Preview & Chat: The Houston Rockets

Darius Soriano —  January 3, 2012 — 87 Comments

Records: Lakers 3-3 (6th in the West), Rockets: 2-2 (7th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 102.2 (16th in NBA), Rockets: 106.2 (10th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 97.4 (5th in NBA), Rockets: 105.7 (22nd in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Rockets: Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, Luis Scola, Jordan Hill
Injuries: Lakers: Derrick Caracter (out), Josh McRoberts (questionable); Rockets: none

The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers are coming off a loss but the topic of the day is Kobe’s shooting, naturally. The internet is saying he shoots too much and Kobe fires back with “I do what I do” and everyone sighs in disbelief.

However, as we discussed yesterday, this is to be expected. Kobe’s a scorer and he’s gone his entire career seeking shots that he thinks he can make (and doing it to the tune of 28,000+ career points). If people thought he was going to say anything besides what he did, they were fooling themselves. Kobe’s going to have the ball in his hands and that means he’s going to have opportunities to score. His big men can’t be ignored, but so far this season, they haven’t been. Note that Gasol’s usage rate is hovering right where it’s been during his entire tenure with the Lakers (21.4 this year) and that Bynum’s has made a dramatic leap to 30.8 (last season it was 17.6, the year before 20.8). A balance will need to be struck and I think everyone recognizes that fact. But, again, Kobe’s the primary creator of shots from the perimeter for this team and finding that balance will take time, especially when taking into account Bynum’s growth and reintegration into the line up.

Lastly, and for what it’s worth, I don’t really care about how often Kobe shoots, per se. I worry about the offense getting bogged down. I worry about whether or not he’s doing enough of the other things he needs to do to help the offense hum on any given night. Kobe’s not wrong when he says he should be taking the open shots made available to him. He’s Kobe Bryant, one of the best, most natural scorers the game has ever seen. However, I’ll always maintain that regardless of whether or not his shot is falling (but especially if it’s not) he needs to continue to look for his teammates and continue to work the offense to produce good looks at the basket. If those shots are taken by him, fine. If they’re taken by a teammate, that works too. The way I see it, the better the look, the better the chance the basket goes in. And considering the Lakers are 16th in offensive efficiency, they need more of those shots to go in. That’s not all on Kobe, either.

The Rockets Coming in: The Rockets sit at 2-2 and offer a balanced attack with several above average players who consistently play to their strengths. However, when looking at their roster, it’s easy to see why they were the 3rd team in the Lakers/NOLA failed trade that would have finally brought them a centerpiece player in Pau Gasol (and the cap space to chase Nene). Martin, Scola, and Lowry are a fine trio of players who bring efficiency, hard work, and dogged determination to their craft. Lowry currently leads the league in assists and plays hard nosed defense. Scola offers a crafty post-centric offensive game and maximum effort at all times. And Martin is the poster boy of offensive efficiency, generating points via FTs and uncontested jumpers that every team would like to have.

With this group though, what you see is what you get. There’s little potential for that otherworldly performance that can carry a franchise when multiple players have an off night. There’s not a superstar who can cover up the faults of multiple teammates simply through the strength of his individual brilliance. The Rockets win playing team ball and by everyone doing their part in that given game. For years they’ve added good talent and worked the edges of their roster looking to add that one piece that could change their franchise. It hasn’t happened yet. And until it does, they’ll be a consistently tough out, but not one of the leagues elite teams.

That said, there have been some changes worth noting. Rick Adelman has been replaced by Kevin McHale. After the aforementioned 3 way trade was nixed, the Rockets signed Sammy Dalembert as a backup big to replace the departed Chuck Hayes. And with a slew of young assets that could be contributors on countless teams across the league, I doubt this team is done making moves.

Rockets Blogs: Red 94 is a great site you should check out for Rockets news and notes. Also give a visit to The Dream Shake.

