Best Player in the West…

J.M. Poulard —  February 2, 2012

Last summer, ESPN solicited the opinions of FB&G’s own, Darius Soriano, Phillip Barnett and I on a host of Lakers offseason questions. One of the questions that led to a flood of my inbox was whether Kobe Bryant was still in fact the best player in the Western Conference. For some, the Dallas Mavericks’ championship was a testament to Dirk Nowitzki eclipsing the Mamba as perhaps the best out in the West; but I on the other hand felt as though Chris Paul was the best player in the conference, which led to me voting for Paul as being somewhere in the top five players in the league as reflected by his #NBARank.

Granted, I looked at Kobe’s play during the 2010-11 regular season as well as the 2011 playoffs, but also projected the inevitable decline in his game going into his 16th season given his age and the erosion of his skills.

But then something funny happened when the NBA finally resumed on Christmas day.

Through 22 games, Kobe Bryant has lost a step, but only in terms of his athleticism. His overall game remains just as impressive and effective as ever on offense while his best days on defense are now clearly a thing of the past. So far this season, Bean is averaging 30 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.2 steals on 44.5 percent field goal shooting; which translates into a PER figure of 26.4.

In case we are keeping count, should Bryant maintain this pace until the end of the season, this would be his second best statistical season, coming up a bit short to his fire-throwing 2005-06 campaign.

And with that, one must once again ask the question: is Kobe Bryant the ruler of everything in the Western Conference?

Compelling arguments could be made for the likes Blake Griffin, Kevin Love and Kevin Durant, while Dirk Nowitzki has to take a backseat for the time being given his slow start to the season; but one still has to come back to Chris Paul.

Although Lakers fans probably hate the idea of revisiting the idea that had Paul joined the purple and gold, Mike Brown’s team would have had the best backcourt in the NBA.

Despite missing some time due to a hamstring injury, CP3 has led the Los Angeles Clippers to 13 wins in their first 19 games (good for the second best record in the conference) and has been the perfect case study for late game execution despite the fact that the Clippers do not seem to have any type of sets or offense outside of the pick-and-roll.

Indeed, when points are at a premium late in ball games, Chris Paul just seems to be at his best as he consistently drills jumpers from the right elbow or simply blows by his defender after a switch for a lay up. Let’s be clear though, as great as the former Demon Deacon has been in the clutch in the Clippers uniform, his value throughout the course of the game cannot be overstated.

Heading into Thursday night’s contest against the Denver Nuggets, Paul is averaging 19.2 points, 9.1 assists and 2.5 steals per game on 52.2 percent field goal shooting and 44.4 percent 3-point field goal shooting, which translates into a PER figure of 27.2.

Chris Paul does an amazing job of running the Clippers offense without necessarily monopolizing it. For instance, he will run a pick-and-roll with Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan and then depending on the defense’s strategy, he will figure out his game plan. If Caron Butler is open as a result of the screen action, Paul will feed him for the open jumper, or simply allow him to isolate his defender and take him of the dribble. If another more favorable option presents itself, like Blake Griffin on the low block, CP will go to his big man and let him operate.

The end result is that yes the Wake Forest product is vital to Lob City’s success because he can orchestrate these mismatches, but the players still have the understanding that they will be allowed to create their own shots as where available.

The Clippers playmaker is a savant with the ball in his hands as he perfectly understands the delicate balance between feeding his teammates and asserting himself offensively. Also, unlike other superstars in the league, it’s almost impossible to double team Chris Paul late in the ball games, because he is a willing passer and will also figure out how to get high percentage shots out of the trapping defense.

Earlier in the season, I had stated that Kobe Bryant would be my choice if late game heroics were needed because of his ability to manufacture good looks at the basket regardless of how teams chose to defend him; but after seeing Paul slowly but surely figure out how to close out games for the Clips, he is at this moment in time the player that I would feel safest steering my team to victory in a close game.

It’s a testament to Kobe Bryant’s greatness that now in his 16th season, he currently easily occupies a spot on the All-NBA 1st team and makes everyone who thought he would fall off look foolish.

As the Lakers primary option, the Lakers are a mere 13-9 (eighth best conference record) but would probably be looking at sub .500 record had he missed any significant time due to injury. The Black Mamba is playing 38.6 minutes per game simply because Mike Brown cannot afford to keep his star on the bench for too long. On the season, the Lakers are a minus-8.5 points per game when Kobe heads to the bench, and a plus-3.9 points per game better when he is on the court. No matter how the math is done, Kobe has to play in order for the Lakers to be successful.

His ability to create for teammates, score and also the added attention he draws simply by being on the court allows him to facilitate the offense and helps his teammates play within their skill set without having to do too much. For all intents and purposes, Kobe makes his teammates better.

But at this point in the season right now, Chris Paul just does that job better. His defense, playmaking and scoring are all just a little bit better than Kobe Bryant’s; but it’s still amazing to think that both are the best at their respective positions.

Ah yes.

