Today marks the 51st anniversary of Ervin “Magic” Johnson’s birth, so to celebrate, we’ve found a highlight reel set to Tupac’s “California Love.” If you’re planning on joining a pick up game at anytime today, be sure to make the extra pass in Magic’s honor. In fact, let’s dub August 14th “National Extra Pass Day!” Eh, maybe not. Just enjoy this highlight reel.
Archives For August 2010
With Dr. Jerry Buss being inducted to basketball’s Hall of Fame — along with Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen and the 1992 and 1960 US Olympic Teams — and Lamar Odom set to take on the French National team along with Team USA on Sunday, I’ve put together a few links with those events in mind along with a few other Lakers and league wide issues.
From Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times: He has presided over the Lakers since 1979, turning the franchise into one of the most successful in sports. And for that, for all he has done to uplift the NBA, the Lakers and the game of basketball, Lakers owner Jerry Buss will be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday in Springfield, Mass. He will be joined in the class of 2010 by Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Cynthia Cooper and high school coach Bob Hurley Sr. The 1992 U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team known as the “Dream Team,” which included Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson and the 1960 team that included another Lakers Hall of Famer, Jerry West, also will be inducted. Dennis Johnson, Gus Johnson and Brazilian star Maciel “Ubiratan” Pereira will be honored posthumously.
From Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: There are specific popular icons that achieve unanimous appeal. A person might not be a dedicated fan of the Beatles, the first two Godfathers, or Michael Jordan but there’s a uniform agreement that these are classics. You can debate finer aesthetic points — which album is best, which shot was the biggest, or whether you prefer the first or second installment of “The Godfather” — but an overall cultural verdict has been reached. Ironically, this consensus renders these standards pretty useless as measurements of what we love. An appreciation of the Beatles reveals a lot less about a person’s taste than say, how they feel about Television, Joni Mitchell or Elvis Costello. “The Godfather” might have a more permanent place in the cinematic pantheon, but if you want to get a better handle on someone’s pop sensibilities, listen to them recite their favorite narrative passages from “Goodfellas,” or have the rank all five seasons of “The Wire” in order of preference.
From Eddie Maisonet, SLAM Online: I never fathomed the day that I would consider Lamar Odom “an old man.” Not in a bad way, old, but old in a relative sense. As Team USA basketball prepares for its next challenge, competing in the FIBA World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey on August 28, LO has been added to this roster because he’s a two-time NBA champion and provides a veteran presence. Odom is the second oldest person on the team (Chauncey Billups, 34, is the oldest), and the average age is 25. The competition in Turkey will be fierce, and Team USA is counting on Odom to keep his head when all about him is losing their minds and blaming it on Coach K, Durant, or the ball boy. (Kipling)
From Kevin Ding, Los Angeles Times: New Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal was asked when on Mike Wise’s radio show in Washington who is the greatest player he has teamed with considering he has followed Kobe Bryant with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. “A lot of people rank players from different opinions, but if you wanna go with ring standpoint it has to be Kobe,” O’Neal said. “LeBron is a great athlete, D-Wade is a great athlete, but it’s close. I’m lucky to have been able to play with both of those guys, but Kobe right now has had that eye for a long time. I’ve known him for a while. When he gets that eye there aren’t really too many people that can beat him.”
From Mark Medina, Los Angeles Times: Appearing as relaxed as he ever can be, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant sat back during his exit interview in June full with smiles and little worry. He shared his plans to attend the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, admitted that he planned to take it easy this summer to rest his assorted injuries and even acknowledged some of his vulnerabilities during Game 7 of the NBA Finals. At the time, I noted that Bryant’s changed demeanor perfectly reflected how winning a championship helped soften his sometimes gruff exterior and revealed that he’s human after all. Bryant’s laid-back attitude couldn’t have been more prevalent than when The Times’ Mike Bresnahan asked him what off-season moves he thinks the Lakers need to make to secure a third consecutive title.
From Austin Burton, Dime Magazine: Last week, an argument broke out in the Smack comments section that was started by Dime reader Chicagorilla: “The one thing I don’t get about the Kobe as #1 argument is this BULL$H!T about him being fundamental. WTF? Have any of you actually watched him play? He does everything in his power to try and NOT be fundamental. … Everything (Kobe does) goes against basketball law. The fadeaway is a really low percentage shot, but (he) manages to hit them. The floater in the lane is not fundamental. The jump in the air, twist and turn, hang, then throw a no-look crosscourt pass for an open three (while entertaining and effective at times) is in no way fundamental.” As in every argument involving one of this era’s most polarizing public figures, Kobe’s loyal fans came to his defense to portray him as the textbook example of … well, being textbook, while Kobe’s love-to-hate-him critics supported the original suggestion that he’s closer to an out-of-control jacker. And as usual, the real answer lay somewhere in the middle.
