Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  May 12, 2011

*The Lakers season may be over but that doesn’t mean the players still aren’t being recognized for their play during the campaign. Just today, Kobe Bryant was named to the All-NBA 1st Team and Pau Gasol was named to the 2nd team. This is Kobe’s 9th first team selection and his 6th straight overall. This is Gasol’s first 2nd team selection after making the 3rd team the past two seasons. Congrats to them both as this is high praise for their strong regular seasons.

*Speaking of Kobe, he made some comments in his exit interview that I’m sure many will find interesting. Specifically, his comments about Andrew Bynum’s position in the offensive pecking order (as reported by Marc J. Spears of Yahoo!) are already causing a bit of a stir:

“Ultimately, he’ll have to fall in line because I’m gonna shoot the ball,” Bryant said. “We all know that. Pau is going to get his touches. He’s No. 2. And then [Andrew] will have to fall in line.”

My interpretation of this is simple. Kobe’s not saying Bynum doesn’t deserve more touches. Kobe’s saying that (Kobe) is still the lead offensive player while Pau is the clear second option. While some may bristle at how this message was phrased and delivered, this is true, and should be in my opinion.

*None of this means that Bynum doesn’t deserve more touches. Simply put, he does. At whose expense and how he gets them within the context of the offense is the missing element in this discussion. This may not be that comforting to Laker fans, but look at the Miami Heat for an example of three really talented offensive players that all had successful seasons while divying up the offensive load. There’s no reason to think the Lakers can’t find a division of power with Bynum having a prominent seat at the table. In the end, let’s focus on on everything within a larger context rather than looking at a statement and narrowing it down to fit into our perception or argument about who Kobe is.

*To that point, whoever the new coach of this team is will dicatate a lot of how the offense flows, who are the go to players, and how to best use each player’s talents.

*Another topic that came up in Kobe’s exit interview was the concept of him not practicing. Kobe had a lot to say on this subject from his thoughts on how his teammates responded to what he envisions his practice habits to be like next season. For a great take on this subject, team dynamics, and getting back to the top, read this piece by Kevin Ding.

*As the playoffs roll on, an interesting stat that you’ll hear a lot will be that this will be the first season since 1998 that one of the Kobe, Shaq, Duncan trio isn’t in the Finals. Kind of amazing how those three players dominated this era.

*Speaking of the playoffs, they’re clearly not as enjoyable for us with the Lakers out. But, if you watch the games, there is some great basketball on display. That Thunder/Grizzlies series has been fantastic. And the Heat’s play against the Celtics was also a sight to see. If we do get  Mavs/Thunder and Bulls/Heat in the conference finals, I only expect these playoffs to get better.

*Enjoy this basketball while you can because the lockout is looking more and more like an inevitability. Especially based off this latest report.

*I don’t know about you, but I’m going to watch this.

*Lastly, not sure if you’ve seen this clip/tribute to Phil Jackson but it’s worth your time.

*(updated) I’d be remiss if I did’t mention that just because the Laker season is over doesn’t mean that we’re done covering this team and the league as a whole. Be it the draft, CBA negotiations, the next coach, and personnel changes, we’ll be right here for all of it.

Darius Soriano

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38 responses to Fast Break Thoughts

  1. Interesting article by Ding. Basically said Pau is not a leader, which makes him a pretty expensive # 2 guy. And it certainly suggests that something is not right between Kobe and Pau. If it’s not an off-the-court issue, Kobe is just unhappy with Pau’s leadership.

  2. Interesting stuff. Here is my question. At what point does Kobe’s strong will cross over into team destructive stubbornness? Sure, he should be the number one option. However, the concept of number one option with Kobe sometimes means 30 shots for him and 15 shots for options two and three combined. That really gets problematic when you consider options two and three are both seven feet tall.

    I’m probably making more out of this than I should. It’s just we have all seen games this season where the Lakers fail to exploit clear mismatches because the pecking order can never be broken. That article by Ding clearly shows a Kobe who is out to prove he is not past his prime. I’m just not sure if that mentality is the most beneficial one for the team as a whole.