Keys to game: The keys to this game are simple: offensively, attack the back line of the Rockets’ defense and make them protect the paint. Yao Ming is long gone. Chuck Hayes, one of the league’s best post and positional defenders – is now a King. Luis Scola and Jordan Hill will offer little resistance on post ups by the Laker twin towers or on drives by Kobe should he be able to shake his man. That last statement is important because against the Nuggets, Kobe was not able to shake free from Afflalo consistently nor get by a sagging, 6-10 Gallinari off the bounce. However, tonight Kobe faces lesser quality defenders in either Kevin Martin or Chase Budinger. Chase is the better defender (he’s bigger and more athletic) but he’s not in this league because he’s a stopper on the wing. This is a game where Kobe should be able to attack and either get shots for himself or his teammates – and do so in the paint – much easier than against the Nuggets.

Defensively, the Lakers must be prepared to deal with another young and improved point guard. Kyle Lowry is a strong bulldog of a guard who has no qualms pushing the ball up the court and making the opponent stop him. He can get to the rim or hit the outside jumper. He’s struggled with his shot some this year, but as mentioned earlier, he’s leading the league in assists and doing everything he can to lead his team. The Lakers must be ready for Lowry to attack both Fisher and Steve Blake off the bounce and show help when needed, but not get so far out of position that they leave players wide open as Lowry will find them.

The other key offensive threats are Martin and Scola. Martin is a natural at moving off the ball and working screens to free himself up where he can either stroke his unorthodox jumper or attack off the dribble to earn trips to the foul line. This is where the Lakers need to be extra aware because Martin often seeks contact and would sometimes rather take a hit than look for a better shot to take. He’s more than content to go to the line for two FTs, so the D must not overreact to him by reaching in or trying to body him too much. Instead, the Lakers must look to challenge passes when he comes off picks,  closing out on him under control to make him create a shot using more than one dribble, and then contest that shot without fouling. Due to his constant movement, I would not be surprised to see Barnes start on him so as to not wear Kobe out chasing him around all those picks.

In containing Scola, the Lakers must force him left and not fall for his constant feints and fakes. Scola is a master of deception on the block, often working the right block, faking middle, and then spinning back over his left shoulder to attack with his right hand. He’ll head and shoulder fake, hook with his off arm, and use every savvy trick in the book to get back to his right hand. The Lakers must simply be patient and make him go the other direction. Scola’s also quite dangerous in pick and pop situations, so the Lakers must do a good job of recovering to the screen man when he pops to the perimeter rather than diving hard to the rim. L.A. had trouble with this action when Denver ran the Lawson/Harrington P&R with Al popping back to shoot his jumper, so here’s hoping there’s some improvement in that area tonight against a fine jumpshooting big like Luis.

The other area where the Lakers can do some serious damage is on the offensive glass. Houston is 11th in defensive rebound rate while the Lakers rank 10th in offensive rebound rate. However, those numbers include 4 games without Bynum, who has done tremendous work on the offensive glass in the two games he’s played. If Pau and Bynum can use their size advantage to not only get deep post position but also clean up their teammates’ misses, the game could swing severely in the Lakers’ favor.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Fox Sports and NBA TV. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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87 responses to Preview & Chat: The Houston Rockets

  1. we completely missed getting Warren in the #1 spot for that last Nuggs game, so let’s get back into the Mojo Warren brings, and let’s get this one tonight!

  2. Tonight’s game will offer a textbook example of where Pau and Drew will have more favorable matchups than Kobe. The Rockets interior defenders are dramatically smaller than the two Laker bigs, and the effort needed to get a shot off inside the paint against these guys will be significantly less for Drew & Pau than what will be needed for Kobe to beat his guys off the dribble.

    Darius, the only thing I disagree with from this and your prior post is this idea: “Kobe’s not wrong when he says he should be taking the open shots made available to him.”

    Opponents consistently make long three pointers available to Kobe, because those are precisely the kind of shots they want him to take. Unless it is late in the shot clock or the Lakers are far behind in the score, those “open shots” should almost always be turned down in favor of low post touches. Doing so has the benefit of shortening the game (helpful with an old team with a not great bench), improving floor balance for offensive rebounds and transition defense, and keeps the teammates heads in the game.

  3. I will be there!!!!!!

    Go Lakers!

  4. Why has no one picked up Humphries yet?

    Seems like a bargin pickup that has some upside, proved to be solid, and delivers rebounds… and for all I know, he is no locker-room cancer.

  5. Humphries signed with Nets for 1 year/8 Mill before the season opened. Even if Lakers were interested, they had no cap room to sign him. He was originally looking for a bigger longer term contract, that’s why he went unsigned for so long.

