more rebounds. The triagle is not built for a single person to have a lot of assists many times Pau has the game high in assists. Plus in that game where lebron had 52 9 11 he shot the ball more than kobe made fewer baskets, and stole rebounds from his own players. Ben wallace with 2 only because they took one of lebrons and gave it back to wallace.

  27. Are we near the point yet when the Durant/Oden draft question takes on a Pistonslike, “Why Darko over Carmelo Anthony? ” tone?

    Yes, the Pistons were stacked at Melo’s positon with Prince and Hamilton getting minutes at the two and three spots Anthony would have played. Yes, they needed a big man at the time. And yes, the Pistons were still very good regardless of this now unquestionably wasted high lottery pick.

    Yes, the Blazers were stacked with good wing players such as Roy, Aldridge and Outlaw (and now Rudy). Yes, Portland needed a good big man. And yes, they should still be competitive for years…

    But Darko over Melo sure looks like the NBA’s answer to “Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning…” And it’s shaping up that Oden over Durant could turn out the same way.

    (And yes, they’re still young. But I’m not sold that Oden will ever be worthy of a No. 1 pick, let alone jumping him ahead of a future All-Star like Durant. There’s something missing that suggests decent but not great, and I just don’t think their upsides are even in the same neighborhood.

  28. the other Stephen February 10, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    since you brought up the whole bacon thing, i’m gonna let you have it:

  29. Maybe unnecissarily so, but I am nervous about tonights game. Thunder are 9-9 in their last 18 and pretty much every lose has been close (re: 4 pts or less in I think 6 of those losses). Perfect trap game for us, so I hope we come out with a focus tonight. Pau and LO should be able to get off and but we do have a hand-checky rookie guarding Kobe, so we gotz options.

  30. Wow. Never thought I’d feel so sick seeing so much bacon in one sitting…. and I actually love the stuff. =\

  31. Wow… I don’t normally like bacon, but with the sausage and BBQ sauce, that looked like it might be good. In very small chunks. My arteries are trying to shrink away in terror from those pictures.

  32. I know this is unrelated to tonight’s game, and it may have been discussed in the lakers-cavs preview comments, but what did people here think about Lebron not getting MVP chants on Sunday? (Or for that matter in NY?) Are the Cavs fans really that different than Laker fans? Wasn’t Staples loud when Kobe was shooting free throws when the Cavs came to town? Is it because the fans want Lebron to concentrate and hit his free throws that they don’t chant M-V-P? He is having a heck of a season, after all. I know I sound really ignorant, but I’m just really curious.

  33. Clutch,
    Phil did get *decent* production from those players. Nothing special and many times average or right below average, but considering what they did before and have done since, I think it speaks to Kurt’s larger point of Phil being able to put player in position to succeed. That is the one thing I’ve always loved about Phil as a coach, he’s a calculated gambler. He has players that do certain things well but also understands those limitations. He then uses those strengths to the benefit of the team and to enhance a players confidence by placing those players into situations where they can be successful. I see the same thing in Popovich. When Parker and Ginobili were injured earlier this year, he used rookie George Hill masterfully. Hill is not a “set you up” type of PG, he’s a scorer. So, Pop took the ball out of his hands, ran the offense through Duncan, and had Hill focus on scoring the ball. Hill was successful (building his confidence) and the Spurs won games because they executed their plan and played to their strengths.

  34. Darius, speaking of building up players, I bet the Spurs fans wish they could have Reed write them up a psychology of making game winning shots re: Roger Mason Jr. Dude has been killing it during the regular season in clutch situations, they must hope that it translates to the postseason.

  35. rubens:
    I don’t think it has anything to do with Lebron’s performance. The Cavs fans saw their first home loss since last year’s playoff, and as all fans, they are not going to cheer on him if he can’t carry them to victory on his own home court. Especially not when he can’t even outperform the current MVP even when the guy has stomach flu.

    I doubt it was personal. It was the shock and disappointment of the first home loss of the season that silenced the chants.

  36. 28. Wow. I heard tell of this but never looked at the recipe online. That is just scary. I love bacon and I ‘m not sure I could eat that.

  37. Wow, I love bacon, but I might convert to Judaism after that recipe and that product.

  38. the other Stephen February 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    A sarcastic PJax on the ASG: “It’s always a great show that the NBA puts on, and the fact that it’s in Phoenix is great. Hopefully it will be a sunny day.” Ah, Phoenix, land of many bad memories. The best praise that he could summon up was a “sunny day.” Hahaha.

  39. Kwame,
    I agree whole heartedly on Mason Jr. Talk about another find by the Spurs. I know the Wiz are missing him right now with their lack of depth at SG. They’ve been forced to play Butler in that spot a lot this season and Mason Jr. was that guy for them last season. He’s definitely showing he’s got some of that “Horry” in him where the closing seconds don’t bother him at all.

  40. Bill Simmons does know what he’s talking about and can be very funny, but you have to account for his biases and self-importance whenever you read what he writes. I remember a couple years ago when he admitted Kobe was the MVP, and then ended the article by saying “and now I will light my hair on fire” or something like that.

    All that being said, that last article was a pretty lazy hack job by his standards. I’m sure he could have come up with a more creative way to bash Kobe than the lame “Kobe is selfish/LeBron is the ultimate team player” angle. To say nothing of the fact that LeBron was chasing stats throughout that game, first aiming for 61 and then trying to claim a triple-double (in vain on both occasions).

  41. Re: Simmons – Can’t find the link, but someone smart recently wrote about how Larry Bird used single games purposely just trying to break scoring records. As much as I like how he played (not whom he played for), he’s probably not the greatest example of someone who places a low value on scoring.

    I’m really impressed by what I’ve seen of the Thunder. Outside of their young “big three” they really have a mediocre roster and those three guys have just two combined NBA seasons under their belt. Once they get out of some of the contracts for that inefficient center platoon, they are in a great position (if you discount the disadvantage that OKC might not be that attractive a city for free agents).

    Durant has become really efficient for a guy who seemed like a bad volume shooter in his first season. From the small samples I’ve seen, what stood out was his really solid and creative footwork for such a young guy. He seems like someone who pays nearly as much attention to technical details as Kobe does.

    And with Green playing PF a lot and shooting the 3 as well as he does, they will do do well in the current NBA of shrinking line-ups. But they probably are still a defending swingman and a bruising big man away from getting over the hump like the young Blazers did.

  42. That’s almost the pork equivalent of turducken.

    If they could only get ham in there …

  43. What’s funny about the sudden bacon love here is I spent all weekend cooking with bacon- using it for refried beans and then last night I was cooking bacon infused southern collard greens as I saw Kurt’s bacon app. I guess it’s on our collective consciousness lately.

    BTW, I just received this in the mail:

    It has 20 pages by PJ and Tex talking about the Triangle. I’m looking forward to it, even though it will probably all fly over my pretty little head.

    And people, Bill Simmons has opinions. Why let it bother you? The cbs article was hilariously bitter though. Did Kobe run over his dog or something?