If only that trade hadn’t been vetoed.

J.M. Poulard

Posts

95 responses to Best Player in the West…

  1. Sure, sure… rub it in, why don’t you? :)

  2. CP3 is the best PG since Magic and to think Lakers could of had this guy. His late game dissection of defenses is a work of art. He is the most clutch player in the league.

    Kobe’s 4th quarter game isn’t what it used to be but it’s better than most. If he continues to make the right play it’ll be that much easier for him, but who am I to question the greatest Laker ever.

  3. Morning ruined. Thanks.

  4. In a team game like basketball, comparing individual players extracted statistically from their teams is just a further contribution to the cult of personality all too pervasive in today’s NBA.

    Both Kobe and Chris are great players, but if they were fruit, they would be apples and oranges. If we wanted to search the NBA looking for “cult of personality” alternatives, it wouldn’t take us long to add Durant, Griffin, and Nowitzke to the fruit bowl.

    If we keep the fruit analogy, we end up arguing whether or not a banana is better than an orange, apple, peach, or pear. Does anyone really wnat to know?

    Kobe has been an especially unique player, able to create and make shots most other players wouldn’t consider. If he needs to, he can play great one on one defense, rebound, make steals, and make great passes. Still, Kobe has always had difficult blending with teammates into a unit.

    Chris has been the consumate floor general and teammate, passing and scoring as needed almost like a magician, but he seldom has been described as a great one on one defender or rebounder.

    Best I can say is that they are both definitely worthy of being in that fruitbowl.

  5. Nice post, but I have to disagree. Neither CP3′s defense, nor his scoring are better than Kobe’s. Never were and (probably) never will be.

  6. CP3 unfortunaltey has lost a couple steps and so is no longer a good defender.

  7. Good post.

    And yes, hard to stop thinking about LeVeto.

  8. On the paper, Clippers is much better team than Lakers, CP3 played great game last night, but how come they win by 2 points against a team who doesn’t have a super star ? The team with 3 good point guards but win only 2 points.

    Clippers love to copy the idea of Lakers. When Lakers got Shaq, Clippers drafted a center, Lakers got Kobe, they drafted a guard, Lakers had Gasol, they got Griffin. This year, Lakers want CP3, they want him too. The GM of Clippers didn’t need thinking too much to build a team.

  9. As Jester so eloquently stated during a very similar debate, “I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

  10. (4. Drrraye) Indeed, Kobe and Paul are different fruit. But they would have made a damn great fruit salad together!

    CP3 is so great because of his floor-leader abilities. Also, he would have been maybe the only other PG in the NBA (maybe Dwill, but I think more so CP3) that Kobe could trust to distribute the shots. Everytime I see him make a beautiful pass or hit a dagger 3, I shed a little tear. But then we have to move on!

  11. “Clippers love to copy the idea of Lakers. When Lakers got Shaq, Clippers drafted a center, Lakers got Kobe, they drafted a guard, Lakers had Gasol, they got Griffin. This year, Lakers want CP3, they want him too. The GM of Clippers didn’t need thinking too much to build a team.”

    This might supplant Aaron’s run of historically worst things I’ve ever read on this blog.

    Just awful.

    I really enjoyed that. Thank you

  12. Great post drrayeye.

    Last time I checked, basketball is a team game. Sure, Kobe can carry a team on his shoulders better than almost anyone – he’s incredible – he’s fearless – he’s supremely gifted – and as in ’06 he can probably lead the Lakers to the playoffs. However, a team with such an Alpha male barking so aggressively won’t do so well in the playoffs. We need more balance from the team, and we have the personnel in the form of Andrew and Pau to be more successful than ’06.

    It would seem patently obvious that Kobe is the best player in the West or close to it, but I’m a Laker fan before I’m a Kobe fan and to see Kobe’s voraciousness to shoot and to see our bigs to some degree bypassed is distressing.

  13. 11)
    Just bring up one thing I was way off on. Please. I beg of you. Just one.

  14. So I ask you… Is Gasol soft or a finesse player? I said finesse until last years playoffs :(

    http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/02/01/pau-gasol-says-players-saying-hes-soft-just-talking-jealous/related/

  15. Aaron, I think he’s questioning the “cause and effect” logic in your comment. Shaq came to LA in 1996; Kandi (who was widely considered a can’t miss pro) was drafted in 1998. Kobe was drafted in 1996, Clippers drafted Lorenzo Wright (RIP) and some dude named Doron Scheffer. The next year they drafted Maurice Taylor, a PF. Which guard are you referring to? Gordon (2008)?

    Gasol came to LA in 2008, Griffin in 2009. Griffin was the consensus #1 pick.

    You may have a point about CP3, but Clippers were also part of the teams negotiating to trade for CP3 along with the Lakers.

    Just my 2 cents.

