Archives For August 2011

Some Site News…

Darius Soriano —  August 24, 2011

Later on today (at what exact time, I’m not yet sure) FB&G will be going through some server updates that will take the site off line for a bit. I’m told that it can take up to a full day to complete this work but I hope that it won’t take that long to work everything out.

I’d say more about this but my technical knowledge is equivalent to Smush Parker’s BBIQ and the less I try to explain things, the better. Just know that we’re trying to work out some bugs and that takes smarter people than me doing some behind the scene things that someone actually pays them for.

So, starting later on today/this evening, for a spell you’ll likely see some sort of server error message when trying to access the site. Don’t be concerned, we haven’t gone anywhere and will be back before you know it.

I thank you all for your patience on this.

(via SLAMOnline.com)

(via SLAMOnline.com)

Today is the great Kobe Bean Bryant’s birthday and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the man than to watch some clips of his greatest performances, games, moves, blocks, dunks and game winners. I was pretty much watching these all morning and afternoon, and since I actually have to get some work done this afternoon, I’ll pass them along to you guys. Try and forget about the lockout for the day and talk, discuss, and share your favorite Kobe stories and moments.

By the way, SLAM tweeted this Kobe slide show this morning. It features all of his covers on the SLAM and KICKS magazines. Now, on to the videos, some of which have been shared here on FB&G in the past.

Here are a few of the best hodgepodge high light videos of Kobe

Here are all of Kobe’s buzzer beaters from the 09/10 season

Some of Kobe’s best dunks of his career (I miss the days of the 360)

Remember when he scored 62 points through 3 quarters against Dallas?

And then he scored 81 just a couple weeks later.

Check out some of the best blocks of his career

Last, but not least, one of my favorites. A compilation showing off his footwork.

The Lakers remain one of the elite teams in the league. Among the chief reasons for this fact is the wealth of talent they possess at the top of their roster. With a core of Kobe, Pau, Bynum, Odom, and Artest the Lakers possess 5 of the better players in the league at their respective positions (yes, I include Artest here as his defense is still elite level and defense is half the game). And, even though I’m a firm believer in intangibles like chemistry and leadership, talent is still the foundation for every championship roster.

When you look at that list of players, however, you see duplication of skill set and position:

  • Kobe is the starting shooting guard, but his next natural position is small forward.
  • Artest is the starting small forward, but has been used as a small ball power forward in recent seasons.
  • Pau Gasol is the starting power forward but moonlights as the back up (and sometimes starting) center.
  • Lamar Odom is the back up power forward but could lay claim to being one of the best 10 players at that position in the league and has played extremely well whenever he’s asked to start.

When put in these terms, you see 4 of the Lakers best five players and most of their minutes are spent playing 3 positions on the floor (SG, SF, and PF). In terms of allocation of resources and optimization of minutes, this isn’t a formula that is ideal. Sure, the talent level is what you’d want but finding the appropriate number of minutes for these players while maximizing the talent on the floor can be a challenge.

When you throw in Andrew Bynum, the equation gets even muddier. Bynum is, by all accounts, a top 3 player at his position in the entire league. He’s one of the last “true” centers in the game and possesses an already advanced skill set that he’s still improving on. He needs court time to flourish; the Lakers want him on the court to help them win games. However, when he’s on the court, one of the other Lakers’ best players is almost certainly on the bench.

Thus, the question must be asked: are the Lakers properly constructed to maximize their ability to win a title?

This is a complex question that needs to be addressed from several angles.

First off, the Lakers are only one year removed from winning the championship with this exact core of players. This is obviously a formula that works. If you look at the world champion Mavericks, you see that they too built their team around versatile size that could match up with the Lakers and other contenders around the league. (Chandler and Marion were off-season additions and Haywood was re-signed that same off-season. When you add in Dirk, you have a four man big man rotation that was surely put together with beating the Lakers in mind.) It’s irresponsible to ignore these facts if you’re talking about the Lakers’ roster and whether or not they can win with the group they currently have.