  44. Can one of the sage writers around here explain to me why there is so much negativity directed towards Kobe?

    If one thinks LBJ is better, or MJ is the greatest, I’ve got no problem with that. What I don’t get is the tearing down of KB.

    Other players are just as arrogant, other players have had legal issues. MJ punched his own teammate, KG made a teammate cry IN A GAME.

    I am not defending Kobe. He has done some negative things. His shot selection has been ‘questionable’ at times. His hyper-competitive drive overrules his be a good teammate drive sometimes. But there is something extra that makes some people want to tear him down. What is that extra thing?

  45. Mimsy: what do you think about LBJ not getting those chants in NY like Kobe did? And do you think NY would sign Kobe instead of LBJ if they could?

  46. VoR: Kobe looks more introverted than most stars. He looks more like a loner. Maybe that has something to do with it.

  47. 22, 33 – Fair enough, Kurt. Darius, I bow to #22. I can’t see both those guys name in the same sentence and not react. Tough couple of seasons there. Make teammates better my a… And folks wonder why Kobe lost it 2 offseasons ago.

    And Joel’s right. As a Simmons fan, it’s annoying because that was a puff, hack job piece for the magazine. He’s better than that.

    Do we really think this one is a trap game? I couldn’t even muster that this time.

  48. I think the Lakers look to make an example out of the Thunder tonight. I’d like to see Shannon and Ammo play tonight.

  49. 46. Ruebens, no way NY should sign Kobe over LBJ, simply because of the age factor. Get LeBron and you get another decade of the best player in the game by 2010. Kobe has a few more great years, he takes care of his body, but we are basically seeing his peak right now.

  50. 48- I’m just saying that for nearly two months OKC has played almost everyone tough. They will not come to Staples and give up in the 1st quarter.

  51. 45- Kobe punched his own teammate too. Admitedly it was only Samaki Walker, and I’m not trying to stir the pot any more, but let’s be accurate…

  52. 45) VoR,
    “What is that extra thing?”

    Kobe was the first to dare to approach MJ as a possible Greatest Ever. That is unforgivable in many peoples’ minds, especially because MJ was still around. LeBron won’t face that nearly as much, because there is more separation and because Kobe absorbed a lot of the arrows related to that.

    Add in the fact that Kobe never went to college, while MJ won a title while playing for Dean Smith, MJ was great at PR, Kobe had to compete with Shaq (also a PR genius) and was unfairly blamed for Shaq leaving the Lakers, Kobe got a reputation when he first came in (waving off Malone at the all-star game) as being selfish, the environment of today with all the cable channels and internet sites (which Jordan didn’t have to deal with nearly as much), and Colorado.

  53. 42 – I think you may be remembering the TNT crew one night when the Lakers were on. Chris Webber was talking about Larry Bird and the dream team (he was on the college team that scrimmaged them–and won). Someone shared an anecdote about how Larry intentionally went for the scoring record in like Washington or Atlanta, and was even talking to the opposing bench about it and calling his shots.

  54. Hating on Kobe is to be expected: he’s good, and for most people he’s not on their team. Pile on top of this the fact that he plays for a team that has shattered the dreams of most teams at one time or another over the past 50 years.

    I mean, I hate on the Celtics’ players from time to time. That’s just how it goes. And the denigrating of Kobe’s skills is to be expected, too. It’s just low class and intellectually bankrupt. I mean, even I have to admit that McHale’s up-and-under was a thing of beauty. I mean “beauty.”

  55. jamie was robbed.
    mmmm, bacon.

  56. #46:
    I would guess that the MSG crowd just likes Kobe a lot more than they like Lebron. They have always liked Kobe. He loves playing there and is not shy about saying that to anyone who wants to hear it, and you know that when he comes to visit he will put on a show.

    Kurt already answered the question about who to sign if you are the Knicks. Kobe is peaking now and maybe next year. Lebron is still a rising star, and if you want to future-proof your franchise you go for the younger guys.

  57. Simmons is Simmons. He has good opinions from time to time, but his biases are too much usually for him to write objectively. The CBS article is a crackpot though. Don’t know where the guy gets the notion he can be a professional sports writer with that frankly pathetic article.

    On the top of tonight’s game, if we pound it inside and take care to rebound, the game should go in our favor fairly quickly. Hate to see the Thunder’s performance when their bench comes out against ours though. That all said, OKC definitely has a bright future that Presti is building.

    As for the Top Chef issue, I really thought Leah should have been sent home. She showed no heart whatsoever throughout the contest, and didn’t even try to get the dish right. At least Jaime admitted that she realized where she went wrong and how she could improve. I’m cheering for Fabio as the underdog now, although I’m worried considering that the preview shows him cutting open his finger. Great episode though. I was positively salivating at the Le Bernardin dishes that were brought up.

  58. Rubens – You bring up an excellent point: is Kobe hated because of his introvertness? .

    I think that because Kobe’s game is so flashy, people expect his personality to be the same. They expect him to be like Shaq, Magic, Barkley or Lebron, cracking jokes, being outgoing, extroverted, etc. However, Kobe is more like Bird, Worthy, and Duncan: he is relatively quiet. This has hurt him tremendously in the public eye as some equate his silence as arrogance.

    In comparison, you have a guy like Lebron who is very extroverted, charismatic and incredibly savvy at marketing. Notice, for example, that Lebron is one of the sharpest dressers in the NBA (If he is in a suit, you can be he will have a kerchipm a very fresh looking scarf and P-Diddy like sunglasses) and hangs out with famous folk. If this were the 70’s, he would be wearing a fur coat, a fedora hat and hanging around at Studio 54. Lebron is not only marketing his skills, but he is also marketing the Lebron brand.

    Nevertheless, I don’t think the introvertness of Kobe is the reason why people don’t like him as much. I think that the primary reason why some people dislike Kobe stems from the fact that his game is very similar to MJ’s and that he came into the league while Jordan was in it. In my opinion, MJ die hards were simply not ready to embrace a new heir to the NBA while their precious MJ was still an active player. Had Kobe joined the NBA after MJ retired, people would have embraced Kobe differently. I’m not saying everyone would love Kobe more than Lebron, but I think the comments you would hear would be more along the respectful comparisons you hear when people try to compare Shaq’s and T. Duncan’s style.

  59. how many times are we going to see the words “trap game” tonight? hahaha…
    the nice thing is the way we’ve been playing, even if we start slow, or have a couple rough quarters, it still seems like we’re within 3 to 9 points, and with a few defensive stops and a few Kobe “money shots”, suddenly we’re back in it, the momentum has swung to our favor and, the rest as they say, is …

  60. Jeez, the nonsense you see on ESPN and elsewhere about those two MSG games. To me it boiled down to this: When Kobe came to NYC, he was playing against the Knicks (and demoralized them). When LBJ came to NYC, he was obviously playing against both the Knicks and Kobe.

