Friday Afternoon Reading

Darius Soriano —  March 11, 2011

Last night’s game has stuck with some folks into today. That tends to happen when a very winnable game turns into a loss and the opponent is of the marquee variety. And while I don’t want to dwell too much longer on last night’s contest – especially with a much more important game, strategically, tomorrow in Dallas - below is some afternoon reading to get you through the rest of your day. Enjoy.

First up, Myles Brown has a strong take on Kobe’s performance down the stretch of last night’s game that is worth a read. There’s no sugar coating here, but understand that a lot of what he says hits home. An excerpt:

Kobe Bryant wants to win. This is inarguable. What’s equally clear is that Kobe wants to win his way. It’s an attitude borne of preternatural ability and competitiveness, yet more importantly, a viewership enamored with legend making. We thirst for iconic performances; signature moments of athletic excellence which make our eyes bulge and time stand still. With every crossover, reverse pivot and nimble fadeaway, Kobe etches himself deeper into our consciousness. Every injury he dutifully trudges through, every buzzer he beats and every ring he collects carves another feature on Rushmore. One or two more and some may dare to say that he’s supplanted a deity.

There’s much more worth reading there, so go check out the whole thing  as Brown does a good job of looking closely and critically at Kobe and the dichotomy that can exist in his game and approach.

Next up, we’ve all read a lot about the Lakers’ new and improved defensive scheme. And while we’ve seen it in action during the games, we’ve not yet seen a breakdown of it that combines pictures, video, and easy to follow explanations.

Well, that’s what Sebastian Pruiti is here for. In his piece over at SB Nation, he dives into the Lakers’ new technique at defending the P&R with great examples of what other teams do and how that differs from what the Lakers are now doing. A snippet:

Despite being one of the better defensive teams in the NBA this season, the Los Angeles Lakers and their coaching staff felt that it was necessary that they change how their team defended the pick-and-roll, catering more to Andrew Bynum and his skill set….Basically, the Lakers have determined that they don’t want Bynum showing hard on pick-and-rolls, opting to have him hang around the middle, with the rest of the defense funneling the play to him in the paint. The result is more midrange jumpers with the defense being able to contest threes and keep point guards out of the lane. The midrange jumpers are not troubling since the Lakers have determined that they want their opponents taking those shots, because who excels at that anyway?

Go check out the entire thing and get smarter about what the Lakers are doing on D so you can impress your friends when you explain the difference bettween a hard and soft show and how the Lakers have abandoned blitzing ball handlers.

Darius Soriano

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18 responses to Friday Afternoon Reading

  1. I cringe at his shot selection at times but for better or for worse, in sickness and in health…I’d still take Kobe over any player in NBA history. He’s got my GOAT vote!

    JLV

  2. A lot of pieces on Kobe and how he likes to be the hero to close out games. Let’s get one thing straight… I think Jordan was the best player of all time… But I don’t like that when people compare Kobe or anyone else to him that always has to be a compliment. Not everything Jordan did was great or right. MJ was a bigger ball hog than Kobe for one and he was a far worse teammate. I know a lot about basketball… Probably more than many NBA GMs. One of the few basketball related questions I don’t have the answer to is if it’s good for a player of Kobe’s talent to “dominate the ball” to such a great extent to finish games.

    On one hand it takes the pressure off the other Lakers and helps them fill in the holes. On the other hand nobody can run at full speed for hours and have the same amount of energy. I think the ladder is the problem for Kobe. When he is dominating the ball every possession down the stretch of tight games he just doesn’t seem to have the juice to perform on either end of the court for very long. Last night he got eaten up by Wade to end the game… And yes some of that was on Gasol but Gasol was the same player the first three quarters and had no problem with Dwane. If Kobe had the endurance of Shaq at an in n out burger then fine. But Kobe needs to be able to take half those crunch time offensive series off and let Bynum/Gasol carry the offense every other time down the court especially if Kobe is going to have to guard the likes of a Dwane Wade at the other end.

    As far as our future math up with Miami in June… The only adjustment that will need to be made if wade continues to get the bulk of crunch time touches is Artest switching onto him late in games. We all know that when we want to stop Bosh all we have to do is put Bynum on him;)

  3. I wonder if implementing this new defense now gives opponents more time to scout it and develop counters to it. Of course the Lakers players need time to become comfortable with it and implement it properly.

  4. Aaron:
    I concur that comparisons with the former White Sox outfielder is not necessarily high praise. I’ll admit I respect his game and was a fan but for the reasons you stated above I’d still take the Black Mamba. But he is certainly in the Kobe conversation. :)

    Another thing… I like your line, that you know more than most GM’s. Much like Kobe and MJ it’s okay to cocky if you can back it up!

    JLV

  5. 4,
    Ha… Thanks I appreciate it. I wish there was a kissy face emoticon for me to show my appreciation. Hey guys!! Somebody likes me on this site and thinks im funny. Having said that… While I think Kobe when it’s all said and done will be the 2nd best player of all time, I still think Jordan is #1.

    Kobe is a better passer, a better ball handler, a smarter player, and has a better jump shot but Jordan was a little more athletic and had those giant hands. It enabled him to be more effective not only going to the basket but finishing when getting there. MJ was also a better defender. The differences are slight… But thats always the case when comparing the greatests of all time. If you are wondering Magic’s defense hurts him… And guys like Wilt were playing against I6-7 white guys… I just don’t think he would be more effective than Shaq in today’s NBA. However it is hard of course to look at film and try to imagine how player A from the 50′s and 60′s would fair in the modern era.

