Three (Not So) Little Things

Kurt —  June 15, 2009

Game 5 - Magic vs. Lakers
The big things in that get a team a championship are obvious — the trust in Derek Fisher to hit the key threes, Kobe Bryant’s daggers, Pau Gasol’s work on defense.

But a championship is a combination of a million things little and big. I want to put a little spotlight on these three.

1) Mitch Kupchak. While everyone has talked about how this title completes a cycle of redemption for Kobe, it does the same for Mitch as well. He just tends to avoid the cameras.

Jodial said it very well in the comments.

No one has earned this title more than him — here’s a guy who was being roasted alive two years ago, had season ticket holders telling him to his face that he needed to resign at a town hall meeting, and even when he was shepherding championship teams earlier this decade, was seen as nothing but Jerry West’s puppet.

For all the great moves Mitch has made (getting Lamar for Shaq, stealing Pau, nabbing Ariza for Cook and Evans, etc.), none was more important or gutsy than the one that seems the most obvious today: He did not trade Kobe Bryant. Many a lesser GM would have panicked and blown the team up, but Mitch recognized that you can’t win a title without a superstar, and he had the best in the league on his roster. Seems simple now, but it sure wasn’t then.

2) Lamar Odom, Team Player. Remember back in training camp, when Phil Jackson went to Odom — a guy entering a contract year — and asked him to come off the bench. He asked him to sacrifice numbers and prestige for the good of the team.

Odom may have been reluctant at first, but he did it. But how many guys would have? How many people would have traded the likelihood of a bigger payday for the potential of a title? Not many.

The Painted Area has a great post on this topic.

3) Kobe Bryant Helping Trevor Ariza Become A Shooter. Great story I had never heard before from my favorite of the Lakers beat guys, Kevin Ding of the OC Register.

“I used it like it was the Bible,” Ariza said.

What we were talking about was the shooting-practice program given to Ariza entering the summer before this season by one Kobe Bryant.

The meaning of the gesture to Ariza – and its net effect in transforming his jump shot and thus this Lakers championship team – make it the quintessence of the latter-day Bryant as a teammate…

“I just got in the gym every day and worked. I used what he told me, used some things that he gave me to do. And I just worked.”

It worked. Ariza had made nine 3-pointers in his first four NBA seasons. This season, he made 61 as a prelude to his 47.6 percent playoff marksmanship that Bynum described with bugged-out eyes this way: “His shooting is ridiculous at this point.”

Those are just three of the seemingly millions of things that have gone right at the right time.