  16. Who you rather have in your team ? CP3 or Kobe ?
    Easy, KB24 all day !
    People act like the 08/09 1st rd playoffs b/n Denver and
    New Orleans didnt happen. Yep its very easy to defend Chris Paul. Like George Karl did, put a bigger player ( Dhanty Jones ) on him and press him full court. 8 sec violation or a turnover or at worst you’ll get the ball out of his hands. Job done.

  17. tough to compare kobe to cp3. completely different players as well as in different stages in their careers. toda its entirely possible you would want cp3 because of his play making but kobe in his prime was a scoring machine unlike no other and he could defend rebound and assist when need be.simply a complete package that cp3 doesnt have in my opinion

  18. “Chris Paul just does that job better. His defense, playmaking and scoring are all just a little bit better than Kobe Bryant’s; ”

    Not sure I understand this. On the one hand, you say that Kobe’s having his second best statistical season of his career. He’s leading the league in scoring. He’s got the responsibility for being BOTH the primary shot maker AND shot creator AND he’s the Lakers’ best perimeter defender at this stage in their careers.

    Knowing all this you come to the conclusion that Chris Paul is better than Kobe at those things?

    To take just a single easily shown example:

    Scoring:
    Kobe – 30.0 PPG,
    Paul – 19.2 PPG

    The timing of this particular post is very interesting. Kobe’s been leading Chris Paul in PER for most of the year. Only recently has Paul eclipsed him, with a superior supporting cast.

    And NOW you choose to make this argument? A week ago if you had made the same post, Kobe would have been trailing only Lebron James in PER in the NBA and essentially tied with Durant.

    This post is written immediately after Paul has two MONSTER games in a row to slide ahead of Kobe on that (admittedly flawed) stastistical measurement?

  19. @ Don — Using Aaron logic, one could state:

    “Lakers shot the ball, Clippers shot the ball. Lakers got a rebound, so the Clippers got a rebound too. Lakers went to the locker room at halftime, so the Clippers did too.”

    Copycats, those Clippers.

  20. I don’t quite get this “best PG since Magic” title that everyone routinely hands to Chris Paul nowadays. Better than John Stockton? I couldn’t stand that guy, but he was an incredible PG who was part of a 1-2 punch that went to two NBA Finals. Also, unlike Paul, he was never hurt.

    Yeah, yeah, Chris Paul is great. The Clippers are having a nice season. When he leads a team deep into the playoffs, for a few seasons, then you can start throwing around the Magic comparisons.

  21. 19)
    What do Lakers fan smoke during the day? Don was talking about a comment he read from another commenter amd comparing it to things he said he has read from me. Even Don wasn’t quoting me. That quote was not from me.

    Listen guys. I understand why people don’t like me here. I openly admit I think I know more than 99 percent of people on this site about basketball and I make fun of others who don’t. I get it.

  22. @ Aaron…. My bad.

    My criticism should be directed at whomever came up with the “Clippers love to copy…” argument. The way it was written made me (and others) believe that was you, but I see differently now.

  23. 15) Seid,
    “Who you rather have in your team ? CP3 or Kobe ?”

    With this roster, I think the Lakers would be better with Chris Paul than they are with Kobe. But I don’t think that they would be serious contenders yet, though.

  24. I’m confused.. I could’ve sworn this was a Lakers blog. Why are we praising another team’s best player, and making the argument our best player no longer measures up?

    Yes, CP3 is great. Only a fool would argue against this. We, die-hard Lakers fans, don’t need a reminder we almost had him. No thanks.

  25. All this talk about Kobe and CP3. Man, Smush Parker just signed with Petro in Iran. We coulda had that guy!

  26. 22)
    Much appreciated :)

  27. Aaron.
    People on this site absolutely respect an intelligent mind about the game…that’s why this site has such a great community of commenters. My guess is that you rub people the wrong way when often statements you make that are somewhat subjective are conveyed by you as a matter of fact. It’s one thing to speak your opinion on something…it’s another thing to think everything you say is a fact just because that’s what you believe. To me, it’s not what you say that bugs me, it’s how you say it. For example you said all season long last year that Miami would win the title because they have the most talent…that titles were won in the offseason.You practically guaranteed it and spoke of it as a foregone conclusion. I argued that they were yet to become a “team” in its truest sense, and it takes time to develop that championship chemistry. If you had made these predictions simply as opinions there wouldnt be a problem with it, but when you say things that cant be proven objectively, yet still expect them to be perceived as facts, you are basically disrespecting the other readers on the site.

    Re Kobe/Paul…Chris Paul was my #1 fantasy pick this year, and this fact plus his increased national exposure has allowed me to watch him play a lot more. I never got to see him play a lot while in NO, but I always respected his game. His ability to seemingly always make the right play, and his ability to attack and score as needed are amazing. He makes the game look really, really easy. Kobe makes things that should never be tried look routine. They’re both incredible…and even now I couldn’t pick one over the other to win a single game. Drray said it right about apples to oranges. They’re so different that comparing them requires too many variables that cannot be measured (ie the value of scoring vs distributing). It’s better to just marvel at their individual brilliance. Nice post!