  6. Oh, my bad, I thought he was still on the market drifting around. Yea that is too much for the Lakers.

  7. The level of Kobe-hating on this blog is hilarious!
    In the past couple days, I’ve heard the following comments from Laker fans. These are actual comments from real Laker fans, and not an attempt at satire. You can’t make this stuff up:

    – Kobe should not shoot, even when he’s wide open.
    – The Lakers won all those titles in spite of Kobe, not because of Kobe.
    – Gasol and an injured Bynum had bigger mismatches than Kobe during those championships.
    – Kobe should only be allowed to shoot if he makes 66% of his first ten shots.
    – Kobe should not be the main playmaker on the perimeter.
    – Kobe should stick to being a jump shooter off of picks.
    – Kobe’s ball hogging is going to discourage our new guys from hustling.
    – Kobe cares more about his shot attempts than winning championships.
    – Mike Brown is lying when he says he does not have a problem with Kobe’s shot selection.

  8. nate rob to golden state. just about the last place i expected him to wind up.

  9. As mentioned in the previous thread, Andrew Bynum has the highest PER in the NBA.

    There is no doubt in my mind that he needs to be the #1 option on offense.

    I’m just concerned if Kobe is going to be able to put his ego aside and defer to Bynum.

  10. With regard to the Kobe discussion, I do need to make one point on Kobe’s behalf with regard to the Michael and Magic comparisons:

    Kobe has “likely” done something that neither of these guys ever did. He won back to back championships where he was the only HOF player on the roster. I would love to see Pau or Drew make it to the HOF, but I certainly think they are both unlikely. Magic had Kareem, Worthy, and McAdoo. Michael had Pippen and Rodman. In fact, if you look at NBA history, most title teams have multiple HOF players. Kobe won back to back, as “the man”, and for that we will forever be in his debt. A 6/28 night in a regular season game does reduce that debt, but only to the right of the decimal point.

  11. #7, most of those statements are absurd, but some are not too far off. I definitely think that ball hogging by any player (Kobe or otherwise) leads to reduced effort by other teammates. This has always been an issue with Kobe, and it is one of the larger differences between Kobe and Magic. They obviously played different positions and had different roles, but Magic’s teammates worked off the ball and ran the floor hard because they knew they’d get the rock. With Kobe, sometimes that happens, but other times the guys just stand around and watch Kobe go to work. That’s not a justification; just an observation.

    I would not go so far as to say that Mike Brown is lying about being ok with Kobe’s shot selection, but he did say he was fine with “most” of Kobe’s shots in the last game. Given that there were 28 of them to choose from, he could have had a problem with a lot of those shots while still being true to his word. Lord knows, there were several shots that were ill-advised.

    Lastly, I think it is overstating the matter to call this “Kobe-hating”. Most of the people on this blog are huge Kobe fans, but are also able to differentiate between the Kobe who played the Nuggets in game 5 and the Kobe who played the Nuggets in game 6. Both versions of Kobe shot poorly, but only the game 6 version went way over the top in forcing bad shots to the detriment of his team. As best as I can tell, the “haters” here are simply arguing that game 5 Kobe is what the Lakers need….

  12. It’s not about how many shots Kobe takes, or what shots Kobe takes. The issue is if the shot he takes is the best one that would have (reasonably) been available on that possession.

  13. Kobe has always jacked up a few too many shots. This isn’t news. However, as Darius pointed out, the other two best scoring options available to us are getting their share (see Drew’s monster numbers and Pau’s per-game averages).

    The biggest problem with this team is lack of familiarity with one another. We have a new coach, a new philosophy, and several of our bench contributors are first-year players. The fans need to give this team a chance to gel.


    Let’s retire the warren thing. It hasn’t worked in a while. It makes about as much sense as an ‘MVP’ chant for Kobe these days.

  14. brown needs to do a better job of setting kobe up in the post and at the elbow.

  15. ——-All OF These Things Are True———-

    *Kobe didn’t take many bad shots last game

    *Bynum needs the ball more at the start of possessions

    *Fans on this site love Kobe and think he is still a very good player

    *Kobe should no longer be the shot taker/creator every time down the floor the last four minutes of games

  16. Hollinger’s analysis of the first week+ is an interesting read; if you’re not an Insider (and who amongst us is?), you can nonetheless read this by googling “More questions than answers out West”, and taking the China route.

    as always, with JH, you must allow for a large dollop of PER skewage.