  3. The Lakers just won two titles with everyone falling into line behind Kobe, so clearly, that formula can work, and other players can make key, winning contributions, as long as Kobe is capable of being great. Yeah, yeah, I know he shot 6-24 in game 7 last year (with 15 boards and ferocious defense), and other guys stepped up to have huge games, but there was never any question over who was leading the team, even while his shot was clanking.

    He seems to be as dedicated as ever to training, and his record speaks for itself, so I don’t really have a problem with banking on the greatness of Kobe to win a title. I’m not sure this team can win it all with Kobe just being another very good player on the roster.

  4. T rogers,
    “Sure, he should be the number one option.”

    The number one option should be the player with the greatest mismatch. That will vary from game to game, but it usually won’t be Kobe at this point.

  5. Kobe is a veteran player. He doesn’t like Bynum demanding to be a bigger part in the offense anymore than Shaq didn’t like Kobe being a bigger part of the offense. Now it’s obvious at worst Bynum will be the number two option next season as he was already the Lakers number two option this playoffs. What’s going to be upsetting to Kobe is that it’s not just how own team that decides the pecking order. The defense will show the Lakers who the number one and number two options are. This was the first year Kobe wasn’t getting double teamed with any regularity. Bynum in the playoffs was getting doubled as often as Kobe was if not more so. It’s easy to assume with a healthy summer to train and improve Andrew will only get better as he enters what will prove to be the beginning of his prime years in the NBA.

  6. I’m okay with Kobe being the #1 option if he’s taking shots within the offense. Not okay if he’s taking the majority of his shots on an iso play 20 feet from the basket and the floor cleared.

    But I like the team’s chances and his decision making if he’s catching it on the move from 18 feet and in and as part of the offense.

  7. You saw the success of Miami, D-Wade attacked first, late in the 4th quarter, LBJ takes over the game. Why ? It is very simple, LBJ is younger, this is smart strategy. They knew they need each other to beat good teams.
    The way Kobe wants, he is only can beat bad teams, when he faces good teams, samething will happen again like he already failed in the second round this year.

  8. Wow, how ironic that the same issues that a young Kobe had against Shaq is returning full circle. Only the table seems to have turned. The Beef seems to be Stewing between the Seasoned Vet and the Emerging Youngster.

    1. The well documented video of Kobe calling for the trade of Bynum for J. Kidd a few yrs back.

    2. Bynum’s continuance of wanting to be more involved in the offense (ie: more shot opportunities).

    3. Bynum mentioning, during the Dallas series, that there are trust issues not only on the court, but off the court as well (funny how this coincided with the Pau/Girlfriend-Kobe/Vanessa Rumors).

    4. Bynum stateing, after gm 3 against Dallas, that he’s just ready to play and doesn’t care ‘about Legacy’ (direct shot at either Kobe or Phil).

    5. Bynum declaring that the teams’ practices became too laxed and weren’t taken serious enough (there were rumors that several players were upset over the fact that Kobe hardly ever practiced)

    6. Kobe recently stateing that Bynum has to ‘fall in line because I’m gonna shoot the ball. We all know that … he’ll have to fall in line.’

    Maybe this is all ado about nothing, but I for one, since some tension between the two.

  9. What’s going to happen if things get ugly between Bynum and Kobe like 2004 Shaq & Kobe?

  10. Renato Afonso May 12, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    9. Buss picks the younger stud…

    I agree with most commenters here. I wouldn’t mind Kobe shooting more than any other player if it is within the context of the offense. I don’t agree when those shots come from isolation plays straight from the nineties.

    And even if eh shoots more than the others, he CANNOT shoot more than Pau and Andrew combined. For all those impossible shots he makes and everything he knows how to do so well on court, he is a very egotistical person and doesn’t have enough self-awereness otherwise he would understand his decline and the need to take more of a backseat. LEarn to dominate the game in small bursts. 2mins in the 1st quarter, then another 2 mins of domination in the 3rd and some domination in the beginning of the 4th (please, no more isolation ball in the last three minutes)

  11. T. Rogers – actually, I don’t think you’e making too much out of it. I think you’re very much on target.

  12. 9, that’s a really cool question.