From Charlie Rosen, Fox Sports: A while ago, when Andrew Bynum seemed to be making huge progress, you stated that the Bucks would eventually be sorry they drafted Andrew Bogut over Bynum in 2005. Now that both players have developed, who would you rather have? — Radu Nedelcut, Bucharest, Romania First, let’s compare the two young big men. If Bynum’s hands are much more adhesive, Bogut’s footwork is superior. They’re both legit 7-foooters, but Bynum has better hops, is quicker, heavier (285 to 260) and stronger. Indeed, many of Bogut’s moves in the low post require him to slightly fade away to prevent his rather flat-footed shots from being swatted. Even so, Bogut has a better left hand and much more sophisticated scoring options down there.
From Lee Jenkins, Sports Illustrated: The Pacific Division is home to the two-time defending champion, one perennial contender and three teams that didn’t even crack 30 wins last season. For the Lakers, this was a cushy division to begin with, and that’s before they improved with some subtle but significant tweaks over the summer. Their stiffest competition, the Suns, took a step backward with the loss of Amar’e Stoudemire. And their intra-city rivals, the Clippers, squandered a chance to make a free-agent splash. The Warriors got new ownership and the Kings a promising big man, but both of those clubs are still building, while the Lakers, again, look like a finished product.
League Wide Links
From Zach Harper, TrueHoop: The NBA’s 2010-2011 schedule has been released and with it comes a bevy of action to circle on your actual or proverbial calendar. Before you dive in I think it’s imperative we get something out in the open first. I realize a lot of people are sick of talking about LeBron James and the Miami Heat. But it’s something you’re going to have to accept this season and probably for the next decade. Heck, the entire opening section of this preview is about LeBron and the Heat. When two of the best players in the world pair up and bring along their tall friend, it’s going to make headlines — and great television. So let’s just accept that the Heat matter, and that their games matter even more, particularly in key matchups. Let’s hope for a lot of fun basketball between now and the next time the schedule gets released.
From Barbara Baker, NewsWeek: Two prominent college basketball coaches said Tuesday that they are uncomfortable with the consulting deal struck by Florida International University coach Isiah Thomas and the Knicks. “I am good friends with Isiah and I obviously like the Knicks, but I think it’s better if there is a separation between college and the pros,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who was in New York with Team USA. “I would decline to do something like that.” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim took it a step further. Not only would he decline, he said he’s not sure the arrangement should be allowed. “I don’t understand why it would be legal either way, from the college standpoint or from the NBA,” said Boeheim, one of Coach K’s assistants on Team USA. “It seems like a conflict. You’re coaching kids and recommending them to pro guys. Well, if a pro guy comes in and asks about a kid and you’re a consultant to a different team, you wouldn’t be able to do that. You wouldn’t be able to help that kid.”
From Basketbawful: Robert Parish is one of my favorite players ever. I grew up screaming “CHIEF!!” every time Parish hit one of his patented turnaround jumpers or jammed home a pick-and-roll pass from Larry Bird. I loved his poise, his unselfishness, and his aura of stoic nobility. I also loved it when he sucker-punched Bill Laimbeer in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals. Yeah, I probably shouldn’t love that, but I do. If anybody ever had it coming, it was Laimbeer. All that said, I’m starting to think Parish has lost his nut a little. And not just because he recently said: “I think Shaq will definitely bring a defensive presence along with Garnett. He’s going to cause a lot of havoc defensively.” (NOTE: I added this link because it features Larry Bird passing highlights. I could seriously watch those clips for hours at a time.)
From Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Last week’s foray into the positional revolution was a good start, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. As I noted previously, Drew Cannon’s positional system isn’t coming out of the internet womb fully-formed; a lot of adjustments and tweaks are necessary for the model to become viable. Still, Cannon’s design offers a welcome starting point for both discourse regarding positional fluidity and, hopefully, some eventual long-term change in the way we think about and define positions. There is no end to this process. Even if we successfully shed the five traditional positions in favor of some other system, players and their roles will continue to evolve. It’s critical that we’re constantly challenging the limits of positionality to match with the on-court product. Note that those limits aren’t being tested without reason. It’s important that positional rhetoric remains descriptivist in nature. We’re not saying “this is the way that position X should play,” but rather “this is the way that position X does play.” (NOTE: I added this link because it’s one of the better pieces that I’ve read on the positional revolution discussions going on around the world (wide web). Mahoney is brilliant and a fantastic writer.)
From Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: Every acquisition has a cost, which is one of the bedrock principles of bartering. Unless you’re purchasing Manhattan or annexing the Sudetenland, it’s virtually impossible to get something for nothing. The NBA’s trade market has three primary currencies in circulation: talent, cap relief and flexibility — with the latter two linked to some extent. On Wednesday, Houston, New Orleans, Indiana and New Jersey cooperated on a blockbuster trade that saw each team forfeit assets in service of a larger goal.
The Lakers own human high-fly act Shannon Brown is next in line as FB&G continues its player reviews from the past season. Be sure to check out Phillip’s post to watch Brown’s complete exit interview.
SEASON IN REVIEW:
“This time was the first time I went into training camp and really knew what was going on as far as my role a little bit,” said Brown after his exit interview. “Last year I wasn’t with the team the whole time, this year I was. It was great. You build friendships, you build family, you build bonds. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Whereas Shannon’s all-around contributions largely came as a surprise following his mid-season trade to the Lakers in 2009, this season was all about stability, improving his consistency, defining his role and most importantly, living up to increased expectations. With those goals in mind, it’s safe to say that Brown had a successful season by backup guard standards and proved that his 2009 play was no fluke.
ShanWow saw a dramatic increase in his minutes to 20.7, up from under eight minutes last season and 13 during the 2009 playoffs. He also posted the best offensive averages of his career, with 8.1 points per game and 2.2 rebounds. Moreover, Shannon showed that he was mostly a reliable backup for either guard position. From the Lakers perspective, that’s about all they can ask for of Brown considering he is primarily playing behind a superstar like Kobe.
Although Shannon proved why he is a valuable rotation player, his inconsistency mirrored that of the team’s entire bench last season. With the Lakers coaching staff shortening the Lakers rotation for the playoffs, Brown found himself on the bench more, with his minutes decreasing to 14.7. Part of that is due to the natural increase in playing time for Bryant and Derek Fisher, but it also speaks to Shannon’s still-evolving decision-making skills on the court. In spite of his sometimes erratic play during the 2010 Finals run, Brown provided a huge spark in closeout games against Oklahoma City and Utah, averaging 11 and 12 points respectively.
Shannon’s insatiable appetite for scintillating dunks and seemingly endless energy has been one of the most exciting facets of the Lakers’ past two title teams. In many ways, I think this is what ultimately hurt Shannon more than anything in his disappointing dunk contest appearance. Like Kobe, Brown is more a jaw-dropping in-game dunker, which in my opinion, is a much more valuable skill set to have than the creative costume faire we’ve see at the past few All-Star Weekends. After the viral “Let Shannon Dunk” campaign, his lackluster performance in the dunk contest was definitely a lowlight of last season, but I don’t think it’s indicative of much of anything as far as his play with the Lakers is concerned (a point he clearly drove home in his best performance of the season, below).
PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON:
Feb. 16, 2010—Starting in place of the injured Kobe Bryant, Brown showed that he’s more than just flash and dunks, scoring a career-high 27 points and and pulling down 10 rebounds to help the Lakers defeat the Golden State Warriors 104-94.
Shannon said it best himself during his exit interview: “I made progress. My first two and a half years I really didn’t play that much. This year I did. I’m steady making progress. As long as you get the time on the floor, it’s going to work out for the best. Basketball is my life, I think about it all the time, sometimes to a fault, and I couldn’t be happier about being a champion for the second time in a row.”
In the same interview, the Lakers guard also said that his main offseason goal was to focus on becoming more of a basketball player and not just an athlete. I think that’s exactly the right mindset for Shannon to adopt looking ahead to the 2010-11 season. We know all about his aerial acrobatics by now and streaky three-point shooting, but I suspect that Brown has a lot more in his bag of tricks. For starters, he’s shown signs of becoming a very strong defender—particularly against larger guards. If he wants to continue to get regular playing time in what is shaping up to be a tremendous defensive squad, he’ll need to really hone in on this area. Shannon also needs to continue to work on his decision-making skills, especially with the Lakers adding another reliable hand at guard in Steve Blake to go along with two of the most intelligent players in the league in Kobe and Fisher.
All of these issues point to his ongoing battle with consistency—something Brown said he will look to improve upon next season. “That’s a major part of winning,” said Brown. “Our bench has to come out and be able to produce and continue to make the team better when the starters on our the bench.”