However, the fact remains that the Lakers still have an issue with resource allocation. They’re built around the skill set of Kobe Bryant and the presence of 3 versatile, skilled big men. But it’s becoming clearer that those three big men (either by design or through bias) can’t play together and that Kobe’s game is evolving into more of a big man’s game in the body of a shooting guard. This leaves the Lakers few rotation choices and ultimately finds them having to make decisions on who of their best players play, rather than simply making sure their best players take the floor together. When you add in the overlapping skill set issues alluded to above, you have another tangential issue that is inescapable.

What complicates the Lakers’ issues further is the fact that the Lakers often get substandard production from at least one position on the court (point guard) and none of their best players are natural candidates to play this position. The Lakers, then, not only end up without their best 5 players on the court at the same time but also end up playing one of their weaker players due to the positional need of having a point guard on the floor. Essentially, they’re falling short on both sides of this equation.

This brings us back to square one.

The Lakers have a closing window of time to compete for a championship. The age and accumulated minutes of their best player(s) make this an undisputed fact. They have a core of championship quality players that have been to the mountain top before (and are good enough to get there again) but a group of role players that may not be up to the challenge as they have been in years past. Furthermore, that core group of players includes positional and skill overlap that leads to line up inefficiencies and, thus, not as good a team playing at any given moment as is possible. Meanwhile, the group of role players includes guys that bring intangibles to the table that every championship team needs.

If you’re the Lakers, do you ride with this group as it is now to give them another shot at the ring that eluded them this past summer? Or, do you make a trade to balance out the roster; a trade that creates more efficient line up possibilities – even if that trade lessens the overall talent on the team?

I’m on the record as a supporter of approach number one but there is validity in approach number two.

Make no mistake, though, the window is closing. Next season (whenever it starts) and the year after that mark the Lakers best chance of winning with a core built around Kobe Bryant. The answers to these questions of roster construction will play a crucial part in whether or not the Lakers win. And while their may not be a correct answer, we all have an opinion. What’s yours?

J.M. Poulard is a friend of the site and contributor to fellow TrueHoop Network site, Warrior’s World. Over the summer he’s been doing excellent work at FB&G and continues those efforts today . You can reach him by email here and find him on Twitter @ShyneIV.

Michael Jordan’s undeniable ability to score, defend and rip out his opponents heart make him the greatest basketball player to have ever lived. But not too far behind him are immortal legends such as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird who complete the group I like to refer to as The Three Wise Men. The trio has elevated the league to unprecedented heights and essentially made the NBA a viable sports entertainment option going forward.

The greatness displayed by these legends has seemingly rendered every basketball argument moot. Indeed, every great player that comes along today must face the prospect of having his game dissected and then eventually compared to these players who are now viewed as basketball heroes. No player has faced more scrutiny in this regard during his career than Kobe Bryant.

Detractors will point out that Kobe is a gifted scorer that often defies the imagination, but will also mention that Michael was clearly the superior shot creator and that he converted half of his shots all the while shutting down his man. The Black Mamba does a decent job of getting his teammates involved but no one did it quite like Magic Johnson; mind you he was a point guard. But then again, Bird was a forward and he always managed to create high percentage shots for his teammates.

One could say that Kobe and Drake share a trait that the Toronto rapper has illustrated in his hit song Trust Issues. For those unfamiliar with the song, give it a listen (some NSFW language).

In listening to the lyrics, it seems we’ve heard this story before in reference to Kobe right?

Not quite.

Bryant has often been criticized because of his penchant to play what Doc Rivers likes to call “hero ball”, in which he takes the ball in crunch time and ignores his teammates; but perhaps it is time we looked past some of his flaws. Not because they are unimportant, but rather because it would appear that it is impossible to mention the Lakers star without mentioning his weaknesses.

Think about this for a moment: Michael was often a poor teammate because he alienated members of his team, Magic was a subpar defender and Bird’s bad back made him a shell of his former self at times. Mind you, we often ignore these facts when talking about the trio, choosing instead to single them out for their strengths and accomplishments.