  28. I think that Aaron is actually Jim Buss.

  29. Manny

    Not true Aaron is much smarter, more realistic, probably sober and is not inheriting $300,000,000.

    If he is then he us my new best friend.

  30. 20,

    Spot on. I wish people would stop putting Paul’s name in the same sentence with Magic. Paul is a great player, no doubt. But he would have to hang *at least* one championship banner on the wall before he warrants a comparison to Magic. Maybe he can be compared to Stockton, Kidd, or a young Steve Nash. But let’s leave Earvin out of it for now.

  31. CP3 mentioned in the same breath as Magic?

    Don’t make me laugh!

  32. Ken,
    I wish I was Jim Buss. If we want to start talking basketball we actually have some new information to digest here. With GLock taking over PG duties (so for the first time a PG is starting the offense) and heavy doses of Bynum in the paint creating shots for our shooters in the second unit the Lakers offense has looked actually productive the last few games. What should we make of this with such a small sample size? Kobe can get same number of shots this way and other Lakers can actually make shots.

    Adam)
    I am a smug smart ass. I said I get why people hate me. And I was way off on Miami. They lost in the Finals with Lebron chocking and Dallas going on a giant run.

  33. I don’t think anyone is comparing CP3 to Magic. I think #2′s point was that CP3 is the best PG since Magic. And while Stockton was good, he didn’t win anything either did he? Kidd was good, as was Isiah, but I would rather have CP3 in his prime than Isian, Kidd, Nash or Stockton. Just my opinion :)

  34. Has anyone heard anything about Aaron Brooks’ plans once his Chinese commitment is complete?

  35. How could I forget Kidd his Nets and Suns days were pretty good. But choosing between the two is tough CP3 makes everything easy for his team when he’s on the floor. His late game efforts have been on display all year. If Kobe continues to make the right play like he’s been doing this year. I stay with Kobe but he can’t afford to have 1 assist against good teams. We need 08 Kobe not 07 kobe. This question won’t be answered until the playoffs. Last year 24 won.

  36. For me, what’s more interesting is trying to guess who, among active players today, will be able to rival Kobe’s career.

    1. Durant
    Young, little history of injury, game that translates well as he ages. A bit taller so risk of injury is a bit greater, but could age very gracefully with some luck and be very effective even late. Has a good team now and although OKC is not LAL, has a shot at winning rings.

    2. LeBron
    Great body that could probably withstand aging, on a team that could win multiple championships, but destined to be belittled for joining Wade’s team.

    3. Wade
    Already won a championship, great teammates, but body probably a bit too fragile with playing style that will be a bit harder to manage.

    4. CP3
    Already injured, current roster/team not quite championship ready, but with enough talent that could make him last longer than Nash or Kidd.

    Maybe there are some others with a shot, but these four (maybe minus CP3) seem to have the best shot at rivaling Kobe’s career… what do you guys think?

  37. Kobe is not just the best player in the conf, he is still the best in the league. LeBronze would be 2nd + the end game perf gives this to Kobe. The 09+10 titles were won with 1 HOF player on those teams (should be obvious now). That alone sets Kobe apart. Nobody else has gone back to back like that as a single HOF player. Top 5 all time – and climbing (+ I don’t just mean scoring)

  38. not a clips fano February 2, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Ok enough with the Lob city talk. Seriously, this is suppose to be a laker refuge. I’ll stick to other sites that understand cp3 is the last thing I want to read about. I mean they appetite to be this years heat. Might as well call this the clippers index.

  39. drrayeye was correct, it’s hard to compare a SG and a PG which are both apples and oranges in terms of ability. Kobe is now a legend that belong to NBA greats in as much as he is breaking the record from FG, FT, Minutes played etc.

    However, overall according to Charles Barkley, this NBA season is embarrassing based on quality of teams, games and number of injuries. It was a compressed season, trying to lure fans money, media mega bucks and less on preparation for a great entertainment. IMO, comparing to the time of Bird/Magic & MJ, today there is just too much distraction, too much exposure to attention-getting vessels from tweets, blogs, face books, reality tv other forms of high tech and less time in honing of skills to improve physicality and athleticism. Kobe and/or CP3 today are not so entertaining compared to their prowess and creativeness just a few seasons ago.

  40. Robert, sorry buddy Kobe isn’t the best he’s 3rd behind cp3 and lebron. That has been obvious when lakers played the heat and clippers this year. I never doubt 24 but at this point in 2012 some young guns have him beat.

  41. Off topic, but I am curious to see if being named all star starter has an energizing impact on Bynum. I can imagine it might help him feel more secure in who he is.

    Kobe and CP3 as the starting allstar backcourt – man, best to just not think about that too much.

  42. @37: Agreed. I do not like NY, but LA needs a lesson from them. If u like the Mets u hate the Yanks, If u like the Giants, u hate the Jets. So if u think u can like the Lakers and have the Clippers as ur other team, then u are a fan of nobody.