    Please, will someone in the media take that Kobe-selfish-LBJ-selfless meme out behind the barn and shoot it? I actually like and appreciate Lebron a lot–the guy is a FORCE–but man, you just can’t watch him in a game like that and not think that sometimes he’s the biggest ballhog on the planet, bigger than Kobe’s almost ever been. Sometimes (though less so these days) LBJ looks as if he literally doesn’t know how to play basketball without the rock in his hands or the imminent expectation of having the rock. Fortunately for Cleveland, some great things happen when he does have the ball, but it’s not exactly what I, having witnessed Magic’s whole career, necessarily think of as selfless basketball. It’s not wrong for an offensive force like LBJ to be selfish at times; that’s what he does, and a weapon like that is meant to be used. (As is Kobe.) I just get tired of the silly and inaccurate pieties spouted about the guy.

  61. #45:
    “But there is something extra that makes some people want to tear him down. What is that extra thing?”

    If you look at Kobe and listen to him, it’s actually simple: He doesn’t care about what you think about him. Yes, he is very image-conscious and has worked hard to repair his public image, but when you get right down to it, he doesn’t really care of you like him or not. More importantly, he doesn’t really seem to care what the “experts” think about him.

    He really doesn’t seem to care at all if the expert analysts approve of him or not, and that’s just insulting to someone who is acknowledged by everyone else out there as a subject matter expert.

    That is what I personally think makes sports media personalities dislike him. Sport journalists and analysts live and die by their insight and knowledge of the sport they write about. The day J.A. Adande (or anyone else) no longer knows enough about basketball to write coherently and intelligently about it, is the day he loses his job. As a result, these sports writers are a bit sensitive about having their expertise questioned, and Kobe not only questions it–he ignores it.

    Kobe is the reigning MVP and has several championship rings. From a certain point of view it is a little ridiculous that someone who doesn’t have at the same amount of titles has the nerve to try and tell him how to play the game–pass more, get the others involved, facilitate better, or what have you. (And by the way, when his low-post option was Kwame Brown, can you blame him for having some team mate trust issues? That guy was an incarnation of the missed-pass turn-over.) Kobe doesn’t seem to care much for or like experts who criticize his game, instead he most likely just wants you to acknowledge that he is the best, or at least among the best, and then sit back and watch.

    No wonder he likes playing at Madison Square Garden.

    Interestingly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him be arrogant and dismissive of his fans. I could be biased, by virtue of being a very enthusiastic one, but it seems to me that if you’re just willing to agree with Kobe that he’s good at what he does, and that he knows how to do it better we do, then he isn’t such a bad guy.

  62. LBJ was said to be somewhat disturbed by Kobe’s insane fan appeal overshadowing him at the Olympics. Now that aside, what I’ve noticed from Simmons is that his magazine articles, like this one, often pail in comparison to some of the quality, somewhat enlightened and entertaining stuff for the website. Now that being said Lebron almost got a triple dip, but I don’t remember anyone going out of their way to point out Kobe’s 50 point 10 assist late in the season last year (I think it was against Dallas). I also don’t have a problem with somebody proclaiming LBJ to be better, but the Kobe hate bothers me. It’s all relative though. I’ll take a title over the best player moniker anyday.

  63. kobe will get doubled tonight all night..leaving gasol to do all the work tonight. huge fantasy numbers for gasol & odom tonight

  64. This is most definitely a trap game. We seem to play these games the same way: 3 lethargic quarters of unfocused defensive and offensive play and 1 quarter of repentance. It’s usually enough to get the win, but often leads to some frustration here at the forum. So, for anyone feeling their blood pressure boil during the first half: just remember we’re 41-9…

  65. At #34 (Kwame A) – Being a Laker fan here in SA, the locals have dubbed him Big Shot Rog. The only problem is that this is one part of one regular season. If he does this a time or two come post-season, then maybe we can talk. Teams take notice after one break out year. The great clutch playoff shooters do it time and again. That’s why in almost everyone’s list of clutch performers/scorers, Kobe is there. The dude has done stuff that no one will come close to (not known as a 3 point specialist and yet he set the record of having 12 in one game, rallying his team back and scoring 81 in the process, voted in as an All Star starter even though he wasn’t a starter on the ’98 Laker team). As for Simmons and Henry Abbot, what they both fail to mention is that Kobe picked up our team emotionally on one of the toughest days of this season. People can interpret Kobe’s facial expressions after the Bynum collision, but he did stay with his teammate. Ultimate warrior who has grown into a solid leader. Appreciate him as you have other past Laker greats. When he’s gone only memories and lore of his Laker accomplishments will remain.

  66. 59-oh my lord that thing is beautiful. hopefully it is real, and we’ll have the additional revenue stream to sign lamar. you know, after all of los angeles buys one…

  67. 42 – The link you are looking for is this one:

    It’s a great article, and one of the points is that Kobe isn’t new in looking to score a lot of points. He may be unique in the criticism he gets for doing it successfully.

  68. Hey Kurt,

    As an aside, Jamie’s restaurant in SF (where I live), Absinthe, just happens to be my favorite place to go for a hangover brunch (they have killer oyster shooters).

    Nonetheless, this fact did not keep me from growing to dislike Jamie just a little bit. I do agree that there is no way in heck that Leah (or Carla) should have made it this far. The thing that kills me about competitions like this is that people can game the system by staying evenly mediocre throughout while avoiding leadership roles.

  69. kobe might be at his peak, but given his good jumpshop + overall skillset and workethic im quite sure he can still average 30 until hes 35. he is smart enough to use his body the most efficient way. i mean, the guy basically plays with 3 fingers on his shooting hand and it doesnt affect him that much. talking about adjustment :).

    taking lebron over kobe in 2010? i guess you´d have to be crazy not to just because of the age difference.

  70. Interesting article by Henry Abbott at True Hoop where he is also dealing with his alleged Kobe hater status:–Which-is-Not-Hating-Kobe-Bryant.html

    I think this article accidentally highlights why many NBA diehards have difficulty supporting Kobe. In the article Abbott discusses a post by Josh Tucker of wherein Kobe and Lebron’s individual efforts against Boston are compared. The gist is that Lebron gets more layup attempts (which are very satisfying to most analysts/viewers) whereas Kobe takes, well, much more difficult “Kobe shots” (which generally frustratemany NBA diehards). However, their true shooting percentages are virtually identical!

    I think this highlights why many analysts can be so critical of Kobe, but also why he is so damn great.


    Haha he sounds like he couldn’t be less excited about coming to LA if he tried – but I recognize that it’s all part of his personality. He says all the right things about fitting in though.

    for all those that have seen him play pre-injury – is that weird shuffling gait of his normal, or is he still having significant knee issues?

  72. Kobe is better than Lebron in that he is still more experienced, hes a better shooter, better clutch player, and can make any kind of shot at any time lol. I mean Lebron may seem like by far the best in the league but he plays on a team where the offense always has to run through him, he always has to come up big for his team to win. With Kobe, he has other players, especially Gasol that the offense can be ran through.

  73. I think the thunder should be referred to as “the team formerly known as the Seattle Sonics”

    I too hope that the Lakers crush them because they left Seattle.

    I was looking at the schedule today, and I will be in Denver for a conference 1 week after the Lakers play Denver there in April. They should push move the AACR annual meeting to one week sooner so that I can go see the Lakers.