    The real question is… If you had to pick who had the better carreer Kobe or Michael… Who would you pick? Jordan had a better prime but Bryant will have a much longer and superior career.

  6. Brought over from a few threads ago:

    I think one factor in LeBron’s teams always playing well against us is the fact that they have nothing to lose, so they play well without any pressure. After all, they’re playing Kobe and the champs. Against weaker teams, they feel a lot more mental pressure to win, because those other teams have nothing to lose. After all, they’re playing Les Douches Trois and their teammates. Against the Lakers, two Heat players who seem to be fragile mentally (Bosh and Chalmers) always seem to bring it. And Mike Miller, who has had horrible game after horrible game this season due to a complete lack of confidence after coming back from injury, had just about his best game of the season.

  7. Kareem should be in the GOAT conversation.

    And it IS a discussion. If anyone thinks they have the ultimate undisputable right answer to that question, they have their head too far up their a–.

  8. In other news, Jimmer Fredette has got 50 with 4 mins left in a conference tourney game…He can take Steve Blake’s spot anytime!

  9. The Dude with a great theory. Speaking of mental pressure… There is a reason Kobe stinks it up with Lebron on the court..

  10. I like the new scheme of defending the pick and roll. The problem against Miami was that it was Gasol and not Bynum at the end of the game who was supposed to seal the way to the basket once Wade turned the corner on the screen.

    I’m not sure whether it was for a lack of concentration, effort, or generally not enough lateral quickness that Gasol failed to deter Wade in a meaningful way. Granted, Wade is one of the better players in the league in finishing in a crowd, avoiding contact by doing the “Euro step” or actively seeking contact if he sees this as his best option.

    Bynum did a better job of challenging although he isn’t much quicker, at least to my eye. So maybe the Lakers could do the soft show with Andrew but show hard with Gasol, meaning Bynum would help on Gasol’s roll man in the middle (where I like him to be defensively) and Gasol would have to recover and either switch onto Bynum’s match-up or send Andrew back to his original opponent once Pau has picked up his guy again.

    Since the other three defenders have to react to the two players defending the pick and roll as well, it might be too complicated to switch strategies depending on whether Gasol or Bynum gets drawn into the play. But my feeling is that Bynum is better suited for the soft show and Gasol for the hard show on these kinds of play.

  11. Kobe’s career is still in progress, so you can’t compare him to any of the all-time greats who have retired.

    But if I was a general manager drafting in a mythical all-time league, and I had Kareem and Jordan on the board with my pick coming up, I’d take #33 and feel pretty good about the next 20 years.

  12. Simmons article from the past thread is worth a read. Hate his Celtics, but the man is an NBA genius; gotta appreciate the knowledge. And it’s funny, I share his sentiments when it’s Heat/Celtics.

    I want to reserve judgement until the man’s career is said and done…he’s gonna be up there though, and man are we lucky to have him. I remember watching MJ on the Wiz, I hope it never comes to that.

  13. There has been a lot of interesting talk about crunch time execution around these parts lately.

    I think the “Blind Pig” could be a part of the solution. It is a nice simple play, which relies on reading the defense and reacting, which are excactly Kobe’s strength now (instead of overpowering explosiveness).

    Over on the thetriangleoffense.blogspot.com there are a couple of great articles on this little play, which puts Kobe on the move of a double screen on the weakside post:

    Crunch Time Adjustments:
    http://thetriangleoffense.blogspot.com/2011/02/crunch-time-adjustments.html

  14. I don’t think we need to change anything… now that is. Kobe’s Lakers have always been ‘make sure everyone is ready to bail Kobe out.’ They couldn’t in 2008, but they did in 2009 and 2010, be it Ariza or Artest or Gasol.

    This year will be the same. Had Artest done the same thing he did against PHX when Kobe missed, we probably aren’t talking about this.

    Also, the biggest problem with LeBron teams is that Everyone seems to understand that it’s Kobe vs. LeBron and will do nothing about it. Unfortunately, Kobe can’t 1-up LeBron in the 1 against 5 department anymore, so he needs others to step up(or in).

  15. Snoop @ 7 – KAJ is the GOAT in my mind. I’d say no doubt, but I don’t want you to think my head’s too far up my a …

  16. 14, that’s def true about no one stepping up in games against Lebrons teams. It’s like the other Lakers say “here you go buddy, it’s all yours. Don’t wanna step on your feet on the big stage.” I mean, for all the close games we’ve had with team Lebrons I really don’t remember anybody else coming out and saying “we are winning this one today. And I’m doin everything I can to help.” I could be suffering from recency effect but I think this is fair for a decent percentage of their games. I know no one forgets how lame Pau came up in Cleveland last year or the year before. Of course, to the extent to which Kobe creates a self-fulfilling prophecy is up for debate.

    Regardless his teammates don’t always do their job. One thing I can bank on: the other Lakers will not act like that if we play them in the finals. If we lose it will not be because of a lack of effort. I’ve grown to appreciate how this team elevates itself as a whole in the playoffs, and that’s why I cant wait to see this team with a healthy active Bynum to help. That’s the most underrated story line in these playoffs for me, we should be a lot better this year than the past two teams, but no media outlet seems to acknowledge it.

  17. It’s simple – Kobe thinks he has a better matchup than any of his teammates do. Doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not, that’s his perception, and that’s why he plays the way he does.