  43. Kevin: With regard to Kobe. I guess this will just be one area where I am more positive/optimistic than u are : ) In any case – he has 5 more rings than both combined.

  44. Bryant is starting his 14th consecutive ASG, which ties Jerry West and Shaq at the top of the all-time list, so if he starts next year, he will have the record.

  45. Manny Brooks is property of the Suns so would have to trade with them to acquire. I would give up the trade exception in a minute for him. He is exactly what we need.

    Aaron
    I wish you were Jim Buss as we wouldn’t be stuck with Walton, Metta Mess and Fisher as our pointless guard!

  46. Love the idea of landing Aaron Brooks, too. But for the whole Odom TE? Seems step.

    (Then again, if the Lakers other option is to let the Odom TE expire like they did Sasha’s, Mitch may as well try to burn it on an actual NBA point guard who can still play.)

  47. Kobe has been labors the best by his peers for more than a decade….somehow that’s not enough for people.

    Certain writers have made it a point to question every move he makes..his greatness..even his role in getting titles.

    Seems silly

  48. Denver killing Clips at LA. What’s the odds we can best them in Denver?

  49. I think Brooks is a restricted FA, so Phoenix can match any offer he gets. If the Lakers were to want to acquire him it would have to be via a sign and trade and the Lakers don’t really have anything to offer Phoenix.

  50. @Robert! Spot on.

    Neither Lebron nor CP3 would play with the injuries that Kobe currently has. Neither of these players has played repeatedly in the finals, as Kobe has. Until, they have played as many years in the league as Kobe at a high rate of success, Lebron and CP3 cannot be compared to Kobe.

    Championship rings will always be the barometer by which we measure elite players. So, please no Kobe comparisons until…if, they win one ring. And, then they must come back the next year with the hunger and desire and mental fortitude to go for another.

    I am sorry, but Nowitzke won one championship, and came back this year ill prepared to defend his championship.

    Kobe’s desire to win, drove Pau and the Lakers to three consecutive finals: That fact says everything there is to say about Kobe.

    No doubt, the guard is changing and this league no longer belongs to the players from Kobe’s era. However, Kobe is still relevant!

    Everyone was looking for the next Jordan: Grant Hill, Vince Carter, Jerry Stackhouse and Kobe Bryant were all thought to one day, ‘be like Mike.’ Only one has come close, and only one is close to acquiring more rings than Michael. And, that is Kobe Bean Bryant.

    So, you wonder why the deal for CP3 was vetoed…I believe that it was because Kobe would have easily become the greatest player in the NBA. Due to obvious reasons, David Stern was not going to let this happen. I look for the Lakers to be incapable of building a championship team, or attracting a superstar player until after Kobe retires.

  51. Ken,

    The West is very balanced, and the lockout schedule skews things some. Lakers have a shot tomrrow. Still, you were right in that I think this trip will be 3-3 or maybe 2-4. 4-2 tops.

    I will be interested to see if:

    Goudelock can continue to contribute consistently.
    Brown can figure a way to get more from McRoberts.

  52. My apologies for subjecting readers to another Aaron vs. world exchange. That was not my intention.

    For the record, I totally enjoy Aaron’s foil to the calm, level-headed discourse that normally appears here. As much as I have loved learning from the Kurt/Darius & co school of nuanced agree-a-thons, I have been thoroughly amused by the instant spectacles that the Aaron/Ken school bring. More Fox News, less CNBC.

    I also miss the Zephid-Aaron throwdowns. Where are you Zephid?

  53. 46)
    Ken… I would have actually signed Artest to that deal knowing I would be stuck with dead weight for the last few years possibly. Anything to get a guy who can defend SFs for a couple years. Ariza had a fluke playoff run as I was saying that offseason and was great at defending PGs and SGs but wasn’t big enough to defend SFs. As for Walton amd Fisher… At all times I knew they were products of Kobe’s greatness. However it was hard to predict Walton would suffer a career ending back injury I still wouldn’t have offered him more than a couple million a year knowing at his best he was a average back up SF. Also… I wouldn’t blame Jim Buss for those contracts and players. That’s all Mitch and Jerry.

  54. Denver looks good. Lakers have their hands full tomorrow. I see a 2-4 record after this road trip or 3-3 tops.

  55. 53, Don, I recognize an exercise in futility when I see it.

  56. I wish and hope I am wrong but when teams like Denver run out 8 or 9 quality players and we have a starting lineup which includes a absolutely terrible offensive small forward in Metta Mess and a gallant but clearly overmatched defensively and non-contributing offensive guard like Fisher, can we really except to beat deep teams.

    Management should be ashamed to have 40% of our starters the worst in the league. Ironic that Lakers were named most valuable team in the NBA. Would that be miss-management?

  57. No contracts for Fish & MWP = no championships in ’09 & ’10. At the time the contracts were signed, the were very justifiable. I’m still grateful for that.