    What if Buss trades Kobe for 70 cents on the dollar like he did Shaq. So in return for Shaq, we got: Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant, and a pick (Jordan Farmar). So a near All-Star, a budding All-Star, an expiring contract, and a backup PG.

    Imagine if the Lakers got a near All-Star PG, an All-Star SG, and a backup SF in exchange for Kobe. Is it blasphemous to think that we would be a better, more balanced team? We must also keep in mind that the post-Shaq teams had way less talent around Shaq than these present Lakers have around Kobe.

    Although I think Kobe still has that no-trade clause, so no way any of this happens.

  13. harrydoballin May 12, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Has this ever happened before? Having two teams make it to the finals without a player who has previously won a ring? If Dallas and Chicago make the finals there would be no prior champion on either team. Miami has Wade, House and Haslem. Memphis has Allen and Powe. OKC has Perkins. Seems pretty strange.

  14. As is the case with most things Lakers, I think people are over-thinking what Kobe said. While he definitely does go overboard sometimes with his number of shots and the iso plays, credit needs to be given to Kobe for how he’s grown as a teammate/leader over the years. He’s not the impeteous 20-something he once was, nor the arrogant ball-hog he gets labelled as. Should he rely on Pau and Drew more? Absolutely! But he’s also right that Drew needs to fall in line. Drew can contribute something to the team that neither Kobe nor Pau can: being a defensive monster in the paint. There are already a number of guys in Kobe, Pau and Lamar who can score, but Drew is the only guy who can significantly impact our defense in that way.

    Besides, I really need to see Drew get through an entire season without (1) getting injured (2) allowing himself to be taken out of the game because he’s not getting enough touches on offense or (3) committing a reckless, dangerous foul and getting suspended, before I’m willing to trust him as a #2 guy.

    Plus, with Drew at #2, where does that leave Pau? I get that Drew is finally healthy and wants to expand his game, but rather than take a page out of young Kobe’s book, I wish he’d try learning from Lamar: Do what your team needs from your most. That’s how you win championships.

  15. harrydoballin May 12, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Oh wait scratch that. Scalabrine is on the Bulls. Still interesting though.

  16. Kobe’s ego, and him demanding to be the #1 option, are further reasons to seek a coach aside from Shaw.

    If Shaw was to get the job, I’d be worried he is too friendly with Kobe and not willing to stand up to him.

    We need to bring in a coach that can tell Kobe NO, tell him to pass the ball, tell HIM to “fall into line” – and if he doesn’t – bench or trade him.

  17. 9) Zephid,
    They would be a better team if that occurred.

  18. Funky Chicken May 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    I think Darius lets Kobe off too easy. At this stage of his career, Kobe is better served by being a facilitator. As the primary ball handler, Kobe will always get his share of shots. However, if he was committed to exploiting the team’s biggest mismatches he would set up Bynum or Gasol on nearly every position.

    I for one am tired of Kobe’s attitude. His willingness to break the offense and settle for lower percentage shots has the natural effect of taking his teammates out of games, leaving them standing around watching Kobe.

    Exheldrvr said it best: the #1 option should be the player with the biggest matchup advantage, and with a healthy Laker team that will almost always be Gasol or Bynum. The fact that Kobe puts the guy with the highest field goal percentage as the third option tells me everything I need to know about Kobe….

  19. Just for the record, Kobe has led the Lakers in assists 11 of the last 12 seasons, even while leading the team in scoring the last 9 seasons. He knows how to pass the ball.

    Grouse about him all you want, or what you think he should be doing with his game instead of the player he is. I understand his style rubs some people the wrong way. All he’s done is put banners on the wall as well as any Laker who’s ever taken the court – which is stiff company – and I’d be real leery about betting against him for the next few years.

  20. Zephid – You’re right in that it can’t happen because of the clause, but it’s a fun what-if. I really can’t imagine getting nearly as much for Kobe as what we got for Shaq. I’m trying to come up with a team that would truly benefit from getting Kobe at this stage in his career.

    Chicago would definitely benefit from sliding Kobe into the backcourt. They won’t give up Noah, but we’d likely get Asik and might be able to pry Deng away, and CJ Watson. That’s probably as good as it’s going to get.

    NY would probably also be interested, and Toney Douglas is a nice piece. Orlando would likely give up Nelson to pair Kobe with Howard.