  17. Kobe is our MVP; He is our #1 option; We can’t win (anything significant) without these being true.

    Darius: The anti-Kobe statements are repetitive and tiresome : ) However please do not delete them, because I love to defend Kobe

  18. Kobe should only shoot the ball after the ball has been passed 3 times.

    Kobe practice shots aren’t designed for your enjoyment.

    Kobe can shoot but there’s more to the game than shooting. There’s fundamentals and defense.

    Kobe knows everything there is to know about the greatest game ever invented

    Kobe says “I’ll make it”

    Ahh, so many life and basketball lessons from a certain movie that can be applicable here.

  19. I believe it was Henry Abbott (I know, I know, not really a favorite among Lakers-fans circles) who pointed out the Lakers’ drastic difference in offensive efficiency between the first 46 minutes of the game and the last 2. It baffles the mind to think that the Lakers continue to go Kobe-iso in crunch time when the evidence is so very clear that defenses find it MUCH easier to defend when they only have to key in on one guy. If what you were doing for the first 96% of the game worked, chances are it’s going to continue to work for the last 4%. If anything, coaches should be looking to keep defenses guessing even MORE instead of handing their strategy over on a silver platter. As much as Kobe has responsibility in not recognizing this, I think the coaches shoulder even more of the blame for not effectively communicating the importance of this to Kobe.

  20. #11 Funky Chicken,

    I would also prefer to see the game 5 version of Kobe more often than the game 6 version…. but come playoff time, we are going to need BOTH versions of Kobe to be successful as a team. Having both versions of Kobe has been crucial to winning the past 5 championships, and I don’t see that changing this season.

    If you recall the last playoff series against Denver, we saw both versions of Kobe in that series. When George Karl decided to double team Kobe, even 10 feet behind the 3 point line, Kobe was masterful in slicing the defense with his playmaking. When Karl decided to play Kobe one on one, he killed the Nuggets with his shotmaking. In recent playoffs, the trend for opposing defenses has been to crowd the paint to take away our advantage in the middle. A good example is the most recent series against the Suns. The Suns were determined to take away our advantage in the middle by crowding the paint with their hybrid zone. Kobe’s one on one shot making against Grant Hill was crucial in that series (and without the Triangle and another playmaker, it might be even more important going forward). It will be up to Kobe and the coaching staff to find the right approach from game to game, based on what the defenses are doing.

    In the end, I think it is unfair to try to neuter Kobe’s game and turn him into a Magic Johnson type player. Kobe’s approach has proven to be successful. With the new coach and system, coupled with the emergence of Bynum, this year will be Kobe’s biggest test yet in terms of finding the right balance between playmaker and shotmaker, but based on his history, I think he can and will be successful…….. and one bad shooting game early in the season with a torn ligament on his wrist will not change the importance of Kobe’s one on one shooting going forward.

  21. It’s been a while since I posted here.

    I think it’s useful to organize thoughts about Kobe around the notion that he’s a shooter. Shooters are naturally streaky. Well, that actually has it backwards. Shooters shoot how they do, and all of us (the shooters themselves included) see streakiness in there. Streaks of makes, and streaks of misses. Even if/when there’s nothing really going on there.

    Hence the principle of shooters shooting themselves out of slumps. It’s not so much that shooting itself works people out of slumps (to the extent that they’re real) so much as that if they don’t shoot, they’re passing up shots that are legitimately a positive value to the team. And that ultimately makes the shooter less valuable.

    By the same token, though, that means that you shouldn’t take shots simply to shoot yourself out of a slump. I did get the impression, watching Kobe last game, that he took some shots that he normally wouldn’t (I know, it’s hard to imagine, right?) in order to shoot himself out of the slump. I’m sympathetic to Kobe on this one: It’s natural and human to think that this one is going to be the one that turns it all around.