  58. anti Dwyer Abbott February 3, 2012 at 12:55 am

    18 & 51 thank you for some normalcy and healthy reasoning.
    Kobe has been a victim of ”advanced stat” blown balloon and disrespectful refs since that incident.

    cheers!

  59. In the past, the Lakers have won at home, red eyed to Denver, and collapsed from the thin air and lack of sleep somewhere in the third quarter the next day. Not this time!

    This year, the Lakers were already happily esconced in their rooms in Denver, cheering on the Clipper smackdown, sheltered from the snowstorm outside.

    It’s Denver with the back to back, flying redeye home–if the flight isn’t cancelled. They get to experience themselves what the Lakers have had to endure for years.

    The Lakers are almost going to feel like the home team . . .

  60. Hey, brazilian Lakers fan here.

    Haven’t posted in a while.
    For those that are superstitious, last time I was at Salvador for the carnival (best in the world, forget Rio), it was 2008.
    There was going to be a Giants-Patriots Superbowl and that’s when the Gasol traded happened. And the Lakers went on to 3 straight NBA finals and 2 championships.

    This year there’s another Giants-Patriots Superbowl coming and…you guess it: I’m going to Salvador for the carnival.

    So maybe there is another history-changing trade coming to LA?

    Hope so.

  61. Kobe has gotta be the most divisive player in basketball- maybe in pro sports. He’s so controversial that even Laker fans fall on both sides of the fence when discussing him. He’s the modern day Kareem, who was the real GOAT at every level that he played. The problem with Kareem was that he was muslim and he didn’t get along with the media like other superstars. He wasn’t likable. He also didn’t play in an era where access to our athletes was expanded to previously unseen levels.

    Kobe was the greatest player during the post-Jordan era. 1999-present. After the ‘incident’ he has never gotten his due. His accomplishments have been lessened at every step of his career, post- incident. Any chance that *any media members have had to denigrate Kobe, and elevate other players to his level and above, was taken time and time again. We all know this. The list is long and it includes Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony and others that I am sure I’m missing. The only player on that list that is truly in Kobe’s league is Lebron, and he hasn’t won a single championship yet! He’s better than Kobe though, right?

    No one talks about this, aside from Laker forums, but ESPN stands at the center of this crap. They pull the strings on their media puppets who write the articles. ESPN…the Fox News of the sports world.

  62. The real question is, who will be the next Kobe? We have a whole generation of kids who never saw Michael Jordan. Kobe is the new gold standard.

    I wonder what happens when Lebron gets his first major injury (which most players eventually get at some point in their career, not wishing this on any particular athlete), and when his ridiculous athleticism wanes. That is why Kobe, at 33, putting up MVP numbers is ridiculous. Wade won’t do that in a few years. Lebron, while on a tremendous pace, needs to learn other facets of the game to evolve to the next LBJ.

  63. Avidon

    How in the world do you know that? What if the players that replaced Fisher and Artest were faster, moe talented, great shooters every game not just one. Perhaps the Lakers sweep those series and get out of the West last year.

    Since neither of us know you can’t possible say NO championship unless your are the amazing Kriskin?

  64. 50/ryan: the lakers can use the TE to absorb a bad contract(josh childress or hakim warrick).

  65. 62,

    Come on! Avidon is right. Without Derek and Ron there are no banners in ’09 and ’10. Period. Ariza would have gotten his clock cleaned by Pierce in 2010. And the only player who could have replicated Derek’s clutch play in the ’09 Finals and ’10 Finals is Kobe. But he was busy being double teamed. So someone else had to be clutch.

    Yes, it is a pain to see guys beyond their prime trotting up and down the floor still drawing a paycheck. Sometimes that is cost of doing business of winning championships.

  66. 66) T Rogers,
    It’s totally appropriate to question the level of Fisher’s overall contribution – does his ability to not be “overcome by the moment” outweigh his weaknesses throughout the rest of a game/series?

  67. I’ve seen progress through some practice time and we’ll continue to see it. We’re well rested and ready to show the league we’re still the Lakers. Our bench got confidence last game and it’ll show. Mike Brown has his ten man rotation.

    5-1 on this trip.

  68. Ex,

    I agree that Fisher is basically done. There is no debating that. Ron is close to it as well. I am looking at the contracts that have kept them in Laker uniforms past their prime effectiveness. If dealing with a couple of down years from Derek and MWP is the price of getting those few good years, then I think it is worth it.

    It is rare in the NBA that teams can get the best years from a player and then dump them as soon as they start to decline.

  69. 64)
    Ken… Yes… Anyone you probably replace Fisher with nets you a championship and makes you an even stronger team. Thank God he decked Scola and got suspended or we probably don’t win that series…

    I disagree on Artest. The guy was the second best defensive SF in the league and shutdown guys like Durant in the playoffs. Unfortunately he got fat and out of shape and I doubt we will ever have that player again.

    66)
    In “Fisher’s prime” he was backing up Speedy Claxton in Golden State. In his prime he was a average back up PG.

