It’s Mailbag Time…

Darius Soriano —  June 17, 2011

Time for another installment of the FB&G mailbag.  As always, if you’d like to submit a question, you can click right here and submit one to me with “mailbag question” in the subject line.  On to the questions…

Considering that Mike Brown is already considered a defensive specialist, would (Mike) Malone really have been that helpful on his bench?  I am more interested to see how Messina and Kuester reconfigures the offense.  Also, where do you think Brian Shaw will end up?  He deserves a gig somewhere.

While I agree that a defensive minded assistant coach doesn’t look to be the Lakers’ biggest need, I think it is also important to understand Mike Brown’s coaching style and how he constructs a staff. Brown has stated that he delegates to his assistants and preaches shared responsibility and accountability at all times (both on his staff and with the players). Malone was one of his key assistants in Cleveland and held a similar position with the Hornets this past season (where he’s directly credited with helping to improve that team’s D this past season). By all accounts he’s a very good coach and I’m of the mind that a head coach should try to surround himself with as many smart coaches that can teach the game as possible. So, yes, I think he’d have been a great hire and very helpful.

As for Shaw, I think it’s incredible that the man once tabbed as Phil Jackson’s successor could be out of work next season. He may not land on his feet as a head coach anywhere (as of now, only the Raptors, Pistons, and Pacers have vacancies), but I could certainly see him getting hired as an assistant somewhere. Maybe he goes to Minnesota and teams up with Rambis to help with the Triangle. That said, one of the obstacles that Shaw may be facing is the fact that he is so closely associated with the Triangle offense. I’m not an owner or a GM, but the Triangle is an offense that few have succeeded running at this level and can be seen as impractical to the way that many NBA rosters are currently constructed. Shaw may need to put in time on a staff that teaches other schemes to further prove that he’s a viable head coach in the league – especially with everyone’s fall from grace after the Lakers got swept out of the playoffs.

Do you expect Steve Blake to get better next year? Or do you expect him to stay the same/get worse?

I expect Blake to be better next season. To these eyes, Blake’s biggest issues were in aggression and in his comfort level finding shots within the Triangle. And while Blake played much more within the system than, say, Jordan Farmar, Blake never did find the right balance between getting his own and setting up his teammates. To be fair, playing with players the stature of Kobe, Pau, Odom, Bynum, and even Artest has the potential to neuter any players aggressiveness (i.e. passing to those guys always seems like the best option – especially if they’re calling for the ball). Plus, the Triangle is a system that’s nuanced and takes time to fully learn and get comfortable within.

But now that the Triangle is gone and a more “traditional” system is in its place, I expect Blake to better find his groove and thus produce better results. By no means am I saying he’ll be one of the better PG’s in the game, but I don’t think shooting better percentages across the board and increasing his assist totals are far fetched. I also think with better play he’ll receive more minutes and with that even more success will come.

Everyone quotes Michael Jordan’s Finals resume as being better than Kobe‘s. For my argument, let’s say Kobe gets his 6th in the next 3 years (highly possible, I’m hoping). People would point to MJ’s record of 6-0 being superior to Kobe‘s 6-2 (again, hypothetical). Wouldn’t Kobe‘s be better? Champion 6 times and runner up twice vs champion 6 times? (This ignores the finals mvp component, I see being a weak point in my argument.)

Normally I try to avoid such debates since they rarely get you anywhere. However, since we’re talking resume and not who was better, I’ll bite…

While I understand the argument of more Finals appearances, I think an unblemished record is a greater achievement. I also think scoring average matters, which Jordan has over Kobe as well. Plus, as you mentioned, MJ’s MVP’s in the Finals are the tipping point in this argument. So, I just don’t see an argument where Kobe’s Final’s resume is better than MJ’s even with another title to his name.

