Is Kobe Bryant “Back”? Mitch Kupchak Seems to Think So

Darius Soriano —  August 19, 2014 — 95 Comments

If you ask most basketball fans the question above, the answer will probably be skeptical at best and sarcastic laughter at worst. Kobe may have made a career out of turning doubters (either real or perceived) into believers, but this time it is different. A torn achilles and a broken bone in the knee while attempting to come back from said achilles injury will do that.

One report, though, is making it seem like those doubts may be miscast. From Lyle Spencer of Sports on Earth:

On the heels of an invisible 2013-14 campaign that clearly unhinged the Lakers, Kobe Bryant is back to being Kobe Bryant, from Kupchak’s observation point. And that is the best news in months for the faithful, whose trust in the purple and gold is being severely tested.

“My window overlooks the court, and he comes in to work out from time to time,” Kupchak said. “You would not know he’s in his mid-30s. You wouldn’t know he hurt his knee and had a torn Achilles. There’s no limp. He’s got a hop in his step. He’s working hard.”

And more from Kupchak:

“I’m not worried,” Kupchak said. “Kobe looks great. He’s had two rough years. The Achilles was a freak thing, and the knee — I’m not sure anybody can predict that kind of thing.

“He’s actually been healthy since May. He’s ready, motivated. And he’s engaged.”

First off, let me get the obligatory “what is he supposed to say?” comment out of the way.

Kupchak is the General Manager and, while he’s often more blunt and honest than others around the league who hold his title, it’s not in his best interest to say anything besides what he did. Not to mention the cynic in me remembers when Dwight Howard was coming back from back surgery and all you heard from Lakers’ practices was that Dwight was looking very good and surprising people with his progress. Then, when the season started, he was clearly still hampered and not performing anywhere near the level he’d shown in previous seasons.

The flip-side, of course, is that Mitch is just being his normal, straight shooting self. I have seen enough press conferences and interviews with the man to know that he can speak in riddles with the best of them, giving non-answer-answers while ducking and dodging questions like an agent in the Matrix. So, while acknowledging above that there’s no reason for Mitch to say something negative about Kobe’s progress, there’s also no need for him to be so positive either. If he wanted to, he could have just provided some bland, understated response and gone about his business.

That’s not what happened, however. And while I do not want to spend too much time dissecting and parsing his words, I do find it interesting that he spoke in the terms he did when he could have provided a much more vague update and gotten away with it easily.

Of course, what is said in a random interview given by the GM in August will matter much less than what happens on the court, from the player, come late October — or, better yet, in the middle of a 4 games in 6 nights stretch come February. Kobe, for whatever flaws fans and analysts want to point out, has made a career out of giving great effort most every night and turning those stretches of the season where other players start to coast into his personal proving ground of greatness.

How he manages those stretches this season and whether he is up to the challenge of being “Kobe” night-in and night-out, is what it will all come down to. And, when viewed through that prism, that skepticism mentioned at the top of this post will live on. With it being very real this time. It sure would be nice, though, if Kobe had one more “prove them wrong” run in him. Time will tell.

Darius Soriano

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95 responses to Is Kobe Bryant “Back”? Mitch Kupchak Seems to Think So

  1. I guess Mitch is looking to trade Kobe before anyone sees him play

  2. But seriously… The only advantage hyping Kobe up would just be to sell tickets.

  3. Potentially great news, but I propose a reasonable-ness test: someone ask Mitch if he thinks Nash is back.

  4. Well, Kobe has more than enough time to heal and rest. One potential benefit out of those injuries is that. he tried to come back too quick from the Achilles tear. If someone can come back from this is this man. Mitch is a straight shooter most of the time and while i know he might be triying to sell season tickets i have no reason to doubt the man. I look out of my windows and i dont see Kobe practicing, he does.

  5. For those who focus on the flaws of our team, this is another instance of ‘management speak’. The Lakers are certainly a ‘work in progress’, but I am comfortable that Kobe will far exceed what his doubters project for him, even if he isn’t as superhuman as he has been in the past. A very smart and dedicated player, Kobe defines the extreme work ethic – nobody argues with this.

    The clear leader of this team, I believe he will lead both from in front and from the rear. People can pick at his approach, but it truly is, ‘just win baby!’

  6. Good to hear. If the team isn’t going to be very competitive at least we can look forward to a good Kobe. Really hope he can get back to health and end his career playing at a high level.

  7. always a triangle fan August 19, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Is Kupchak is really more blunt and honest than others? Really depends who you are comparing him to. And who is Lyle Spencer? I understand it’s August and not a lot to write about, but still…I certainly hope kobe comes back to play a full year healthy, and I definitely feel Kupchak has been unfairly burdened with the ineptitude and bad luck of the last few years. I certainly can’t believe it was his decision to announce Scott’s hiring so late in the year, but it’s par for the course. Let’s hope this year can lay some sort of foundation for life after Kobe.