  70. We knew this would happen when the Lakers finally got a good NBA back up level PG… But so soon? We think this guy is Jesus.  Comparing oneself to Derek Fisher has led many men to dillusions of grander.

    http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/lakers/post/_/id/26700/goudelock-i-think-i%e2%80%99m-just-as-good-as-everybody-in-that-draft#more

  71. While I agree that Fisher’s general talent level and playing ability are not what they used to be and never were good to being with, he does have positives: His complete lack of fear and his pathological inability to give up. That said, he is not and never have been a good starting point guard and he shouldn’t be starting. Problem is, he own the starting spot until someone takes it from him, and no one has been able to do that yet.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to fixate on him to the point where we start to believe that any and all problems in Lakerland would vanish if only we got rid of Derek Fisher.

  72. Fun article on Goudelock. The part about him being drafted late is the best:

    “You try not to think about those types of things but that means 45 teams passed up on me,” Goudelock said.

    Technically, it was 29 teams who… well, don’t mind, just keep scoring like in the last few games.

  73. Chearn: Let’s add Iverson and T-Mac to your list. Iverson was never compared to MJ, but at 1 time was thought to be better than Kobe. Comical now right? robinred: Good pt bout the 14 starts. When u look at ASG totals, All NBA, Defense awards, overall stats, and rings, I can really only see MJ and KAJ as “clearly” ahead of him, and he is not done yet. All: This is why we desperately need to get this man another ring or two. The greatest of all time is within reach, and trust me – Kobe thinks about this all the time.

  74. Kenyon Martin: Get used to stuff like this. The Clips used their MLE and only have a Mini MLE (perhaps Darius could explain). When amnesty players, cast offs, and FA become available, we will be able to watch the buffet, however we will not be able to eat. We have a huge payroll and only huge changes to our roster will change this.

  75. As slow as Fisher is and old as he is. He makes up for it with moxie, basketball IQ and clutch plays. Remember the winning play he made vs Denver out hustling Lawson to the sideline. Fish made another play like that as well. You can’t teach that so I would rather have any other PG the first 3 quarters but I’ll take Fisher the 4th quarter along side Kobe.

    And the Clippers keep getting better. Lakers need to add some depth I’d really think about signing Rasheed Wallace. Rafer Alston is on our D-League team so I’m sure Lakers are adding someone soon.

  76. Robert is right. Short of season ending injuries that force the FO to reach out to a free agent, the only way the make up of this team changes is through a trade. Its a shame, as I would like the Lakers to get their hands on Aaron Brooks.

    With regard to the Clips getting KMart – I see this as a great motivator for the FO to make something happen. I have a sneaky suspicion that the Buss family does not like the Lakers being second fiddle to the Clips. I’m sure MItch is working overtime right now on scenarios – whether trades or cap clearing moves – which I believe we will see shortly after the all star break. This franchise is patient, but they are also highly competitive.

  77. Didn’t Darius mention his suspicion (or something stronger) that the Lakers are looking to add an impact player rather than or before adding more marginal contributors? I’d consider a KMart or especially a Rasheed Wallace to be of limited help to the Lakers at this point. Geez, why not pick up Shaq? (kidding!!).

    Darius, if my recollection is true, can you elaborate?

  78. #81. R,
    My thoughts (and these mirror other people whose insights I value) are that the Lakers will hold their assets until it’s clear that they can’t make a move for a big time player (like Dwight Howard). Whether a deal like that happens or not remains to be seen but in order to get a deal like that done the Lakers will need all their assets are their disposal to in order to put together a deal that makes sense for both sides.

    When the Sessions talk surfaced, it was stated that the Cavs would likely want a draft pick. Imo, the Lakers wouldn’t make a deal like that right now because that 1st round pick and TPE could be useful in a potential deal for a different player that the Lakers value more.

    Whether this line of thinking is correct or not, I’ve no clue. But, it’s what makes the most sense to me right now.

  79. BTW, the preview will be up soon.

  80. I don’t think it’s a good idea to fixate on him to the point where we start to believe that any and all problems in Lakerland would vanish if only we got rid of Derek Fisher.

    __

    No one is saying that. Playing Fisher in the Triangle was defensible: he knew the system, understood his role, and the system covered some of the holes in his game. Adding that to his leadership and personality, I could see it.

    But in THIS system, you need a PG who can penetrate, create shots for himself, and distribute, which, of course, is why the FO traded for Chris Paul. Fisher at age 37 can do none of these things. An upgrade from Fisher to a league-average PG with this skillset and some athletic ability, like Ramon Sessions, would improve the team.

    But as Darius notes (the K Bros have said this as well) the Lakers probably are going to hold their assets until we know what is going to happen to Howard and Williams, and they probably should.

  81. Dwight howard isn’t coming to Lakers he’s going to NJ. That has been the most logical destination for him seeing they have an elite PG there already and a new owner. The Shaq thing has something to do with it. Lakers have no cap space and may have to ride it out with this roster and add depth.