That said, by the time Kobe’s career is over, his overall resume could be very close to MJ’s. When you consider career points, All-Star game appearances and ASG MVP’s, All-NBA and All-Defense teams, games and minutes played, and the NBA championships, their careers will be closer than many would like to admit. I’d still take MJ’s league MVP’s and DPOY award as trump cards to Kobe’s accomplishments, but Kobe will have achieved so much that there would be debate from both sides, for sure.

That said, one of the reasons I try to avoid such conversations is because I try to appreciate the players for who they are/were rather than holding them up against the memories of other legends. When Kobe retires I’ll be lucky enough to say that I saw his entire career and cheered him on as he played for the team that I root for. Who cares if he compares favorably to another all time great? The fact that he’s in the conversation as one of the best that ever played is more than enough for me.

Darius Soriano

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  1. Speaking of Finals resumes, the latest 20 Second Timeout piece has a great comparison of Dirk’s Finals performance this year to Kobe’s last year – they are virtually identical, right down to both players’ struggling with their shot in the final game – yet somehow, Dirk cemented his legacy as a superstar with those numbers, and Kobe “tarnished his legacy”. Go figure.


  2. jodial,
    The difference is that Kobe is in the discussion of GOAT/Top 5; Dirk’s final put him into the top 20 range. When you average 98 on your tests, and then get a 92, it lowers your average. When you’ve been getting 80’s and then get a 92, it raises your average.


  3. “While I understand the argument of more Finals appearances, I think an unblemished record is a greater achievement.”

    This argument makes no sense. Going 6-0 doesn’t mean anything. It just means you lost some other time earlier during the playoffs. Or the regular season The “0” doesn’t make you MORE of a “winner.”

    By this definition, Kobe was “more successful” this year, then if he had reached the NBA Finals and lost (hence his NBA Finals record would be 6-3).

    It’s “better” that he lost in the NBA Divisional playoffs and his NBA Finals record remained 6-2.


  4. #3. I see your point, I just don’t completely share it in this specific case. I think getting to the Finals is a big achievement. I often say that it’s a big deal the Showtime Lakers went to 9 Finals. Just like I think it’s impressive Kobe’s been to 7. But, I think going to 6 and winning them all would be more impressive than going to 8 and winning 6. You don’t have to agree.


  5. If we are going to count championships then Bill Russell is the absolute greatest player – 11 and 0.

    We really need to stop counting beans and examine the entire game.


  6. # 2 ex,

    With all due respect, your analogy is not accurate. The media treated Kobe’s “92” as if it were a 60, or about a D grade, at best. The media was absolutely hammering his game 7 stats, despite his fourth quarter stats and his overall performance in the series. Whether the discussion is about being in the top 20 or GOAT, clutch is clutch. Dirk was absolutely clutch against the Heat no matter what these so called advanced stats suggest, and so was Kobe.

    Hypothetically, if Dirk had four rings entering these playoffs, he would likely be in the discussion for GOAT power forwards in the league, as Kobe is with shooting guards. Dirk’s recent finals performance, despite his poor shooting in game 6, would have only strengthened his reputation as a clutch player, as well as his standing in the GOAT power forward discussion. It’s interesting that Kobe’s finals performance seemed to have an opposite effect according to a large portion of the media.


  7. As I recall, I think PJ, when asked by Magic who was better player, PJ simply said: (pause) “Kobe had tougher shots…”. I think that was a fantastic answer. To compare those 2 players, we’d need to put them to play against each other in their primes, which is impossible due to their age difference. So based on stats, I think MJ is better at the moment. Kobe’s career is not over, so we can’t get to a final conclusion, only speculate.

    But so far, coming from a guy that saw both players playing, Kobe impressed me a bit more than MJ. Less gifted than MJ, smaller hands, and still doing all things that he did and still does. 81 points against a 2006 team? Things were a bit easier during MJ’s time. By 2006, the NBA was quite different than the end of the 90’s.

    So even with 1 ring less than MJ, I bow to Kobe.


  8. I think Brown will try to get a PG who he or his new Assts have coached in the past,and who is well acquainted with Brown`s off and def systems. Blake will then have to show he deserves minutes vs. the new guy. In fact how all the players adapt to brand new systems will determine their minutes.