    But I don’t have any such sympathy for Mike Brown–or, at least, my sympathy for him is rather more muted. He’s developing a dangerous habit of letting LeBron be LeBron, and Kobe be Kobe. It’s compelling to think that they’re primal forces of basketball nature that can’t be managed, but ultimately, that works to the detriment of the Lakers. At some point, someone has to recognize that the pendulum has swung too far the other way–to be plain, that Kobe’s too insistent on shooting his way out–and pull the reins on it.

  22. This Kobe guy is horrible. We should trade him for Smush Parker or Javaris Critendon.

  23. We need a “W” 2night. This is an easy part of our schedule and we are a 500 club now.

    robinred/others: I know I am over-exuberant with regard to DH, however it is simple. He gives us 2 HOF players, and without him, I see us on a slow road to zero HOF players. As stated earlier – HOF players are what win titles.

    Kobe: Being optimistic with regard to the Lakers, while being negative on Kobe is like being a Yankees fan in the 20’s, while hating on Babe Ruth. It does not make sense.

  24. Brian Tung! Nice to see you around these parts again. I tend to agree on the streaky shooting. It’s why, in another post, I mentioned that this game will likely be forgotten soon – especially if he has a few strong shooting nights in a row or a few heady, well balanced games.

    RE coaching, I think coaches walk a fine line with their superstars – especially shooting/scoring ones. Brown chose his words carefully when discussing Kobe’s shot selection, using phrases like “most shots were good” and “there were times a better play was available”. This may not be the language fans want to hear his use, but that’s perfectly appropriate for media consumption. The most important part in all this is how the player, and more importantly, the team plays. So far, I think Brown’s doing well in this regard but the sample is small.

  25. This just hasn’t been the same team since we lost Adam Morrison!

  26. All of this discussion about how great Kobe was in the playoffs against Phoenix in 2010 and Denver in 2009 isn’t taking into account that he’s not nearly the same player now as he was then. He’s a few years older and he has a few years of additional mileage and injuries. Whereas then he was a top three or five player in the league, now he’s probably not even a top twelve player in the league, and the team has a center who is playing like he’s in the top ten, plus a power forward who also presents an offensive mismatch almost every game.

    Kobe’s playing in tremendous pain AND the Lakers are on a compressed schedule, leaving little time for rest and recovery. The team needs him to be a playmaker and not a gunner. The box score line he needs to shoot for is a 20 pt, 6 reb, and 10 assist line. He’s perfectly capable of that line if that were to be his goal.

    I should add that he also doesn’t really have a good reason to criticize the officiating anymore. Because of the poor condition of his right hand, he carries the ball on virtually every possession, and the refs are giving him a break by not calling him on it.

  27. 9.SteakandEggs wrote: “As mentioned in the previous thread, Andrew Bynum has the highest PER in the NBA…There is no doubt in my mind that he needs to be the #1 option on offense.”

    I don’t think that two games is quite the required sample size to determine that a career 25ppg scorer should become the the 2nd option to someone who has a career average of 10.5ppg, who averages 55 games per season.

    @The Dude Abides: I just don’t find it realistic to assume in Kobe’s 16th season he is going to become more passive. He is averaging 6apg, which is higher than any other top 10 scorer other than LBJ. Kobe has been a top 10 scorer for a dozen years and has consistently been among the leaders in assists for that elite category. He is a gunner at his core. This will not change.

  28. McRoberts is inactive for tonight’s game. D. Morris is active

  29. Dude,

    In 2010, Kobe was slowed down with knee issues, and had his knee drained multiple times during the playoffs, followed by knee surgery the following summer. By all accounts, he is the healthiest he’s been in years. Once his wrist heals, and assuming he stays healthy, I don’t think it’s far fetched to think this year’s version of Kobe could be just as good as the 2010 version.

  30. just watched the end of the bulls game and it was amazing to see an actual crunch time play which didnt involve a clear out for a star player, and it worked! who knew…

  31. kobe used that against utah in the playoffs. that was awesome.

    bynum’s defenders are having a hard time “reading” and predicting his shots this year.

  32. For all of us complaining about Kobe not passing – he just proved us wrong. He passed to himself off the backboard.

  33. Houston will never cease to amaze me with how they always seem to play the Lakers. No matter what the player compositions are of either team, they are always a handful for the Lakers to beat. Bynum is sure having a good game, so far.

  34. why is Mcbob inactive tonight?