  74. Thanks for the thoughtful replies on the reason(s) for some people being so down on Kobe. I think the Simmons article really put things in stark relief – Probably because Kobe has done nothing but be a good teammate this season. He had a string of high assist games right before MSG. The article was pretty weak ( as others have pointed out) but it just seemed out of blue and that got me thinking.

    Regarding the game tonight, I’d like to see Pau’s minutes limited. He’s the guy I worry about getting run down with AB out.

  75. wiseolgoat – that’s how morrison moves. yeah, it’s kind of disturbing.

  76. While I’ve only missed a few Laker games this year, I think I’ll just skip this one. I moved to Seattle a few years ago and grew mildly attached to the team. Really enjoyed watching Jeff Green the one year he was here and was excited by that Durant could become, even though the writing was on the wall when they were picked.

    But I’m still to butt sore over what has happened and rather just put my head in the sand for this game.

  77. Chris H-I have also noticed that we can hang around, even fall behind by 7-10 points and come back within minutes. This was not the case last year, and although it isn’t a great recipe to fall behind early (not to mention the years off my life) it is nice to have confidence that this team can come back from a deficit. Still, letting Charlotte hang with us, and allowing them to outhustle us lost us a home game, we have to be proactive tonight to avoid such a result. I hope I’m over-blowing how hard OKC has been playing but I expect the game to be close…at least for awhile.

  78. And I’ve kinda taken to Karla. She is kinda like the LO of Top Chef. Ha, Sasha is Fabio (feisty yet likeable Euro), Karla is LO (slightly aloof, but surprsingly talented), and Stefan is kinda like Kobe (clearly the best but socially awkward, still deep down decent). Don’t know who Hosea and Leah are.

  79. 74. “better clutch player” does not agree:

  80. i thought this was a good article just talking about lebron and kobe and their shooting, its actually quite interesting and thought some of you might be interested in reading it as well

  81. Sorry-last thing, Jaime to me was Paul Pierce (West Coaster who looked cool, until you realized she was a whiner and a blamer)

  82. Was reading about how McGrady has gotten injured…again. He has been in the league for 12 years…just like a certain star we know. I think the continuous injuries that T-Mac faces is just another indicator that Kobe strives to be the best and has perfected his workouts to be as injury free as possible. Man I’m glad we have that #24 guy.

  83. 81,

    Clutch != game winning shots. A shot to change the flow of the game, a shot to clinch a lead, a shot to cement a lead, a shot at the end of a difficult possession, and more fall under clutch.

  84. Good points about how other high scorers in the past padded their point totals. I do prefer Bill’s website articles over his ESPN Mag articles. Bill himself has written more than once that Bird loved to pile up scoring records at various arenas. In that 20 Second Timeout column referenced above, it was mentioned that McHale set a record of 56 and Bird broke it with 60 a few nights later. The context of those games has actually been fleshed out by Simmons, who recalled that Bird taunted McHale when the latter didn’t try to reach 60 by saying that he would put up 60 in the next game. Sure enough, he did.

    So when Simmons writes that maybe he criticizes Kobe because Simmons was raised on the Larry Bird/Celtics/Auerbach/team ball concept, he’s forgettting what he himself has written in the past about Bird. It’s like he’s overlooking the fact that every great player has an ego. Sure, Bird wanted to win, but he also wanted MVP awards, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just admit it, Bill.

    I think that Kobe’s original motivation in the Knick game was to show his teammates (and the rest of the NBA) that despite the loss of Drew, “I’m still a Laker.” When he started to approach the record, then it became “let’s get the record too.” Nothing wrong with that in my book, although knowing Kobe, I think he was probably more aware of MJ’s 55-pt game than he was of King’s 60.

  85. More importantly, sometimes clutch is a smart foul or a great pass. Clutch, in my mind, is just short-hand for having icewater in the veins, for staying calm, cool, collected, and for not losing your head when all about you are losing theirs. 😉

  86. is anyone keeping up to date with the boxscore for the cavs going against the pacers right now, lebron has 23 points on 8-9 shooting and stilla bit of time left in the 2nd quarter.

    he has 0 assists though and his team is losing. hmmm..

  87. Clutch stats has to be one of the most incomplete bogus stats I’ve seen in a while. Clutch cannot be measured in numbers. There are just too many variables.

    I’m really starting to hate this Hollinger era of basketbal “stats” that reach more than they prove. Basketball is just too fluid for all of these made up stats.

  88. 85.

    True, but if we’re going to be applying a ‘clutch’ value to any individuals plays within a basketball game, then we should be applying the most clutch value to the game winning shot opportunity. And by ‘s standards (Game Winning Shot Opportunity = 24 seconds or less left in the game, team with the ball is either tied or down by 1 to 2 points), Kobe has been significantly less clutch than LeBron (and in fact has been below league average over the last 5 seasons):

  89. At least Simmons admits he is biased. There are so many writers who apply double standards when dealing with Kobe but pretend they are being objective.

  90. The phrase ‘clutch stats’ is an oxymoron, because ‘clutch’ is a subjective term to begin with. It sure as hell isn’t limited to the last few minutes of a close game.

  91. 90,

    So you admit I’m right but then claim that your stance that applying the label “clutch” to anyone means game-winning shots? Per wondahbap, clutch doesn’t equate to that. Not even to my limited list. If I had a choice between LeBron and Kobe on the last possession of a game, I’d still give it to Kobe. That’s something you can’t quantify with stats.

  92. 89-Totally agree Wondahbap. Baseball is really friendly to new stats. I think the new stats help reinforce things you see with your eyes, but they are not a substitute. I feel Hollinger goes too far to correlate his stats to his predictions/contentions (see Utah). Still, things like True Shooting Pct, Rebound Rate and 5 man unit numbers are helpful to articulate and validate points.

  93. I think that the article by Henry Abbott actually bothers me a bit more than the article by Simmons. These are both intelligent and at times thoughtful writers. And yet both of them seem to miss that implicit in their language — “I don’t hate Kobe Bryant” — is the idea that Kobe Bryant is hate-able.
    Which is not something one sees very often in relation to sports stars, and quite frankly any article with that idea as its defining agenda is not going to be un-biased, objective and balanced.

    They both are hardcore fans of teams that are not the Lakers. They both have agendas. I do appreciate that Simmons comes out and says it; Abbott needs to come out and say it, too. If you ever read his writing or look at his links, his agenda is pretty clear, and he’s not ever (that I’ve seen, but I admit I’ve mostly decided he’s not worth my time) said anything positive about the Lakers, or Bryant. Which isn’t hate, for sure, but it isn’t demonstrative of an even-handed intake of reality, either.

  94. I thought the ‘clutch’ discussion was decided at the gold medal game in the last Olympics – at least with this generation of superstars it was.

    Did Kobe hit the game winning shot – or was he ‘clutch’ in a much more comprehensive and meaningful way?

  95. In the beginning Kobe was a press darling. The only problem was that he was busy working on his game and didn’t have time for the press. Then the MJ fanatics started resenting any mention of Kobe being in the same stratosphere as MJ and the snowball started rolling down hill. At the same time Shaq was busy ‘puttin’ down this young’n’ and Shaq always remember who agreed with him and didn’t allow those who didn’t access.