After agreeing to return to the Lakers for a chance at a three-peat, Shannon appears dedicated to improving his play this offseason. He also displayed a great deal of self-awareness in re-signing with the Lakers instead of opting to join a team offering more money. Shannon clearly recognizes the special opportunity this Lakers team has this season and where he fits into the master plan. At the end of the day, that is precisely the mentality you want from your eighth or ninth man.
As a special bonus, take a look at this awesome video featuring Shannon’s top 10 career dunks.
The 2010-2011 NBA schedule has just been released and you can look at the Lakers schedule here courtesy of ESPN. (Here’s a pdf if you prefer a calendar view). And just like last year, I’m going to supply my input on the Lakers record at each stage of the season, and then we all get to see how wrong I am as the season progresses. Last year I predicted 67 wins, which the Lakers came up just a little bit short (ok, a lot short) at 57-25, so take these with a massive helping of salt and skepticism.
Highlights: 10 home, 8 away, 2 back-to-backs, 3-game road trip.
Unlike last year, the Lakers don’t have a torrid home schedule in November. Of the Lakers first 18 games, only 10 are at home, which is much lower considering some of the 21 of 24 and other ridiculousness we’ve had in the past two seasons. However, the beginning of the season still has a lot of pillowy soft teams. For all 18 games in the first two months of the season, only 7 will be against playoff teams from last year, 2 of them against what should be a significantly weaker Suns team due to the departure of Amar’e Stoudemire. The Lakers have two back-to-backs, with the first one coming on home-away on Nov. 2 against Memphis then at Sacramento, the 2nd coming during a 3-game road trip through Milwaukee and Detroit on Nov. 16 and Minnesota 2 days later.
Highlights: 5 home, 10 away, 4 back-to-backs, 7-game road trip
The Lakers start off the month of December with the 2nd-half of a back-to-back, starting on Nov. 30 at Memphis then at Houston the next night. After a lonely Friday contest against Sacramento at home, the team will have a home-away against Washington/@Clippers (or should it be home-home?), then embark on a 6 game road trip (7 if you include the Clippers as “on the road”). The only above .500 team in that group should be Chicago, with the other games coming against New Jersey, Washington, Indiana, Philadelphia, and Toronto. Three of those teams (NJN, WAS, and PHI) are up-and-coming squads with young players who will be more comfortable at home, and 2 of them are teams that are going nowhere (IND and TOR). Throw in the fact that there is a back-to-back @Washington/@Indiana, and this looks to be one of those road trips where the Lakers probably should win, but will almost certainly drop a couple that the will cause immense fan heartache.
And then comes the mammoth that most of the league will be waiting for: Miami coming to Staples Center on Christmas Day. The Lakers have three days off before the game, and two days off afterward, so there will be a long time for us fans to hype up this game and then wallow in its aftermath. We can only hope that Christmas will be more like 2008 (when the Lakers beat the hated Celtics) and less like 2009 (when Lebron James and the Cavs whomped on the Lakers). And what’s worse, the Lakers won’t have much time to relax, because they end the month with one last back-to-back @San Antonio/@New Orleans on Dec. 28, both of which should be tough contests.
Highlights: 10 home, 5 away, 3 back-to-backs.
While December should be a tough month for the Lakers, January looks a friendlier with many more home games. The Lakers do have three back-to-backs, the first against Detroit/@Phoenix on Jan. 4, then Cleveland/@Golden State on Jan. 11, and lastly @Clippers/Oklahoma City (and I thought home-home back-to-backs weren’t allowed…). That last game should be one of the marquee events of the season, when Kevin Durant brings the Thunder back to Staples for what should be a very exciting contest (plus it’s broadcast on TNT, so that means we get Charles Barkley commentary!). The team will end the month with a lot of rest, playing only 3 games in 10 nights. Hopefully this means the team will be rested when they meet the Celtics at the end of the month.
Highlights: 4 home, 9 away, 3 back-to-backs, 7-game road trip.
Ah yes, the Grammy’s Road Trip. Every February, Staples Center gets taken over by the Grammy’s, exiling the Lakers on their longest road trip of the season. While the Lakers have had some big wins during the Grammy’s trip over the past few years, this season’s version will be just as torturous. The road trip starts with New Orleans, then Memphis, then back-to-back against Boston and New York, then back-to-back against Orlando and noted Lakersbane, Charlotte, then Lebron-less Cleveland. Luckily, the Lakers will get the All-Star break to rest (hopefully Kobe, Pau, and Andrew all make the team and then play the first 5 minutes and quit). With no rest for the weary, the Lakers will return to a loving embrace from a back-to-back with Atlanta/@Portland, then a return to the raucous Ford Center against the Thunder.