  9. 6) No – the difference is that Kobe did not do as well as he had in the past. Dirk did better than he had in the past. The reason he received more praise is because it was a noticeable departure, positively, from how his teams had done in the past in the playoffs. Kobe’s did not quite as well as he had in the past.


  10. exhelodrvr, I hear you, but I have to agree with LT mitchell’s rebuttal and maintain my original position – Kobe’s game 7 last year has not entered the annals as a game that simply wasn’t up to his usual all-time-great standards, and therefore worthy of some critique. It has somehow become a catastrophic game for Kobe – I routinely hear talking heads speak matter-of-factly about how Kobe “choked” in game 7 last year, or that it was the “worst-ever game by a winning superstar”, simply because he shot a low percentage from the field (in an 83-79 game 7 that featured wall-to-wall maniacal defense and terrible shooting from both sides).

    Never mind his 15 rebounds, or the fact that he made every single one of his free throws down the stretch when every single point counted, or his suffocating D on Rondo, all on a knee that needed surgery.

    Dirk had a great series and a courageous closeout game (which was only a game 6 by the way, not a game 7 – there’s a difference!) – but I haven’t heard anyone suggest that his shooting woes in the final game meant that Jason Terry (who shot lights out and outscored him) or J.J. Barea should be the series MVP, the way Pau & Artest have been touted as last year’s “real” Finals MVPs. Not criticizing Pau or Ron, they were huge, merely pointing out that the criticism of Kobe in that game and series are as outsized as…well, everything about his career, really.


  11. The difference between Kobe last year and Dirk this year isn’t about their performances, it is about the media.

    I don’t think we need to say any more about the average intelligence of ‘the media’. Therefore, let’s stop giving them any credit by repeating their bleats.


  12. Warren Wee Lim June 18, 2011 at 7:10 am

    Make a play for Calderon. Shouldn’t be so hard with Toronto on full suck mode


  13. One main difference between DirK and Kobe in their Championship games, Dirk suffered sinusitis while Kobe carried debilitating injuries that hampers movement on fingers, knees, back, hip and still going and going to please demanding fans and media. I saw Kobe (got lucky to sit in lower box) when he single handedly torched the Dallas team scoring 62 in three quarters against 61 pts for the team. However, this year it was not Kobe’s time. I consider both of them as clutch players and great for basketball, it’s rather unfair to compare abilities of two Champs. Basketball is not a game pitting one against the other one like Tennis, Golf, Boxing or Chess, it’s a team game so there are many variables attached to it just saying….


  14. There will always be some in the media that simply don’t like Kobe – whether it be because of Colorado, his feud w/ Shaq, the fact that he has dared to measure himself by MJ’s standards or just b/c he’s a Laker. Even those that despise him (Simmons) admit at worst he is top 10. I would personally put MJ and Kareem 1a and 1b followed by Kobe, Magic and Oscar.

    As far as Dirk/Kobe in the closeout games I would easily take Kobe’s game. Both teams shot an AWFUL percentage in that game and in a series where the team that won the rebounding battle won every game Kobe came down w/ 15 – many of which were contested. He also played lockdown defense and did come through in the 4th quarter with a big jumper over Ray Allen and of course the free throws.


  15. Some morning links are up. The Bucher piece on Horry is a must read (it’s from 2002).


  16. I agree with Darius about Kobe being an all timer – as a Laker – being more than good enough.

    A lot of the “GOAT”, “top ten” or “top whatever” stuff is more than a little bogus. Dirk’s newly improved rep is a case in point. I’m thinking he is much the same player he was before these playoffs, obviously a very special player before and after winning the ring or whatever Mark Cuban decides to bestow.

    Dirk didn’t do all this winning by himself. In Finals games 5 & 6 alone, the Mavs shot the lights out from distance and moved the ball very, very well. The ball movement was I thought especially good in game 6 – superb actually. It wasn’t all Nowitski by any meaure.