    This was getting noticeable when Colorado happened and then Kobe turned into Barry Bonds overnight. It only changed when the press could no longer avoid giving Kobe the MVP award I thought he would never get.

    Kobe doesn’t deserve an uncritical acceptance, but he is a heck of a lot closer to the perfectly trained player than anyone else playing the game today.

  96. pollyserial,

    Isn’t just oxymoronic writing articles in which you have to write that you do not “hate Kobe” but still feel the need to write articles or bullet points that debunk Kobe’s accomplishments?

    I could care less what they think of him, but what other player in the NBA do you know of that some writers go out of their way to argue against? Everything is a compare and contrast for Kobe. Or this guy is better than Kobe.

    Kobe sells. No matter how much the powers that be are forcing LeBron down our throats, it’s Kobe that peaks everyone’s interests. Kobe fans will read articles because they want to know if he’s getting his due, or is being “hated” on. Kobe haters read them so they can agree with the “hate.” No one else in the NBA gets this attention.

    If you don’t hate Kobe, then don’t write article after article in reference to him. Make your points fro LBJ or whoever else without having to discredit Kobe. It’s boring. I like LeBron. I don’t have to bash him to pick Kobe over him.

  97. The Kobe Vs Lebron debate could go forever. My take. Kobe is the more skilled player. He just works so hard on every facet of his game, he has every move down to an art form, both in the post and from the perimeter. Lebron is more physically gifted; unmatched in size, strength and quickness. He uses this well on the perimeter to get past his defender and get to the rim. The one aspect of his game that he can’t match Kobe on is in the post (not his jump shot). He just doesn’t have the repertoire off moves that Kobe has. Once Lebron develops this part of his game he will be hands down the best player in the game for the foreseeable future.

  98. Clutch is certainly not defined by ’s standards and clutch performances frequently don’t happen at the end of games. Lamar’s clutch performance occurred in the 3rd qtr on Sunday.

    For an interesting look at Kobe’s shooting and when he shoots, take a look at a long article:

    This is the last of a six part study of Kobe’s shooting in the year 2007/08. It is very comprehensive and shows he turns it on when the team is in danger – whenever that might occur in the game. That is my definition of clutch, but it really doesn’t lend itself to any statistical analysis, unless you go through what the author went through – no John Hollinger is going to go through that.

  99. I cannot disagree more with #1 Bryan. My take on Durant? I see no reason why, when Kobe is on what I pray to G-d is a slow and lengthy slide down from the illuminated and inspiring height of his current greatness (did I just go Walton on you all?) that Durant cannot be the foil to LBJ’s greatness. If Kobe is Dr. J and LBJ is Jordan (not a great comparison but you get the gist) then Durant will be Clyde. That isn’t a great comparison either because I think Durant might have the ability to do to LeBron what Cayde couldn’t to Jordan. Also, the earlier players were both prototypical shooting guards in terms of skill and body type.

    First, Durant’s shot is already reliable in ways that I don’t think LeBron’s ever will be unless he changes his form. Durant can catch and shoot. He can do one dribble, to either hand and shoot. He can do multiple dribbles to either side and shoot. These are all high percentage shots for him.

    Second, he has peerless length and he uses it to create space on his jumper (ala Aldridge) and to make his explosive first step seem like two steps (ala nobody). This explosion can happen to your right or your left.

    He finishes around the basket with elite level touch, using both hands, and with power. He tries to rip the rim down.

    He already has post moves that he can go to in either direction and finish them with either hand. He can then go to the rim or stop and pop. He uses screens and can play both roles in a P&R.

    His nose for the ball and length make him a very good rebounder. He has been putting some man-meat onto his bones (minds out of the gutter now). You can see it in his rebounding and his post play. Unlike LeBron, Durant came into the League with an endocrine system having much more left to say about where his body will be in his maturity.

    On D, Durant knows how to use his length to effect scorers. He uses his length to allow him to stand further back from his defensive assignment then you usually see. He is getting much better at closing out on shooters and his position allows him to narrow passing lanes and driving lanes both. I should have paid attention to his defensive footwork in the games I’ve watched. I won’t compare him to the elite guys like Crash or even the very fine guys like Ty Thomas. Durant is a plus defender, does a good job of helping, and is getting better all the time.

    Here is what intrigues me about Durant and his relationship to the League in general. Durant has the prototypical basketball build if Modigliani were to design him. He has the basketball IQ and will to work on his game that all the greats need. Both LeBron and Durant make plays for their teammates and both can find and make the pass that indicates genius for the game. I think LeBron’s assist numbers are much higher then Durant’s for the same reason that Magic had higher assist totals then Bird. Their style and roles were different enough to create statistical differences. That does not mean that Bird didn’t make the insane passing play that nobody else could see. Point being, LeBron and Durant going at each other is a football body going at a basketball body while both have the mental workings of a basketball player. I am dying to see this morphology experiment done in this NBA lab.

    Also, enjoy Green and Westbrook. Both are very good players and I’m thinking Westbrook will join some interesting conversations involving Rose, Paul and Williams. I have a feeling we will be seeing at least one breathtaking play in honor of his UCLA homecoming. If they make that Salmons trade, plugging him into Mason’s role, this team will be super-interesting. I have to admit I have a little crush on this team. Thank you League Pass.

  100. 98

    I disagree with you on one point: I think the jumper is absolutely the most important thing for LeBron to improve. There’s a reason his playoff FG% is so dismal by his standards. He could stand to improve his post game as well, but in a playoff series teams like Boston and San Antonio will pack the lane (reducing his post-up opportunities) and dare him to shoot from outside. The last couple of postseasons he has been unable to make those shots consistently and that has severely limited his effectiveness.

  101. wow, didn’t realize I had run so long.

  102. Sorry, that was directed at Ryan (#99).

  103. 89.

    I am not sure if you are referring to me, but this is hardly something as complicated as PER that that is talking about here. They are just talking about generally accepted statistical measures like fg%, ft%, and a/to in a particularly high-leverage situation of possessing the ball while being down 1-2 points with under 24 seconds to go.


    No, I agreed partly with you that there are other situations in a basketball game that merit having the value label of ‘clutch’. I added that if we’re going to accept at all this value label being applied to certain situations in a basketball game then we should also allow that some situations should have a greater amount of that value applied to them, with the game winning shot opportunity being awarded the most ‘clutch’ value.

    Well, you can quantify things like fg% and to’s. And in these easily quantifiable stats, LeBron has outperformed Kobe over the last 5 years.

  104. A hater is someone who is jealous and envious and spends all their time
    trying to make you look small so they can look tall.
    They are very negative people to say the least. Nothing is ever good

    When you make your mark, you will always attract some haters…

    That’s why you have to be careful with whom you share your blessings and
    your dreams, because some folk can’t handle seeing you blessed…

    It’s dangerous to be like somebody else… If God wanted you to be like
    somebody else, He would have given you what He gave them ! Right?

    You never know what people have gone through to get what they have…

    The problem I have with haters is that they see my glory, but they don’t
    know my story…

    If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, you can rest
    assured that the water bill is higher there too!