  35. tonight kobe is just missing easy shots

  36. kobe is getting smarter now..good shot selection, not taking open shot instead of opting for a contested one and still not making it.

  37. turnovers killing Lakers…

  38. I’m sorry, but how is starting the game 3 for 3 with 3 good lucks, and then going 1 for 9 from that point on a good game so far? Yeah, some of his misses have been good looks as well, but I’ve also seen some forced shots, as usual.

    If Kobe is going to be Allen Iverson, averaging 28 points a game on 30 shots and shooting 35% from the field, we’re going to be in for a long season.

  39. Wow! Did anyone peep the way Bynum exited the court @ the half. That man is Pissed Off. Clearly.

  40. Bynum storms off the court at the half because his teammates continue to jack up perimeter shots instead of exploiting the biggest mismatch on the floor. Kobe has 14 shots at the half and has missed 9 of them.

    This is turning into an undisciplined and poorly coached team.

  41. Bynum definitely needs more shot attempts. He is dominating.

  42. Still forcing shots, Bynum should be pissed-hauled down the board, hustled back and got good position, and then Kobe casts away…Talent, yes-good teammate right now, no.

  43. Gasol and Bynum only have 13 field goal attempts, I would think that it would benefit the Lakers to give them more than that in the 2nd half, but I am not an NBA coach.

  44. Bynum is this team’s best player, no question. He should knock Kobe out in the locker room and take the crown.

  45. @47. Kobe-Shaq, Part Two?

  46. Bynum sits as far from Kobe as possible during time out. “Trust issues”? This is looking like another fractured relationship.

  47. Kobe has to do a better job closing out on Budinger. Make him put the rock on the floor and earn it.

  48. how many times tonight has a guard swung it around after pau or bynum are in the post, hand outstretched, and calling for it?

    just like last year.

  49. I love the Lakers, and I don’t want to pile on (especially since Kobe’s radar seems to be tracking correctly again, and we are up, even if only by 1 point), but LA seems to have an amazing ability to make good players look amazing. Case in point today with Scola (and somewhat with Buddinger, but a lot of that is Kobe’s traditional lax outside shooting D).

  50. looks like a torn achilles for lee.

  51. Meanwhile… Open jumpers are finally falling. About damn time.

  52. Good to see Kobe giving a few pointers to Drew heading into that timeout.

  53. Bynum already at 20 rebounds.

  54. MWP shooting too many three-pointers.

  55. kobe again proves he deserves the benefit of the doubt…..Though was not a fan of his defense of bugginger lol

  56. Any chance we can get Drew these last couple of points for the 20-20?

    Edit – Apparently the answer to that is yes.

  57. Andrew Bynum gets his first 20 point, 20 rebound game

  58. Lots of excitement in the final minutes. Then Bynum with the fast break dunk!

  59. Four starters take 31 shots, one starter takes 29. They are going to need better balance against good teams, like the one the play on Thursday.

  60. Kobe taking 29 shots, just to prove that he can.

    After 16 years, you sort of learn to live with him. I think it was Bill Simmons who compared it to marriage, and I have to agree… you sort of accept the person as they are.

    Anyway, I hope it means that Kobe’s learning to deal with that wrist…

  61. Now that the game is over…

    There seem to be an inordinate number of “Laker Fans” on this site who are ready to roast Kobe at the slightest provocation.

    I get frustrated with him sometimes, but I always remember that he brings the greatness and the fans to the game in every city we play in.

    I can’t think of a star player so ‘hated’ in the city he plays in. It is really embarrassing. Sure there are lots of Kobe lovers, but this blog didn’t used to have so many people so ready to jump on our star Laker if he so much as ties his shoes in a manner they disapprove of.

    Get a life Kobe haters.

  62. After 7 finals appearances and 5 championships, I think that it is pretty easy to live with him…and Bill Simmons is a Laker hater.

  63. This is pathetic. The Lakers beat a solid team….. Bynum gets his first 20/20…… Kobe’s legs look healthy…….Blake has his confidence back…….. and people are b-tching about Kobe after his 37/8/6, 1 turnover stat line?

