Going around the league as the Lakers’ exhibition schedule starts to ramp up…
*The big news around the league right now is the strict enforcement of the new technical foul rules. Whether it’s Grant Hill and Reggie Evans exchanging pleasantries or KG sticking up for Jermaine O’Neal, players are definitely feeling the effects of quicker whistles from the refs. Personally, I don’t mind the refs trying to cut down on complaining and I think it’s up to the players to adjust to how the game is being called and act accordingly. If that means that some players get tossed while adjusting, so be it. However, I also agree with Shaq’s recent statements in that no one comes to the games to see the zebras blow their whistles. I think it will be interesting to see how far the refs take this when the real games get started and if they’re still quick to issue technical fouls and ejections. Most think the old standards will return once the games count again and I tend to agree with that. But if the league really wants to make some progress in cutting down on complaining, they better follow through on what they’ve started or the players will be right back to their normal complaining in a month.
*With the release of the new NBA 2k11 video game, Michael Jordan has been in the news lately giving choice quotes on topics ranging from Kobe’s place amongst the all-time greats to how if he was lacing up his Air Jordan’s in 2010, he’d be able to score 100 points under the current rules. Like John Hollinger, let’s just say that I’m not buying what his airness is selling. However, my thoughts aren’t based off statistics like pace, usage rate, or true shooting percentage but more about getting at the root of Jordan’s statement that he’d match Wilt’s record under today’s rules. Jordan mentioned the lack of physical play and the illegality of hand checking to drive his claim, but those aren’t the only differences between this era and MJ’s. The other key difference is the fact that in today’s NBA, zone defenses are legal. As I mentioned in the comments of a post at True Hoop today, Jordan never had to deal with being double teamed off the ball and typically saw wider driving lanes based off the old illegal defense rules of his day (where defenders guarding players outside the three point line had to be either above the FT line or outside the lane line – creating spacing that isn’t as prevalent in today’s league). Also understand that while hand checking was legal in Jordan’s day so was slapping off that players hand check – a tactic that many of the bigger, stronger guards (like Jordan and Magic) used to gain leverage and knock defenders off balance in order to get free and create off the dribble. Essentially, I think that Jordan would have some issues facing strong side zone schemes (like what the Celtics and the Lakers have used) where the 2nd defender is in help position much faster with defenders ready to take charges clogging the lane. This isn’t to say that Jordan wouldn’t still be amazing and the top talent the league has to offer, but I am saying that 100 points is a bit of a stretch. Even for the man many consider the best ever.
*Speaking of stats, there was an interesting article today where an ESPN researcher (Alok Pattani) looked at possessions where Kobe guarded Lebron (and vice versa) to determine who would win if the two played one on one. It turns out that the stats favor Kobe. All of this stems from Kobe’s comments from a couple of weeks ago that he’d beat the King if they played this mythical game (comments that I agree with – as do many others).
*Staying on Kobe for a moment, in the comments DY asked an interesting question about #24: “I always wondered if Kobe, when he’s 34-35, will transition to the “point guard” position in the triangle ala Ron Harper (former scoring guard, albeit nowhere near Kobe’s skill level). Don’t know if Kobe would sublimate his scoring acumen for that kind of role, but obviously, it’ll depend on personnel moves down the road.” Personally, I’m not sure if we’ll ever see Kobe reduce his role as much as Harper did when he went to the Bulls. I mean, Harper was a very good player in his prime but Kobe is one of the best players ever so I’m not sure if he’d ever feel comfortable as a 4th or 5th option. However, I do think one way for Kobe to extend his career and still be very effective is to transition to more of a play maker for others and a floor general rather than being the primary scorer for his team. As DY mentioned, a lot will depend on personnel and I think what the coaching staff and offensive system looks like will also play a major part in how Kobe evolves at the tail end of his career. In the end though, I could totally see Kobe being a 16-20 point per game player while focussing more on setting up his mates. What do you think?
*Lastly, the new FreeDarko book “The Undisputed Guide To Pro Basketball History“ is coming out soon and I’ll surely be picking up a copy. Not only for the great written words that will surely grace its pages, but because of the art that will be in the book. You know, stuff like this. Honestly, I can’t wait to get my hands on it.