    We’ve all got some haters among us!

    -Maya Angelou

  105. Honestly, after reading the Simmons article I could only shake my head.

    Many anecdotes of Larry Bird portrayed him as arrogant (and guilty of stat-padding and aiming for records himself), and that’s the man Simmons calls the “Basketball Jesus”. I remember Simmons once justifying Bird’s shootfest to hit 60 points due to him wanting to teach McHale some strange lesson for “only” scoring 56 IIRC.

    Does Bill really think there’s a justifiable difference between Kobe and Bird in this instance for being against the “team-first” mentality he claims to adore so much?

    I like reading his articles, but he’s got quite a blind spot going there.

    Abbott I’m less concerned about. I’ve read a lot of posters around here mentioning that he seems to have a very anti-Kobe or anti-Lakers slant; I can’t really say for myself since I almost never read his work, though I did look at this essay. I personally did not have a huge problem with it, though I don’t think it completely captures the whole picture.

    I’ve never been a big fan of the Kobe vs. LeBron argument, because their playstyles are completely different. I will say that some of the best players the league has seen (including Older MJ, a point that has been made in the comments on TrueHoop as well) relied quite heavily on their jumpers and were still widely considered to be some of the best. Henry can talk about loving layups all he wants, but it’s hardly a fantastic barometer IMHO.

  106. *No* one can match Lebron’s package of size/strength/explosiveness/quickness. No one. He may be the most dominant athlete to ever play in the NBA to date.

    That said, I think he gets by far too often on athleticism alone. I’ve seen him play many times on TV, and three times in person, and each time I’ve been amazed by his utter lack of footwork. I haven’t seen him play live this year, so maybe his footwork has improved, but somehow I doubt it. Right now he doesn’t really need to develop a full repertoire because he can get by just fine on his physical gifts. But as he gets older, and less explosive, if he doesn’t develop the type of moves that Kobe has his effectiveness will be diminshed. It happened to MJ, and it’s happening to Kobe, and both of them were prepared for the erosion of their physical talents. Will Lebron?

  107. Mine was directed at #99 too.

    Also, forgot to add – it is illuminating to check out Lebron’s shooting stats on the “hot spots”. You can see there how he really is a startlingly below average shooter pretty much everywhere but around the rim (where he both takes and makes an amazing amount of shots). But as we saw Sunday, if you can limit his forays to the basket, you can really limit his effectiveness. Which is why I think Cleveland could be in trouble come playoff time, when those close to the basket shots are more difficult to get.

  108. Oops, I meant to quote 93 and not 90.

  109. I’d love to see a “Dwight Howard is Better than LeBron because…” article.

    I’m willing to bet Dwight is better point blank than LeBron as well, and rebounds better. So, if that’s the reason LeBron is better than Kobe, then where’s the 3000 words on that?


  110. I am not surprised to hear Larry Bird described as arrogant, and it doesn’t bother me any more than it bothers me that Kobe is arrogant, or that Phil Jackson is.

    Arrogance has to be earned, but once you have earned it then you can get away with it. it will never excuse a-hole punk behavior (Yes ,Garnettt, I am looking at you!), but a bit of arrogance after 11 NBA finals appearances where you 9 of them? Sure. Knock yourself out Phil. You’ve earned the right.

  111. *where you WON 9 of them… ugh

  112. The Cavs are down by 5 to the Pacers in Indy with about 3 minutes to go.

  113. Just something funny that occurred to me about the Kobe vs. Lebron debate: I wonder how many times the game previews on the Cleveland websites include the phrase “the key to this game is to pound the ball into the paint”.

    Cleveland is a fine team (I expect we’ll meet them in the finals), but Kobe and his team (!) have a lot more options than the Cavs do. Looking at how they play in isolation without considering this . . . is just a way to generate web content.

  114. Indiana has beaten the Celtics, the Magic, and the Lakers this season. Can they complete the set tonight?

  115. Wild Yams…this guy is always good.

    WildYams always has something good to say. About all NBA related things, not just the Lakers. He’s one of my favorite NBA blog commenters (what else can I call us?):

  116. Kurt,

    one more Top Chef aside –

    I couldn’t disagree more with sean p on absinthe. had one of the least impressive brunch experiences there for the money. like jamie, some of the food was good, but it was uninspired and overpriced and the service was Absint(he).

    $14 for 5 develied eggs with a flake of grilled trout and 3 caviar eggs on top (that’s 2.5 eggs and dust).

    I know we are all trying to enjoy this season but I am still curious what the off-season holds for us (LO’s expiring contract, Kobe opting out, Phil taking it one year at a time, economy in freefall, etc). I want a long term picture with this team.

  117. well lebron explodes for 43 points and his team may not come out with the win, i wonder how many articles will say “lebrons dazzling performance with no help from the supporting cast results in the 11th loss for the cavs”
    while if kobe had done what lebron did tonight we would endlessly hear about kobe being a ball-hog and not sharing the loss therefore resulting in a loss.

    how is it ok for one player but not ok for the next? kobe gets criticized so much more than lebron, i dont get why he has to be held on such a high pedestal thats impossible to reach.

    secretly i think kobe loves that kind of thing though becuase he loves proving everyone wrong. hes quiet and he doesnt out right speak of his disdain about the media and all his critics, he just revels in it. kobe really knows that all of the analysis on why lebron is better then him, he doesn’t need to prove all these guys wrong by speaking to the public because night in and night out he does out on the courts.
    kobe is more of a speak through your actions not your words and i think thats why the media does not like him as much all they can do is assume where as lebron speaks out

  118. Anyone watching Cavs-Pacers?
    Can’t believe they gave Lebron that call…

  119. wtf?
    :00.4 CLE – L. James hits the second free throw
    :00.4 CLE – L. James hits the first free throw
    :00.4 IND – Personal foul on D. Granger
    :00.8 CLE – 20 sec timeout

  120. Whoa, Granger got the call too!
    That is one of the strangest endings I’ve ever seen…

  121. Wow. Crazy end to the Pacers-Cavs game. Two alley-oop foul calls with under a second left. Pacers win.

  122. Cleveland vs. Indiana ended in irony.

    LeBron walked off mad as h*ll? Why?

    What’s good for the goose…….

  123. cavs fouled while tied with .1 on the clock, not very smart but hey who doesnt make mistakes.

  124. 119

    Turnabout is fair play. The foul they called on LeBron was even worse!

  125. what happened in the cavs game?! were there two fouls called? i dont get it! someone fill me in if you would be so kind

  126. Foul on Granger against Lebron with .4 left on the clock. Then foul against Lebron with .2 left.


  127. I mean, Foul on Lebron with .2.

    I think they realized they messed up with calling the foul on Granger, and gave it back with the call on Lebron. Talk about Refs deciding a game.

  128. Not only that, both fouls were on alley-oop plays. They were almost identical.

  129. Cinz,

    Indiana was up 2 with 0.9 seconds left. Cleveland ran an alley-oop to LeBron. Danny Granger was guarding him. They called a weak foul against Granger, saying Granger “pushed” LeBron in the air with his body, preventing him from catching the ball. It was a WEAK call. LeBron hits both FT’s.