Highlights: 12 home, 9 away, 3 back-to-backs, 4-game road trip, 7-game home stand
The 2nd week of March brings us what will probably be the toughest portion of the season. It’s a 4-games in 7 days road trip, featuring visits to San Antonio, Atlanta (a much better team at home), Miami, and Dallas. This is the part of the season where everyone is gearing for the playoffs, old teams (like the Lakers) are banged up, and everyone is slowing down due to the wear and tear of the season. That tough week however is followed by the longest home stand I can remember from recent Laker history. Over the next three weeks, the Lakers will play only 7 games, all at home, with no back-to-backs. The games will not be easy, with match-ups against Orlando, Portland, Phoenix, and Dallas, but the Lakers should be well-rested. And if we know anything about this Lakers team, well-rested means lazy, and lazy means dropping games that we expect them to win.
Hopefully the Lakers will put on their focus caps after a couple restful weeks, because they end the season with 3 back-to-backs, Dallas/@Utah (in which it’s always tough to go east on the 2nd night of a back-to-back), then Utah/@Golden State and San Antonio/@Sacramento to end the season. Sprinkle in another meeting with Oklahoma City and trip up to the always hostile Rose Garden against Portland, and you’ve got a very difficult run up to the playoffs. The Lakers stumbled their way into the playoffs last year on a soft schedule; let’s hope the increase in potential playoff opponents will increase their focus.
Overall Prediction: 59-23
Disagree? Let me know in the comments. My predictions are entirely my own, completely unscientific, subjective, and biased.
FB&G continues is player reviews for this past season with DJ “Congo Cash” Mbenga. For a link to DJ’s exit interview, check out Phillip’s post from right after the season concluded.
SEASON IN REVIEW:
Last season the Lakers only carried 13 players. And of those 13 players, DJ Mbenga was either the Lakers 12th or 13th man on any given night depending on match ups or how Phil was feeling on that day when deciding which player would be inactive. When the Lakers roster was completely healthy, DJ would often suit up but would only see playing time in blow outs or as a random spark off the bench when Phil (seemingly) felt his big body could make a difference in that particular game. So, when considering all of these factors it’s actually a little tough to gauge how good a season DJ actually had.
Statistically, Mbenga had the type of season you’d expect from a 3rd string Center and 5th big man. In his 49 game appearances (a career high, by the way), he averaged about 2 points and 2 rebounds a game. He shot a relatively low percentage from the field (46.6%) and was pretty bad from the foul line, making only 9 of his 19 attempts on the season (47.4%). So far, this is exactly what we should all expect from DJ considering his role and what was asked of him on the court.
Putting his stats aside for a moment, I can easily say that I liked how DJ worked to improve his game in this past season. He started to show better range on his jumpshot and looked more comfortable overall on offense. On defense, while he still went for the blocked shot too often for my tastes, he did serve as an impediment to guards that drove to the basket and was as active as ever on that side of the ball. His rebounding rates were average at best (and that’s being kind) as his want to block shots moved him away from prime rebounding position on the defensive side of the ball. But overall, he showed some improvement from the completely raw player that joined the Lakers as a mid season pick up three years ago.
That said, I really wouldn’t call this season a success for Mbenga. While he played in a career high 49 games, his minutes per game and per 36 minute production actually fell from his previous seasons in LA. Plus, even though both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum missed 17 games (giving an opportunity for the 3rd string Center to get more run), Mbenga was often passed over for minutes by Josh Powell as the the Lakers elected to go small with an Odom/Powell front court for many nights where their big man depth was tested (or play whichever big man was healthy heavy minutes to compensate raither than playing DJ more). Not to mention the fact that when Andrew Bynum suffered his torn meniscus during the playoffs, Phil actually deactivated DJ for a few games and instead dressed Adam Morrison, citing the fact that after he sustained a couple of eye/head injuries during practice that DJ was not as tuned into the action as he needed to be.
PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON:
Considering DJ’s lack of burn over the course of the season, it’s not that easy to find a game in which DJ truly had an impact performance. However in an early April contest against the T’Wolves, Mbenga did have his season high in points (11) while also grabbing 2 offensive rebounds and blocking 2 shots in 14 minutes. Based off the highlights, you can see that he moved well off the ball, showed some diversity on offense, and defended the rim well.