  17. I seriously like Kobe, but comparing him to MJ is impossible for at least another 10 years.

    MJ has a largely unblemished media record as well, which really counts for something. Let’s just say people are much more lenient – we’ll have no trouble blocking his Wizards stint out of the conversation while NOBODY will be leaving out ANY part of Kobe’s career, especially the airballin’ first years and the Colorado years.

    Also, MJ does have impressive stats that start from his higher FG%, not having lost when his team had the upper seed, and all the other details that make him more or less inhuman.

    So no, I still think MJ is the greatest SG ever and it’s not really close. Still, I’m more than happy to have witnessed probably the 2nd greatest SG ever (also by a longshot, but that’s the fan in me, sorry J. West and others).


  18. Errr, this is a Laker Board and who really gives a dam about Dirk…really?

    To compare Dirk and Kobe is laughable becuz Kobe is truly one of the greatest of all times. Dirk is an over-hyped Tom Chambers…who I actually thought was a better player than Dirk.

    I live in Dallas and have watched Dirk for years and I give him credit. This is his first playoff run where he didn’t fade away. But
    let’s not get carried away folks he might be a HOF’er but he is not in the top 20…not even close!


  19. #18. Yes this is a Laker site. But, I’m also a basketball fan and appreciate the great players from other teams. At this site, I’m more than open to having discussions about other players/teams as a means of enhancing the conversation.


  20. Of course we will all have our opinions, each with as much inherent validity as any other.

    Mine, FWIW, is that getting to the finals is ALWAYS better than failing to get there at all. Therefore, taken in isolation, 6-2 in X number of years would always be better than 6-0 in X number of years, because the latter has a greater number of years in which his team wasn’t even good enough to get to the finals, let alone win them. Certainly no one would argue that 1-0 is better than, say, 5-3 (Magic’s record), even though the percentage is superior.

    I also think, however, that using Finals record as a measure of relative greatness is fundamentally flawed. Unless you want to argue that, say, K.C Jones was a greater player than Jerry West. So the statistic itself probably isn’t nearly as useful as people often maintain.


  21. Yeah, but the “what if’s” are always in play.

    What if Jordan hadn’t “retired” (or been suspended for 18 months for gambling, as many suspect)? The Bulls could well have had two or three more Finals runs in them.

    Those Houston teams that won titles in ’94 and ’95 would probably have been the toughest match-up Jordan would have seen in the Finals. No match for Olajuwon, great outside shooting and a mental toughness that was hard to top.

    So maybe if MJ had stuck around, tat 6-0 would not have been the figure — maybe 6-2 instead?

    Likewise, the Bulls were always healthy in their Finals appearances (excluding Jordan’s flu vs. the Jazz). Kobe’s losses came without key players on his side, be it Karl Malone or Bynum and Ariza. So again, who’s to say what’s equitable in that debate?

    We’ll never know, but Finals records is a poor way of settling the “greatest ever” debate, at least in my opinion. Then again, I’m in the camp who says Kareem was better than Jordan.


  22. I can’t say I would put Kobe ahead of Jordan, but I do think Kobe is underrated by national media. I’m from SoCal and I watched Kobe every night for many years. I moved to the Northeast in 2006 and sometimes the local sports talk doesn’t even mention Kobe. They always say “well he had Shaq”, like it was an afterthought. Let’s not mention the 2001 playoff run was one of the most dominating ever and that Kobe willed the team through post-Shaq until they could build a new contender.

    I don’t know if the Lakers will win again with Kobe, but I think the league in 2000 and 2001 was much tougher than it was for Jordan’s last three. The Western Conference was a crazy minefield, and the Lakers STILL won three in a row. Was it a down league in 2009? Yeah, maybe. I just don’t know if it was the pushover the NBA had become when the Bulls beat the Blazers.

    Magic and Kobe don’t get enough credit nationally. They deserve to be mentioned with Jordan. All three own the game from an unusual position on the floor.