(Below, Henry Abbott takes a look at the reality of Kobe’s clutch time greatness, or lack thereof.)
From Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: Ask pundits. Ask general managers. Ask players. Ask almost anybody. Who would like to have take the last shot with the game on the line? Kobe Bryant wins by a country mile. Every time. (In a general manager poll this season, he earned 79% of the vote, his ninth consecutive blowout.) There is not really any other serious candidate. Ask me, though, (as Ryen Russillo did last week and Mike Trudell the other day) and I’ll tell you I don’t know who’s the best, but with all due respect to Bryant’s amazing abilities scoring the ball, there’s zero chance he’s the king of crunch time.
From J.A. Adande, TrueHoop: It’s hard to upstage Phil Jackson when it comes to talking. Jackson’s whimsical ruminations have a way of turning into national news. I’ve seen him top a 10-minute Gary Payton rant with a mere two words. That’s why it’s unusual that the takeaway from an evening with Jackson and current and former Laker players at Staples Center Thursday was the emcee’s repeated references to Brian Shaw as Jackson’s eventual replacement. Bill Macdonald, the pre- and postgame host for Laker broadcasts on FSN West, introduced Shaw as “the next coach of the Lakers” and made a point of asking Jackson and players Derek Fisher and Luke Walton about Shaw’s ability to take over for the most successful coach in NBA history.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: Having gone this route several times in his coaching career, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson understands the skepticism. He had mulled leaving the game multiple times during his storied coaching career, only to return rejuvenated and in most cases with another championship ring. An ugly divorce between Bulls management and Jackson led to his departure in 1998 after six championships. It was presumed the same fate would rest with the Lakers after his hasty departure following the 2004 season, capped most notably with his book, “The Last Season,” which exposed many inner conflicts within the organization. And Jackson appeared on the verge of leaving again after the 2010 title run, only to need a week’s rest in Montana to find the lure of a fourth three-peat too tempting to pass up.
From Elliot Teaford, LA Daily News: At some point tonight, Kobe Bryant probably will swish a jump shot that will account for his 11th and 12th points against the Sacramento Kings, enabling him to tie Hakeem Olajuwon for eighth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. It’s anyone’s guess how many points Bryant might score tonight against the lowly Kings. It might not be all that many because the Lakers might be way ahead and he might not play in the fourth quarter. But it’s a good bet Bryant will score at least 12 points and catch Olajuwon, who scored 26,946 during his Hall of Fame career. It’s also likely that Bryant will continue his climb, with an eye toward becoming the highest-scoring guard in league history. Michael Jordan is the only guard ahead of him, sitting in third with 32,292.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Thursday night, the NBA announced the starting lineups for February’s All-Star Game at Staples. Kobe Bryant was among those named. In other news, the sun rose in the east this morning, and taxes are due April 15th. Bryant led the balloting with 2,380,016 votes- his first win of the big popularity contest since 2006- almost 300K more than Orlando’s Dwight Howard. It’s the 13th straight season in which Kobe has been selected for the team. Only three players- Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal, and Karl Malone- have played in 14 consecutive. Nobody has ever earned 15 in a row, but it’s pretty difficult to picture a scenario in which Kobe doesn’t get there. Even if he was hurt in the preseason and didn’t play a game, he’d likely be one of the two leading vote-getters among Western Conference guards. Not that I’m advocating he test the theory, but at this stage of his career voting for Bryant has become reflexive for much of the basketball public, particularly among international fans, and deservedly so.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Before the season, Sacramento was widely considered an up-and-coming team. Not one that would challenge for a playoff spot this season, but an intriguing group with young talent and a very good chance to improve on their 25-win 2009-10 campaign. Or, maybe they’d totally disintegrate as a team in the midst of serious questions about the future of basketball in our state capital. There’s always that option. And it’s the direction things have gone for Paul Westphal and Co. this year. They arrive for tonight’s game at Staples with only 10 wins in 43 games, tied with Minnesota for the second lowest total in the league and only two ahead of a Cleveland that has lost, at last count, 298 games in a row. To get a better feel for how and why things have gone so wrong for the Kings this season, we reached out to Zach Harper, host of Cowbell Kingdom (and ESPN’s raucous Daily Dime Live chats). He was willing to answer our questions regarding a team with few answers these days:
From Sekou Smith, Hang Time Blog: This is a direct message to the anti-Kobe Bryant crowd out there. Give it up! Give up the fight. And give it up for Kobe Bean Bryant. Seriously, stop hating on the man and surrender. There’s a good chance KB Bryant is going to leave this game with his face on the NBA’s version of Mt. Rushmore, alongside those idols from his childhood, specifically Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. You can’t win this argument. Despite all of your theories to the contrary and reasons for why he should not, could not and will not go down as one of the game’s top five all-time greats, it’s going to happen. There’s no stopping him now. He’s already got the championship rings (five of them, to be exact) and career longevity that has eluded so many other seekers of basketball’s holy grail (fame, fortune, rings and legendary status).
UPDATE: Lastly, LD2K gets us ready for the next round in the Lakers/Celtics rivalry coming up this Sunday. Enjoy.