    So, with Indiana having th ball with 0.4 seconds left, the Pacers ran the SAME play and LBJ was called for the SAME foul on Granger. Granger hit the 1st, misses the 2nd on purpose. LBJ walks off the court before the buzzer in disgust. Pacers win.

  130. Both were WEAK calls, but the 1st call prompted the 2nd.

  131. oh thanks wondahbap!

    well at least the refs were consistent right?

  132. Right now, Kobe is at Staples watching LeBron score 47 and lose, so he’s going for 50 tonight.

  133. 135

    I very much doubt that, but we’ll see what happens.

  134. Does anyone else feel dirty watching the Non-Sonics?

    The ownership basically screwed the city of Seattle out of their team by making a good faith agreement and stabbing Seattle in the back as soon as possible.

    I just can’t get excited about any of their players, no matter how good. I know it’s not their fault. And revenue sharing means OKC gets their money if I watch any NBA. Still, what a screw job.

  135. 135

    Nope. Kobe is going for a 40 point triple double. He’s a team player.

  136. Joel,

    I was joking, but don’t sleep, emh101 might be right.

  137. I really respect the way the Pacers save themselves to only try hard against the best teams in the league. There’s a purity to their devotion there.

  138. Man, if kobe makes it through the game without puking on the court, I’ll be impressed….

    If you accidentally puke on the man you’re guarding is that a normal foul or a technical?

  139. 141. Depends on what he last ate. If it was liver and onions you can actually get a flagrant.

  140. Has a player ever thrown up on the court? I saw Pete Sampras do it during a tennis match (which he won), but I can’t recall any other upchucking sports stories.

  141. Hey guys are there any links around? Thanks in advance…

  142. 101 – Whoa P. Ami, that’s a serious man crush you got on Durant and the whole Thunder program. As the hype machine died down on him, I really started to like his game, but I haven’t seen them much. You almost make me want to pick up LP so I can watch them the rest of the season.

  143. “Has a player ever thrown up on the court? I saw Pete Sampras do it during a tennis match (which he won), but I can’t recall any other upchucking sports stories.”

    Willie Beaman did this every game.

    What a competitor.

    I can’t wait to see the video of the end of this Cav’s game. I’m sure it’s going to be terrible.

  144. Clutch, Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie is also very big on the Thunder.

  145. Thanks. Now I have a good reason to check out his stuff.

  146. Good to see the Lakers pounding the ball inside early. They have size advantages all over the court, starting with Pau vs Collison.

  147. wow sloppy start but im not very surpised, sure we’ll pull it back

  148. I don’t know if this is a trap game. It may be more of a “Baxter in the Refrigerator” game. After what they’ve just shown, a let down here would be hard to get angry about. If I feel that way, THEY might also. In which case you can expect it to at least be close.

    I love the brief discussion my last comment started. There was the Donovan McNabb superbowl, otherwise I can’t think of another example. Which is remarkable when you think about it.

  149. Wow.

  150. 3 ucla PGs on the floor

  151. this might be the lowest key game ever

  152. Seriously. It is dead in here. I’m seriously thinking about doing my taxes.

  153. Sadly, I’m still at work so there’s not much I can add. Except that I hate Tuesday games for this reason.

  154. J. D.,

    So do we now have, “the butter’s getting hard, the jello’s jiggling and Baxter’s pooping”?

  155. Kurt: Not much to add even when watching the game. Kobe and Pau getting theirs, and Lamar doing a good job on the board. Lakers don’t seem all that excited though.

    Biggest news so far: Kobe surpassing 23.000 points for his career (youngest ever).


    yes- but only in games where you can add “and I don’t even care!”

  157. why is kobe so fired up?

  158. I guess the last 2 plays were a little exciting…

  159. And as I say that, Lakers of course go on a run=) With a little luck, the starters can get some rest in the 4th tonight.

  160. The Lakers needed that first quarter and a half to wake up. That last half a quarter was great. Odom picking up where he left off against the Cavs.

  161. First off, if the last thing you had before you vomit on a player is either liver or onions you get a flagrant. If you ate BOTH, that should be an automatic ejection. And a fine for stinking up the arena. Yuck.

    Second, is it me, or do the Lakers seem a bit laid back tonight? They’re not slacking, there’s just not the same thirst for blood as on the road trip.

  162. Wow, Stu just informed me that the Thunder lead the league in BOTH turnover AND Points off turnovers.

    What are the chances!

  163. blagh. I meant Joel not Stu

  164. Kobe passed 23000 points tonight.

    These are rough calculations so dont rag on me too hard but Kobe will surpass Kareem as the leagues all time scorer if:

    – He plays 8 more seasons
    – Averages 25ppg during that time
    – Plays in an average of 80 games over those 8 years

    I wud love to see him do it but I believe Lebron will eventually break the record for good or atleast until they let highschool players come into the league straight out of highschool again.

  165. OK Joel, we get it!!! Points off a turnover!!!! Yeesh.

  166. Lakers can’t seem to put this team away.

  167. I suspected this game would be close going into the fourth. OKC has some nice pieces, an explosive a guard, a jack of all trades tweener and a bona fide 25+ ppg scorer. I like K.Weaver too, I was wondering if he would make the League. Brooks is impressive in that he has them playing hard, the job shouldd be his.

    I want to see our bench come out to start the 4th and put this team away.

  168. A real defensive struggle going in Oakland.

    Knicks 95, Warriors 105

    Did I mention they’re still in the 3rd quarter?

  169. This lineup is not playing smart offense. The guards have to make sure that the offense is run through Pau. Jordan needs to slow down and establish the offense, this will allow our defense to get back and be balanced. The quick shots are letting OKC get too many run-outs.

  170. Just went and read all of the Kobe posts today since I can’t watch the game, and my thing is this:

    I get the fascination behind layups and dunks. I get that they are higher %, and also create many more opportunities for your teammates. I get that if you are unstoppable going to the hoop, well, you are unstoppable period.

    Problem with all of this is:

    1. It’s a higher %, but sometimes not by much. The area just outside the paint is just as dangerous in most cases, sometimes more so depending on how much defense can collapse onto you.

    2. If the defense collapses, it is possible that it creates better opportunities for your teammates, but it also makes it all that more likely that you’ll cough it up. The defense is not stupid; when they collapse, they have ample reason to do so.

    3. You really can’t be unstoppable going to the hoop, if the other team just flat out denies the paint, like we do with the SSZ (or try to do, anyway). Case in point is LeBron in his game against us.

    4. You goddarn risk a lot by going to the paint. I’d be very interested in a injury chart and see where the most injuries take place. I’m not sure if it’s even going to be a contest.

    5. Everyone at the NBA level can make layups once they get there. A good percentage can make it with one defender waiting for them at the rim, even. But the jumpshot? Some will never even be catch-and-shooters, much less be able to pull up for Js being double or triple teamed. That part of the game is not where you can take development for granted. Else we won’t be marvelling at Kobe as we are now, would we? LeBron cannot just be expected to have a jumper all of a sudden. Kobe, however, has one. Or two. Or three…

    All in all, yeah, LeBron with Kobe’s skillset would be the ultimate monster. Kobe’s never really going to have LeBron’s body, nor will he get any younger.