    Realistically, I can’t see many other teams wanting him because they’re not one piece away. Also, I hope this doesn’t count as trade speculation because, to be clear, there’s NO WAY that happens. And I’m not pushing for it. Kobe is the backbone of this team, and he should retire a Laker. It was just a mental exercise, just for fun.

  21. Kobe should still be the number one option… But instead of Kobe being the first and second option with Gasol being the third option like the last four seasons… Next season it should be Kobe one, Bynum two, amd Gasol three.

  22. Let’s not read too much into these statements. The storyline is way too easy to peg, and the world doesn’t always work that way.

    Kobe’s still capable of being a No. 1 player, at least for another season. The guy was playing at an MVP level most of the year, especially after the All-Star break. So long as he can get his knee/ankle back into better form, he’ll be able to get to the basket more than we saw late in the season, and the Lakers will benefit from his usual high level of play.

    I totally disagree with Annie’s point that Drew hasn’t put the team’s needs ahead of his own. That’s basically all he did in the second half of this season.

    When Drew was saying the ball needed to go inside more for the team to be effective, that wasn’t selfishness. That was pragmatism.

    Look what happened in Game 3 vs. Dallas — the Lakers rode Drew to a decent lead through three, then he never saw the ball again and they lost by six. When Drew said the ball should have come to him more, he was speaking the truth. The scoreboard proved as much.

    Ideally, whenever the Lakers play again they’ll find that balance. But the Lakers clearly don’t need the Kobe “hero mode” to be effective on most nights. It’s only when Kobe shifts into that mode with no good reason that the team suffers.

  23. As a follow up to #20 – Wasn’t it selfish of Drew to postpone his surgery last year? It resulted in Pau’s playing too many minutes early in the season, and it looks like it has caught up with him. Already at that time Pau didn’t seem like he was happy about that. Now everybody is piling on him while much of the blame could be placed on Andrew, who now acts like the one with all the answers. Then again, if Andrew started playing at the beginning of the season, maybe he wouldn’t have lasted till the end. One never knows, but I definitely think he does not have the right to criticize others after missing so many games out of his own choosing.

  24. Warren Wee Lim May 13, 2011 at 12:49 am

    I like Andrew Bynum’s determination, and he would probably be our best bet moving forward. But to clothesline a hapless Hobbit like Barea like that makes me question his character.

    And in this discussion I will forever choose the sport despite his ballhoggedness.

  25. Warren Wee Lim May 13, 2011 at 12:52 am

    Its fast becoming Bynum vs Bryant in the offseason where its convenient to point out our mistakes… this didn’t quite happen 2 offseasons running when we won it all. Rick Fox had always said it well: “when you’re winning, everyone looks good.”

    And conversely, its just as true: When you’re losing everyone looks bad.

    The Lakers best bet moving forward is Bynum WITH Kobe and Gasol. Although when 1 of those famous trade threads arise I’d like to insert Mr Big Shot’s name in here somewhere.

    This with or without the Lakers’ rumored interest on Rick Adelman.

  26. The Lakers gotta move someone. While we’ll hear endless talk about Dwight Howard, I’m in the camp supporting a move to flip Bynum into several key players.

    (edited for trade speculation)
    The Lakers need speed, youth and shooting (!) The whole “twin towers” thing hasn’t really been as dominant or effective as , say, Duncan/Robinson. We had a problem this season with getting our “best” lineup out there.

    Bynum is starting to “feel his oats” and that’s fine. He’s a damn fine player, but with his injury history and the fact we’ve got several quality years left from Kobe I think he’s the logical player to move.

  27. Oh, and I LOVE the Adelman coach rumors. My short list (in order):

    1- Adelman
    2- Shaw
    3- Van Gundy

    I’d honestly love to see Shaw coach under someone NOT running the triangle before taking the head coaching gig. It was SO frustrating to see the Lakers NEVER go to a simple pick and roll on offense. The triangle is great, but we need to have multiple looks with players as versatile as Gasol and Odom and as skilled/cerebral as Kobe.