  64. Craig,

    I hear where you are coming from. But don’t fans reserve the right to be critical at times? If we can cheer for Kobe when he is at his best can’t we point out when he can (and should) do better? I doubt anyone on this site is a Kobe hater. People just want to see the team be the best it can be. Sometimes Kobe gets in the way of that, and it is okay to point it out. We point out his greatness all the time.

    One of the reasons I think this site is so great is due to the contributors taking a reasoned approach to the team. This site is not full of stereotypical Kobe/Laker fanboys. As a result the commentary will get critical at times.

  65. Bynum: +17

    Kobe: +1

  66. SteakandEggs,
    Statistics can prove just about anything you want them to. That’s why people who specialize in statistics so often put qualifiers in what they publish. That doesn’t stop the ‘talking heads’ or rabid fans from using them to predict the end of the universe, but it also doesn’t prove anything in particular. Use statistics as a guide to find things you previously didn’t know – that is their best use.

    Did you watch the game?

  67. I would say that Bill Simmons is a Laker hater more than anybody else at this blog. I do not think there are many Kobe haters here, but him just like all of the other players get critiqued at FB&G, it is just the way it is. Great win against Houston.

  68. As they say you can’t teach an old dog with new tricks but you can make adjustments to make things comfortable with the dog and the master. I think that was what MBrown did to Kobe by showing him the tapes and he said in the interview that instead of positioning him at the top of the perimeter, Kobe moved near to the post where he could make those pivots, fakes and easy jump shots. I don’t think there is competition with Bynum and Kobe nor existence of Pau, I believe when they all complement with one another by recognizing their positional strengths and advantage, Lakes will always prevail. When they compete on their egos, it demoralizes the team’s synergistic edge.

    However, I still sense weakness on Lakers defense. They are having hard time to check on fast PG’s going for drive and kick to the post, Lakers are all slow to react.

    I wonder whether MBrown was reserving Ebank and JoshMac for the Portland game tomorrow. That’s another Lakers weakness b2b games after a W.

  69. I hope this isn’t deleted for trade speculation, since it is based upon a trade that was actually agreed to and announced, but since the preseason I’ve been wondering…

    If the Rockets were willing to deal Scola, Martin, and Dragic straight up for Pau Gasol, I wonder why the Lakers didn’t go back and offer the same deal directly to Houston after Stern nixed the Chris Paul trade.

    The salaries match in the Trade Machine, so it would work financially. In giving up Pau, the Lakers would have gotten back:

    1) A comparable PF in Scola, who may lack some of Gasol’s refined offensive skills but makes up for it with more strength and aggressive play. He has a consistent midrange shot, so he would still mesh well with Bynum, plus he also has some crafty post moves of his own.

    2) An efficient scorer in Kevin Martin who could start at the 2 or 3 next to Kobe, based on the matchups. This would give the Lakers another legit scorer and 3 pt shooter (38% career) who doesn’t have to shoot a million times a game to get his points.

    3) A young PG who can penetrate and shoot (37% career 3 pt), and who also has some fire and toughness (remember how he got under Sasha’s skin in the Suns series two years ago?).

    Starting five:


    This trade could have brought the Lakers more depth, speed, youth, outside shooting, and toughness.

    Pau is a great player and good guy. I respect how he didn’t punk out like Odom after the trade fell through, but I think this could have been a great deal for LA and wonder why they didn’t pursue it after Paul went to the Clippers. It may have even been a better deal for them than the proposed Paul trade. Am I crazy?

  70. Kobe had a good game I just hope nobody looks at his stat line and even thinks for a second he had a better game than Andrew Bynum. AB is in beast mode right now

  71. Having some technical difficulties behind the scenes, ya’ll. Recap won’t be up tonight. My apologies.

  72. Although Bill Simmons claims that he’s a Laker hater, reading his articles and books I’m not so sure he is worthy of the label ‘hater.’ He’s just too much a basketball fan to be a hater. Still, it is amusing to see him jabbing at Jabbar, hacking Shaq and being generally pissed at Kobe.

    Anyway, Kobe is not ready to just hand the keys of the franchise to Bynum just yet. Not until the season is on the line.

  73. I liked the way the coaching staff freed up Kobe for easy looks by having him play off the ball. Good job by the other players to find him. He still jacked up too many threes, but he played better on offense than in either Denver game. Of course, by not consistently closing on Budinger beyond the arc, he got shredded on D. All in all, though, a solid effort by the team, with a much better offense at crunch time. Drew was a beast.