Perhaps fans in general have trouble reconciling just how talented Bryant is today with respect to other legends because he is an active player; or maybe our trust issues as fanatics are much more pronounced than Kobe Bryant’s.

For years, we have heard college coaches and even some media members refer to playing the right way. It seems that it has become the standard by which we measure all players in this day and age. Indeed, this basketball ideology relies on the notion that players who always make the right play will always give their team the best chance to win. Thus, shooting the ball when facing a double team or taking a low percentage shot early in the shot clock is not the proper course of action on the basketball court; instead the player should look for the open teammate.

This is part of what makes J.R. Smith so frustrating to watch on the court, he often looks like a player that is being controlled by a person playing NBA 2K and that wants him to get his numbers.

Kobe Bryant often gives us the exact same feeling that Smith gives us, except that Kobe is just flat out better than the Nuggets’ shooting guard at doing it. For all intents and purposes, people have decided that Kobe plays the wrong way, and that’s where their trust issues vis-à-vis Bryant stem from.

He seems to defy logic by playing a brand of basketball that we have consistently seen fail to produce championships. Indeed, history has taught us that players with itchy trigger fingers on the basketball court are doomed to fail. We saw this with the likes of Allen Iverson, the early years of Michael Jordan and even Carmelo Anthony to some extent (the comedy of it all of course is that Melo and AI played together).

Thus, whenever Kobe takes a tough contested jumper, the narrative will be that he could make the game so much easier for himself and his teammates; which consequently gives fuel to his detractors. Granted, they may be on to something but at some point, one must sit back and realize that the Lakers superstar has reached the mountaintop five times despite refusing to conform to history.

The inability to recognize Kobe Bryant’s value as a basketball player may have more to do with our own failure to accept his singular talent despite his flaws.
For all of his shortcomings, Kobe Bryant has managed to repeatedly deliver when the stakes were the highest, despite doing things the alleged wrong way.

History has shown that players who win rings are the ones that eventually accept their teammates as their equal and willingly defer to them when the situation calls for it in crunch time. And yet, we have Kobe Bryant who has managed to more often than not do the exact opposite and still come out on top.

Perhaps Kobe could share the ball a bit more, but doing things his way has not exactly been a failure when looking at the results. Can we at least acknowledge his greatness on that front?

Or do our trust issues with Kobe prevent us from doing so…

-J.M. Poulard

From Ken Berger, CBS Sports: During a series of meetings in which union officials are updating players on the status of collective bargaining this week, one voice stood out: that of Kobe Bryant. Before a star-studded audience of about 75 players in Los Angeles Tuesday, Bryant was “up front” and “deliberate” in a speech in which he urged players to maintain solidarity and “stand behind the union” during the lockout, according to a person who was in attendance. Sources told CBSSports.com that another test of that solidarity could come next week, as top union officials were authorized Wednesday to contact deputy commissioner Adam Silver in the hopes of scheduling a bargaining session in New York before the end of the month. Bryant and Paul Pierce told players Tuesday it was important for them to “remain united” in the face of a lockout that has dragged well into its second month with only one full-scale bargaining session, the person who attended the meeting said.

From Andy Kamentzky, Land O’ Lakers: (Kobe) was attacking the rim and the good thing is, you get a person like James Harden, people starting hollering “Oklahoma! Lakers!” When we were in there before he came, I said, “Look, guys. We need to play hard. You know how Drew is. We’re not going out here to put on an exhibition. We’re going hard. We’re going just like we always play. You gotta get up in him because that’s what he wants. He wants to be tested today.” You know, James scored 47 himself, so they went at it a few trips down the floor. It was great. He was good. He was very good. He was fresh. His spring, his jump shot was nice. Getting to the basket. His jab steps and his foot work. Everything was very good. 