  82. No, really @R: Would Kobe be willing to add Shaq to the team in limited minutes for the vet. minimum, in order to win another championship?

    Sure, Kobe would help Shaq win one more, but Shaq might be able to help Kobe win another one. Shaq could still get on the court and draw a double team close to the rim.

    Shaq playing limited minutes, okay, very limited minutes off the bench as a backup to Andrew or Howard, alongside Pau, Murphy, AG, Barnes and he’s already won a championship with Miami by kicking the ball out to Kapono. I know the team would be slower and older, lol. Shaq would be a better pickup than Rasheed Wallace IMO.

    Would Kobe, Shaq and Lakers management agree to disagree for another championship? Just thinking out loud.

    Whenever, the Lakers make their big acquisition after the ASG, then I hope that they give Gil Arenas a shot. I’ve known this kid since he was in the 9th grade, and he’s not a bad guy. He just made a mistake. GA would be a veteran guard coming in off the bench, and he is still young enough, injury or not to make an impact in a limited role.

    At least, referees know who he is. This could be valuable in the playoffs.

  83. Dwight howard isn’t coming to Lakers he’s going to NJ

    ___

    I don’t think he is coming here, either. I think he will end up in Dallas, rather than Brooklyn, but as long as there is a shot to take, it is reasonable to argue that they should keep all their bullets in the chamber. That is all Darius and the K Bros and others are saying.

    The Lakers’ lack of secondary trade assets (picks, exprirings, international players that they drafted and hold the rights to, young guys who have shown they can play in the league and are cheap) is really hamstringing the organization right now. As I said a few days ago, Kupchak has gotten the big things right. On the little things, he has had some issues.

  84. “But in THIS system, you need a PG who can penetrate, create shots for himself, and distribute, which, of course, is why the FO traded for Chris Paul. Fisher at age 37 can do none of these things. An upgrade from Fisher to a league-average PG with this skillset and some athletic ability, like Ramon Sessions, would improve the team”

    I completely agree. I also agree with Kevin that Fisher’s basketball IQ and moxie are valuable assets to any team, though I’d much prefer it if those two abilities came with athleticism and league-average ball handling skills. Upgrading at point guard would absolutely improve our team, and if Kupchak was trying to do that before, he’ll try again. He needs to.

    But we would still need to deal with the fact that we still don’t know if Barnes, Ebanks, or MWP is the starter, that no one on the roster is getting any younger. We have one and a half shot creator (rookies count as half), and all our supposedly reliable perimeter shooters have become airball specialists.

    The weakness at point guard has an obvious and supposedly quick and easy solution so it’s easy to focus on, particularly because it’s urgent as well. Hopefully upgrading at that spot will address some of our other issues as well, but there are other problems that also need to be taken care of. For example, what or who we are going to use to obtain a new point guard.

  85. But we would still need to deal with the fact that we still don’t know if Barnes, Ebanks, or MWP is the starter, that no one on the roster is getting any younger.
    ___

    You are correct. Hence the FO’s dilemma.

    Do you we’re getting Howard? If you do, tell Robert. It’ll make him feel better. I keep telling him we’re not. If you don’t think we are, don’t tell him. ;-)

  86. 79)
    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

  87. @91, The most clutch PGs in the league are cp3, fish, nash, rondo. And Fish has been doing it longer than all of them. As sucky as he may be for 3 qtrs. he makes up for it in 4th qtr. Lakers wouldn’t have made it the 04 finals or won 09,10 w/o Fish. Fish has hit more clutch playoffs shots than Kobe last 3 years. He’s the Lakers Kerr

  88. @robinred
    I don’t think we will get Howard, but since I don’t think he would be a very good point guard, I’m okay with that. ;)

  89. Kevin – Fish was clutch – emphasis on the *was* part. For every game Fish hits a game winning shot, there are 5 other games where his slowness allows the other team’s PG to fry us. Also, who cares that he turns it on in the 4th in games where we are so far behind by the end of the 3rd quarter that the 4th doesnt matter? Also, based on your logic, Fisher should only play the last 2 minutes of a close game. Seems kind of pricey to pay a guy millions of dollars a year to only play 2 minutes on close games.

  90. @MannyP saying fish was clutch is like saying billups was clutch. lakers fans have wanted fish gone for years he continued to step up. given the chance I know fish will come through can’t say that about too many players in the league

  91. Kevin, Kevin, kevin

    How can you blindly say we would not gave made it to playoffs without kniwingbwho is replacement would gave been? I know we would have had a chance last year of winning A game if we had a option. We also would absolutely be better then a 6 or 7 seed this year with a real point guard with Brown’s current offense.

    This kind of blind logic kills me. Watch your hero Fisher tonight and count the points and and assists difference and throw me that silly “Fisher is our hero stuff” after the game.

    Great guy, good leader, bad point guard who probably should have been hired to coach the team this year.

  92. Please bench Fisher. Nice passes.