    But also it’s not granted or even in the realm of ‘likely’ that LeBron can add a mid-long range game like Kobe. Nor are we sure which will come first: his body taking enough punishment or him adding a Kobe-esque mid-long range game to his arsenal.

    Sure, he is freakishly good as he is, but there is a book on him: Make him shoot.

    Kobe, he’s not as unstoppable as LeBron is on the drive, but there is no book on him.

  171. Now Mihm in for Gasol..even a more stranger lineup

  172. I think Sasha deserved to stay in. Trevor shoulda came out.

  173. oooooooooooo kay! Finished my taxes. I almost feel guilty for taking a refund from CA.

    Did the lakers really just extend the lead with a Mihm-Powell twin towers?

    Jeff Green’s assorted white bandages make him look like he’s just escaped from a hospital. I keep expecting to see him carrying an old wooden crutch. Not a good fashion statement.

  174. Harold, you need to become a sportswriter

  175. GSW has 128 with 4 minutes left in the game.

  176. Harold, that’s a great post, except you got one thing wrong. Kobe, with Lebron’s physi

  177. JD, you’re not getting a refund from the state, you are getting an IOU like the rest of us.

  178. 140 with 2 left. I’m rooting for 150 in regulation.

  179. Grrr. Stupid laptop touch pad thing. Sorry about the double-post. Anyways.

    Harold, that’s a great post, except you got one thing wrong. Kobe, with Lebron’s physique would be the ultimate monster. Kobe has a mentality and drive that Lebron seems to be lacking. He has the killer instinct, but more importantly, Kobe has the killer desire and abilities. He can see weak spots, and he has no qualm about targeting them. Lebron is just… too nice.

  180. Kurt, they should give us tickets to use ina ski ball style prize booth. I’ll take the mini harmonica and a comb.

  181. or is it “skeet ball” I don’t remember.

  182. I’ve already come out and let you all know about by OKC crush. I don’t even care that they were stolen from Seattle. I think this game is less a function of the Lakers struggling to put a bad team away and more that this is the Thunder I’ve seen play since Brooks took over and made his tweeks to the team. They still have some serious issues in the middle but if they draft a kid who can make Krstic, Collison and Wilcox their version of Mihm, Mbenga and Powell and they are going deep into the playoffs.

  183. Did I hear correct, that the ‘Durant’s team’ have six 1st round picks in the next two years, they certainly could trade some of those for whoever they need.

  184. 188 – Something like that, Presti has really stockpiled those draft picks. I think most likely he’ll keep the picks and let the team grow together with young players, although if the right opportunity presents itself he might be able to package them for something. Especially since so many teams are cutting costs, a pick and an expiring contract is much more valuable these days.

  185. 7 in a row… 31 more to go!

  186. How many wins did the lakers have in 2006 and 2007?

  187. The 05-06 season, it was 45, then in 06-07 it was 42.

  188. Many people here reject whatever Simmons has to say on Kobe because he admits to disliking him. That attitude is best exemplified by Darius: “…he lets his opinion of Kobe as person creep into his analysis of him as a player. In my mind, that tarnishes any other defense that he can put forward where he talks about the ways that he gives Kobe the benefit of the doubt.”

    Well, I have a simple question for you: If you feel there’s no reason to ltrust opinions of a person who dislikes Kobe then why do you think anybody should pay attention to whatever some Kobe-lover thinks? I believe, Darius, you’ve fallen into your own trap. By your own admission anything you (or Kurt, or Reed, or any other Lakers fan here) had to say about that team is pretty much worthless.

    I disagree with some things Simmons wrote but there’s no way I’m dimissing it just on the ground of what he thinks of Bryant as a person.

  189. Gotta love those fans in attendance… so worried about the tacos haha

  190. When Durant dribbles there are times when it appears that his hand is on the ball as it touches the floor. The guy is built like a prop plane… A very skinny and wobbly prop plane.

  191. 193.

    The difference is that none of us makes a living writing about sports or the Lakers… Whenever I want a biased opinion about the other teams, I go to their blogs…

    And make no mistake, nobody is more critic of the Lakers than the regulars here… We expect nothing but the best.

  192. JM: First of all, I don’t see Darius claiming that Simmons’ writing is “worthless”. And second of all, I haven’t seen Darius’ opinion of Kobe the person affecting his analysis of Kobe the player – have you? And the same goes for Kurt and Reed btw.

    That being said, I myself enjoy Simmons texts and podcasts – regardless of his opinions on mr Bryant.

  193. 193 – What the h * * * are you talking about JM? Darius nor anyone else said his opinion is worthless just because he dislikes Kobe. We’re saying how can you write a column saying I’m not a Kobe hater, when you obviously are? To add further insult, his arguments are extremely weak. Reminiscent of an actual hater. He’s shown repeatedly he’s capable of much better writing.

    He’s a self-proclaimed fan of Bird and he tries to play the fundamental b-ball fan that doesn’t care about stats when Kobe scores 61. Simmons is always reciting player stats in justification of one thing or another. And Bird is famed for trying to put up numbers on people and telling them about it. Then, he says LBJ’s 52 came in the flow of the game. He’s has to be kidding. I didn’t see it, but many, many people have already disputed that heavily. I don’t understand what points in that particular piece you could agree with.

    After all these years, he could just write a piece saying I don’t like Kobe & it affects my coverage on him. Most people probably wouldn’t even care. I personally love when media guys openly state their personal feelings about players/teams. You get better, real content. This fake “I treat everyone equal” stuff is old and unbelievable, because they don’t. If you really like a sport and follow it, there will be players/teams you have an affinity for. Be honest.

  194. the other Stephen February 11, 2009 at 6:46 am

    just a bynum update:

    “Bynum rejoined his teammates Monday, but is weeks, if not months, away from practicing again with them…’He came to practice and showed me the flexibility he had,’ Jackson said. ‘He’s walking without aid. He feels pretty good. We know these first two weeks are going to be kind of sketchy and then as things start healing, then things are going to start changing.'”

  195. 196
    First, my feeling is Kurt & Co, are trying to be as impartial and unbiased as possible here. See Reed’s comparison of Kobe and LeBron form a week or two ago. Agree with him or not, one thing’s certain – he didn’t let his support for the Lakers get in the way of his reasoning.
    Second, I am coming to FB&G to learn from more knowledgeable, smart guys. If I wanted a biased opinion I’d go to some average forum and read X-lovers and X-haters throw verbal haymakers at one another with no regard for human logic. So I don’t agree with you on that job/hobby stuff. Are you saying that somebody commenting on Lakers has all the right to be stupid as long as he doesn’t get paychecks for his writing?
    If somebody’s biased, he’s biased, period. And for me strong bias (whether negative or positive) equals mistakes in reasoning equals worthless conclusions.
    Finally, if people here are the biggest critics of the Lakers then how come so many are so upset with some journalist not worshipping Kobe?