  74. “I can’t think of a star player so ‘hated’ in the city he plays in.”

    You well and truly need to get out more. You can start by long-distance visiting these fine folks:

    Peruse the Celtics game threads and board at your leisure. But for a brief sampling of “hate”:

    It’s not kg’s s***** stats. It’s his head. It was his head last yr too – not making smart plays. passing when he should be shooting. FOrcing shots when he should be passing. Stupid fouls, with no “intent”. I donno I expect more. I expect his High IQ

    Nobody thinks the ISO is a bad play. They just think it is a bad play WITH THIS TEAM. Pierce can’t really create his own shot anymore, so they need to figure out something else.

    Pierce may be entitled to end his career in Boston, but he is not entitled to be the go to guy down the stretch for the remainder of his career. They aren’t going to break it [their Big 3] up. It’s a gold mine for ownership. They’ll milk it some more.

  75. good observation harold. You’re right, it’s not like Kobe’s just going to roll over and let Bynum become the alpha/leader. There will definitely be more shades of grey, but I think as the season goes on and if Bynum stays healthy and continues to dominate as he has thus far in this young season, he’ll begin to trust young Drew that much more!

  76. Really beautiful game for everyone involved.

  77. Bynum isn’t ready to take the reins either. He doesn’t have the stamina, he isn’t a consistently effective one-on-one scorer in the post, and his passing is still developing. Kobe and the rest of the perimeter guys do need to be more aware of him when he has good post position, but the people claiming he is suddenly the Lakers’ best player are seriously overreacting.

  78. Ugh. Edit-fail. What I wanted to say is that everyone played within themselves throughout the game. Kobe took a few ill advised shots, including the 30 ft heat check in the first. But most of it came within the offense, and Brown did a real good job of getting Kobe in good position to make use of his talents. As mentioned above, he was let work in the post and wings. And yes, Bynum was “beasting it”, no doubt, but he was also sucking wind by late 3rdQuarter, and missed a number of gimmes because of it. When Bynum’s in top form, feed him from start to end. Pau, on the other hand, played excellently within the flow of the offense. He barely had to take anyone off the dribble. Most of his shots were wide open 13-18ft jumpers, which he stroked. That’s called synergistic play with a inside giant like Bynum. I disagree with those criticizing Bryant on this game. Everyone did there job–and did it well.

    For reference, 37-8r-6a TS%56 is pretty damn exceptional.

  79. Kobe scores 37 and Laker fans are still complaining. Are we that spoiled or what?

  80. On another note, thanks to Andy K at Land-O-Lakers for pointing out what people often seem to be missing: with Kobe’s shots, it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality. Casting away over the hand of a defender from 23 feet is a bad shot, even more so when Bynum is wreaking havoc down low. I missed most of the first half but from that point on Kobe’s shot selection was far better. During the second half both he and Bynum were able to get their share of shots and touches, so there are enough to go around.

  81. Kevin Durant, SF 42 8-26 1-7 2-4 0 5 5 2 1 3 3 4 -11 19

    Durant laid one as bad as Kobe’s and not a peep 🙂

  82. drew is playing with confidence for the first time in a long time. his body language says he’s as healthy as he’s been in a while and he’ll prove it. i like what i’m seeing. as far as kobe he gave us all the 1 finger salute in attempting one more shot than sunday. he can’t continue to shot 25+ times a game. blake and metta have played well more us as well. and murph too

  83. That’s exactly the scary part with Andrew right now. He isn’t even in game shape yet. He is playing the best basketball of his career and he isn’t even in game shape? Watch out world.

  84. Rusty Shackleford January 4, 2012 at 9:30 am

    #84 – That’s because it’s Kobe Bryant. He’s never been the poster child for the NBA and never will be. It was decided that he is a selfish gunner and a bad teamate 16 years ago and there’s nothing he can do to change that perception.

  85. Aaron,

    I am 100% on board. Stay healthy for a month more, and we might have the best center in the league, a bona fide superstar. I don’t know, there has to be a little bit of doubt in everyone’s mind about a trade of Bynum for Howard now. Bynum is finally showing his potential. He’s all grown up and more is on the way.

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