From Ben R., Silver Screen & Roll: After years of solid, consistent play from the Lakers’ primary corps of bigs in Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum, witnessing last season, filled with ups and downs, slumps and rises, was a bizarre experience. Each of the three had parts of the year in which they surpassed their career norms as well as times when they played woefully beneath them, with almost none of those periods intersecting, something that contributed to last season’s turmoil. Gasol began the year on a stellar, MVP-level tear before the continued stress of playing too many minutes triggered a season-long decline that resulted in his massive meltdown during the playoffs. Conversely, Bynum, who missed the start of the season due to knee surgery in the off-season, started the year slowly as he got back into form before erupting following the All-Star Break into a defensive dervish at the heart of the Lakers’ 17-1 streak. Finally, Odom had arguably the best year of his career during the regular season, putting to rest the almost cliched concerns about his consistency with borderline All-Star play that earned him the Sixth Man of the Year award before he, like Gasol, was highly ineffective during the playoffs. With Mike Brown taking the helm of the team, the bigs will continue to be the primary fulcrum of the Lakers at both ends of the floor. While the defensive principles of the team will stay roughly analogous to the defense that powered the Lakers streak after the ASG, the offense will switch to the Spurs’ playbook that will incorporate the talents of the Lakers’ bigs in a different manner than the triangle, although with many of the same principles.

From Mike Trudell, Lakers.com:  During an extended LakersTV interview with head coach Mike Brown, we spent some time talking about his new assistant coaches: Chuck Person, John Kuester, Quin Snyder and Ettore Messina. You can check out the video to get Brown’s more extended assessment of his staff, but here’s a snippet of Brown’s words on each coach: On Ettore Messina: “He’s the equivalent of a Pat Riley, a Gregg Popovich and so on and so forth over in Europe. He has multiple European Championships, and then a ton of league championships in the Spanish League, the Russian League, the Italian League … I’m excited that (Messina’s) going to bring some things from Europe that I can use. They play a lot of zone in Europe … I’m not a huge fan of zone defense, but I think it could be effective with the length of the guys on this team. So that’s intriguing, and then some zone offensive stuff and more than zone, he is a terrific man-to-man defensive coach and a very good offensive coach.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: I think this happening is about as likely as Kanye West becoming the next President of the United States. Yet I will pass it along because it’s too big to ignore. The Chinese publication sohu.com is reporting that Kobe Bryant has agreed to terms to play for Shanxi Zhongyu in China next season (via Hoopshype). The publication says the team president is the source. There are a few reasons not to buy this. For one, Kobe reportedly is not that close to making a decision on what to do during the lockout. It is very possible that Shanxi Zhongyu is one of the hundreds of teams that have reached out to Kobe and his agent looking to make a deal. But that is very different than Kobe signing on the dotted line. In the end I’d be shocked if Kobe signs anywhere (he wants another ring badly and his knees could use the rest).

From Dave Murphy, Searching For Slava: I once toyed with the notion of a nation turning its lonely eyes to an obscure biscuit chucker from the Ukraine. In truth, his spirt orbits ever further from this eponymous journal. There’s a new generation that barely remembers him – actually they never knew him at all.  A short career, never a starter and so resolute in Garbo solitude that he’s basically gone and got himself erased. Woo-woo-woo. Dennis Rodman’s solitude came masked with boas and industrial chrome – his final abortive seasons turned to ash while Slava was still balling for BC Kiev. He was one of the transcendent athletes of our times, a complicated man-child with kaleidoscope hair, flying level to the ground after loose balls, tracking rebounds like a bat, drinking oceans into pale morning light.  TV watchers saw his HOF speech last Friday as cathartic, a revelation. Some in attendance, smiled sadly, knowingly – they’ve lived his breakthroughs and breakdowns for too long. There’s a thing about people who talk about not being around much longer.  Sometimes they aren’t. The finals ended only two months ago but it feels like a far-off hiding place.  Usually, we’re joking away the days, secure in the summer league and crazy trade machines. Not now, this is a grim march through dying cities, it’s fans arguing over business models when even the owners and players won’t argue over business models. It won’t always be this way. Ten years goes by in the blink of an eye. The landscape will change with a new CBA but it will be the norm for a whole new crop of players.