  28. Kobe often shoot not in the context of offense. I like the determination of drew. We should trade Kobe.

  29. It is excellent to see how people really have in them for Kobe.Pure cases of crystalline hatred with not proven tangents.Please state in how many ways Bynum would score and can and if he gets the ball??How many bobbled assists Kobe has?
    Best mismatch is the best option,Kobe knows this better than thou.
    Cheers.

  30. Jeez, would people quit with the revisionist history of Bynum missing the start of the season because he chose to delay his surgery?

    All parties, Lakers, doctors, Bynum was okay with the postponement. It was only when Doc went in there and realized that he could do a procedure that had better long term implications that it ended up being that long for rehab.

    The original surgery would have gotten Drew back to start the season but increased chances of his knees going bad sooner. I think that’s a trade off Lakers, doctors and Drew will make every single time.

  31. Some Lakers fans seem to not know how to deal with anything but a championship season.

    So far, *some* are trading one or more of Kobe, Bynum, Gasol, and Odom.

    The logic being that Kobe can’t do it anymore; that’s he’s essentially a ball hog. That the “twin towers thing hasn’t been as dominant/effective as Duncan/Robinson”. That Gasol has now fallen behind Bynum as a player. Etc, etc.

    Really? It’s as if what occured this season is now the only thing that fans can remember about these players.

    This season didn’t go as we’d all have liked it to. But why don’t we let our emotions settle before we trade the entire team, huh? I’m so happy that there are patient people running this team rather than some of these fans that want to dump all the players once a season doesn’t end with a parade.

  32. Are we really still on “character” thing with Bynum? Enough please. The only thing worse than Bynum’s cheap foul is people trying to paint him as some kind of monster who can’t be trusted. Rick Fox was no saint, but we all love Foxy. And I remember seeing Kobe Bryant intentionally elbow both Mike Bibby and Doug Christie in their faces. If we are going to question Bynum’s character for committing a dirty foul should we not question Gasol’s character for simply not showing up? If I am going to be hesitant about pinning my hopes to a player with “character” issues I would be more concerned about the guy who periodically disappears. The biggest issue with Bynum is not his character. It’s his knees.

  33. Renato Afonso May 13, 2011 at 10:32 am

    27. The pick and roll is incorporated within the triangle offense, as it is the main option on the weak side of the triangle…

  34. Kobe’s salary

    2011/12: $25,244,000
    2012/13: $27,849,000
    2013/14: $30,453,000

    How many people are drooling to pay one declining player that much money, especially if his salary may take up 2/3rd of a possible $45mil salary cap?

    Please, enjoy Kobe now because in 2015, we will look bad with great sadness when this HOF player retires/moves on/starts rap career in his late 30s.

  35. +1 T. Rogers

    I for one would rather have a player that is engaged and at least seems like they care(Drew). Than said player that looks like they need a blood transfusion their so listless and wondering aimlessly around the court. I like both players for what they have brought to the table in the past three years, but my gut tells me that Pau is not happy and doesnt like the situation he is currently in.

    At the beginning of the season he was the reinvigorated Pau, seeming to want to prove to the league that he was one of the best at any position in the league. Then comes Drew, LO back to the bench, and Pau seemed to slump the rest of the year with occasional glimpses of hope he would turn it around. LO is the happy go lucky guy that anybody can get along with, Drew on the other hand is very blunt and insightful at the same time. Pau already has to hear it from Kobe, he’s definitely not feeling the thought of having to listen to Bynum as well.

    To me the problem is not a Kobe/Pau drama its a Pau/Drew conflict. Pau is not going to speak up for himself ,he just sulks, thats Kobe’s job in a big brother kind of way. Mr. Bean wasnt speaking on his behalf alone, he was speaking up for Pau as well.