DJ has yet to sign on with another team and his return to the Lakers is pretty much out of the question after LA signed Theo Ratliff to a one year deal. And with DJ reportedly looking for more minuteson whatever team he plays for next year, his return would have surprised me even if the Lakers hadn’t signed Ratliff. However, wherever DJ plays next year I wish him well. He’s a marginal NBA player, but he’s a legit 7’0″ big man in a league that covets size and I’m sure he’ll find a gig by the time NBA training camps begin. So, thank you for the contributions DJ and nothing but the best to you.
A couple of weeks ago, NBA TV did something fantastic for Lakers fans: they replayed every single one of the Lakers playoff games. Basket Blog’s Mike Trudell watched those games, and found that Kobe Bryant’s three point shooting stood out to him most. He wrote:
With many of his triples swishing through the net at key times for the Lakers*, the five-time champ hit a career-high 49 throughout the playoffs, connecting at least once in all but five of 23 games, including 12 straight from the start of the Western Conference Finals through Game 7 against Boston.?*Game 6 @ OKC, Game 3 @ Utah, the whole Phoenix series, Game 4 @ Boston, etc.
In fact, the 19 triples Bryant hit against Phoenix were more than the total number of three-pointers he connected on in six full playoff runs throughout his career. His previous high came in 2009 when he dropped 37, though in fairness he also attempted more triples in 2010 (131) than in any other playoffs.
What stood out most to me was the number of difficult shots Kobe made during the championship run. From the Thunder series through the Celtics Finals series, Kobe saw a huge number of different defenses thrown at him ranging from single coverage, double coverage, triple coverage, delayed double teams, faux double teams, match up zones and true zones. To counter these defenses, they put Kobe in different scoring situations: isolating him in the pinch post and on the wings, posting him up, putting him in screen and roll situations with bigs, and setting screens for him a la Ray Allen. The one thing that didn’t change throughout the course of the post season was his ability to knock down difficult shots.
One thing that tends to go unnoticed during Lakers games is the number of quality defenders that Kobe sees on a nightly basis. Kobe has a unique ability to make a lot of very good defenders seem average just as he makes difficult shots look easy. There were an innumerable number of shots Kobe made with a defender all over him. Kobe has made shots after he’s had the ball knocked out of his hands, the ball touched as he releasing it, over double teams, over seven footers – and none of that seems to matter to such an amazing offensive player.
One of the biggest criticisms that I’ve always had against Kobe is his propensity to over-dribble, mainly because I love watching offenses that move the ball well as a unit to create their open shots. The majority of the clips in the previous video showed him dribbling three times or more to get to his spots. However, there is a positive to every negative. There are a lot of times where defenders expect Kobe to use his dribble to get to his spots and he just shoots over them. In these past two or three years, Kobe has really mastered his one-dribble, pull up jumper. It’s really a beautiful thing to watch, especially if you’ve ever played the game competitively. No matter how much you practice, this is never an easy shot to make with a defender in your face. The fluidity of it when Kobe pulls up is almost artistic in essence. Equally as hard, pulling up from the triple threat without a dribble. It’s hard to stay balanced without a dribble with a defender at your waist. Kobe hit a lot of these shots against the Suns, unfortunately, I couldn’t find four of the games (including that ridiculous Game 6), but I do have some clips.
Then there are those times where things don’t go exactly as Phil Jackson draws them up, plays get broken and someone is forced to improvise – and nine out of 10 times, that guy is going to be Kobe. Being “the guy” on basketball team, you’re going to be forced to take tons of shots at the end of the shot clock, three guys running at you, falling out of bounds, whatever. We’ve seen it all during the course of Kobe’s illustrious career. Here are a few more of those shots.
Finally, if you take a close look back at all of the videos, the one thing that stands out in all of them is his footwork. Darius had a post last month featuring a video that highlighted Kobe’s footwork. The following video does the same thing. Just look at the way he’s able to create space, the way he’s able to keep defenders off balance or get them up in the air. It’s all about the fundamentals of the game. You don’t need to be ultra quick, have the best crossover or have explosive jumping ability to make defenders look foolish. There is no point where Kobe is utilizing all of his speed or jumping through the roof, but he still gets all of the same crowd reactions a Derrick Rose crossover or a LeBron James dunk would get. It’s all in the footwork. This is the think about Kobe that sets him apart from all of his peers. The attention to detail, the patience, the intelligence, the utilization of angles and the concentration is what makes his game so fun to watch, even in the ladder end of his career.