  36. Emotions makes this game exciting. I get emotional thinking about how we just got swept by a 3 point shooting team and Kobe not changing up his game to be like Chris Paul and set up his teammates to dominate. He is living in the past. His myriad of injuries should alone provide evidence of his lack of athleticism and durability. He can’t practice with the team?? because of too much wear and tear on the body?? That’s like me not commuting to work because I’ll be too tired by the time I get to work. Kobe being the number one option means he needs to lead by example. If he’s injured and nursing injuries then he should be a professional and encourage others to step up and not put them in a place with limitations or a pecking order. If I was a leader of the 2 time World Champion Los Angeles Lakers I wouldn’t have thrown my teammates under the bus by saying I was disappointed that my teammates didn’t step up while I was injured or taking days off practice for therapy or to rest my body from the rigors of the NBA schedule. That is a cop out. Magic was the consumate teammate. Kobe could learn from his example. I’m sure Magic has the resume to prove it if banners is what one is judged on. I would take it a step further and would have bet that if Kobe had Magic’s leadership skills that they would have had more banners than they have now. So all this Kobecentric analysis in my opinion distracts from the overall good of the Lakers. I’m just telling it the way I see it. I’m a huge Kobe fan but seeing him dog it on defense, complain to the refs for not getting touch fouls, and not making Dallas pay for having Kidd on him shows me he is not the number one option. And to think Dwade picked him in crunch time woke me up to the fact that he is not a force that demands all these isolation plays. When given the green light Lamar would have gotten 30pts on anyone Dallas put on him in my opinion and more efficiently than Kobe’s 32% FG%. But he was coming off the bench. If this team wants to win against these young athletic teams that are STILL in the playoffs then he will need to defer and not demand to be the center of the Lakers hopes for titles. He’s not the 81pt Kobe anymore. But the great thing is he doesn’t have to be. Jason Kidd figured that out and that’s why he practices with his team and was the catalyst to sweeping us out of the playoffs with the chemistry built during the season and a great coaching effort to expose our weaknesses. Remember Dirk also was injured during the year so all this talk about if we were all healthy is a crock. Caron Butler is still out of the line up last time I checked. I didn’t want to face the music that the Heat could dominate the NBA but now with Boston out and the Lakers getting swept, they are just getting started. Barring injury they are going to dominate if we don’t get this team setup to play defense like Chicago with some shooters like Dallas. If Kobe can’t handle half court play WITH practice then he will need to come off the bench or just do what Jordan did and go to a bunk team to sell tickets to watch a has been for sentimental reasons like having the most popular jersey in China. But as we all seen with AI, once his offense lost a step so went his game and his aura. For a man who lost in Miami then took extra shooting after the game, it still didn’t help him in the playoffs to win a game against Dallas. Pride is a double edged sword. Right now he’s unable to let it go even in the face of a sweep. How many pump fakes is he going to give Kidd next year? Right now Lebron & Dwade, D Rose, Durant, Westbrook to name a few is showing us how its done. Age is a merciless stat. Experience can only take you as far as your body can go. Can you imagine Kobe coming off the bench like Shaq did for Boston. I hope I never have to see that. I’d rather see him score and play hard for a couple more years than see him try to stay in the league to try to catch all of Jordan’s records.

  37. @ Aga — You’re following a running myth — the Bynum delayed his surgery last summer simply out of his desire to go watch soccer in South Africa.

    Read the L.A. Times story linked below, which should have put that myth to bed a long time ago.

    Bottom line, both Phil Jackson and Mitch knew Drew wanted to wait a month for the surgery, and they approved that plan. You can’t go from taxing your body on one leg for eight straight weeks and then hop right into surgery and rehab; it wouldn’t be good for the body or mind. He did what was best for the recovery process.

    Also, to rip the kid over a later surgery totally overlooks the fact that he chose to intially delay the surgery in order to keep playing, and help his team to a title.

    If he were truly acting selfishly, he could have shut it down after the Thunder series, collected his checks and watched his team struggle without him. That wasn’t the route he chose.

    http://lakersblog.latimes.com/lakersblog/2010/09/criticism-regarding-andrew-bynums-surgery-is-understandable-but-misguided.html

  38. @ Chris – thanks for the link.

    I suppose we cannot blame Andrew for not foreseeing the surgery would have to be more serious. On the other hand, I find it fascinating there is only one doctor in the world that can be trusted to perform it, so it had to be delayed by 40 days. Of course, it is Andrew’s health and body, and it’s his decision who works on him. I just remember Pau’s minutes during the season worried me (and they worried Pau and Phil, too), and I think they came back to haunt us in the end. I wish people would consider that instead of looking to some relationship rumors.