  8. Now that we know how Mitch feels, how about the consensus of 210 other guys who get paid to write/comment about the NBA:

    1) Where will Kobe finish on the all-time scoring list, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th?
    2) How many more times will Kobe make the playoffs, 0, 1, 2, or 3 times?

    http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/11350612/2014-nba-summer-forecast-kobe-bryant-scoring-record-chase

  9. I’m curious what the Laker faithful thinks about the challenge the new Clipper’s ownership will bring?

    I think Balmer makes the Clippers a force to be reckoned with. The Lakers can’t afford to continue to make the FO and personnel mistakes of the recent past. While as a franchise, the Clippers will never be the Lakers, however, that does not mean that they can’t put the better product on the court going forward. Clearly they have the better team now. The Clippers have a three to four year window where they could win a championship. It is a new day for them.

    The Lakers have to figure out who they are. Will they continue to be feast or famine and go for the home run FA or will they actually have to construct a roster via the draft, shrewd trades and wise spending?

  10. Regarding Kobe – we won’t really know how he is until training camp. If he get’s through that without injuring himself or having to sit out for any length of time then we may be onto something. The reality is he is 36 playing a game where 30 year olds are considered to be on the down side of their careers. Let’s hope for the best at this point.

    Regarding Balmer – well he picked a great time to buy the Clippers. They have a very good team and the Lakers not so much. I hate to say it, but the Lakers are going to give him a nice 3 or 4 year honeymoon before we get enough talent on the floor to make a statement.

  11. What can Ballmer do for the actual team that Sterling didn’t? They maxed out their payroll bringing in top talent, they paid a shedload for Rivers and any staff he wanted on board.

    Ballmer can’t do anything except pat all the staff on the head and make it out like they escaped a traumatic event on par with having fought a world war. At the same time it is that victim mentality they possess which is why they will never win a championship. You need to be made of tougher stuff to win at the highest level.

    As for your reference to Ballmer, he can’t do anything Sterling hasn’t already done. If he was acting like a cheapskate before I’d get where he could make a difference, but because of salary caps he won’t really make much difference.

  12. You have to take Mitch’s comments at face value. Kobe is still one of the greatest shot creators regardless of the offense. The challenge will be determining how many minutes per game and how much defense he needs to play.

    Ballmer is about to show how much impact he can make on a team. He has dropped his Microsoft positions so that he can be a full time owner. Rivers can expect all the support he needs but the team will have to improve to keep the coaching seat from getting too hot.

  13. Time will tell if Kobe is back to being Kobe.
    Walking around with a normal gait means nothing.
    Only sustained minutes over the course of an NBA season will tell.

    @Gig

    Agreed! The Lakers will have to make some smart moves from now on.
    The Clippers now have a visionary type owner and he will definitely be trying to win.
    I really do think the Clippers should move to Seattle though not for the Lakers sake but the league’s.

  14. Todd: Kobe – the reality is he is 36 playing a game where 30 year olds are considered to be on the down side of their careers. Let’s hope for the best at this point.
    ____

    Yes, let’s hope for the best. Without Kobe the Lakers will be as bad as last year.

  15. The Clippers have never won anything and the name has no connection with anything LA. First thing,I would change the name,make a fresh start. As for Kobe,the condition of the tendon is really the most important thing to consider when evaluating his production this season. In the past,this is the time of year when he really starts to turn it up in training and I expect to see more reports of his progress in coming weeks.

  16. FYI Jordan at 35 let the league in scoring 29.7 per game.

    Sooooooo ?

  17. KO: FYI Jordan at 35 let the league in scoring 29.7 per game.

    Sooooooo ?
    —–
    FYI Jordan was not coming off of back to back injuries as serious as Kobe’s.

  18. As long as Kobe is healthy, he will be OK as he has been in the past. You can’t question his motivation to excel. However, we don’t know whether Scott could produce the right chemistry to beat the first seven teams like: Spurs (no change in personnel and coaching) ; Thunder ( no change too); Clippers ( slight change and inspired by new owner) Golden State ( coach changed but I believed much improved than Mark Jackson’s team) Blazers (they became better with two ex Lakers in the team too) Houston ( lost two but added Ariza) Mavs. ( I think they became better with that trade. Grizz ( no change too) Will the Lakers win in a series of games this season. How will the new Lakers veterans and rookies pair up with the competition. Those are the challenges of Scott this season. Therefore, until we see them play in the preseason and in the first 20 season games, it is hard to evaluate a team that was newly assembled.

  19. the tendon is healed.
    the fracture is healed.

    chances are Kobe will look great this year.

    the biggest problem with injury is the work required to reclaim the top level of fitness. as a person gets older, it’s not just that one gets more fragile. it’s that the activity level decreases, and so does the fitness. since Kobe is such a gym freak, he stands a very good chance to return to the levels he would be at without the injuries. we’ll have to wait and see.

    remember Jack LaLanne at 60 and 70? he was in better shape than most professional athletes are 25 and he proved it with super human feats.

  20. Ed August 19, 2014 at 6:45 pm
    “The Clippers …name has no connection with anything LA.”

    ————————————————

    Well, Ed, if I may mix metaphors, so to speak, we Lakers fans are skating on thin ice when we belittle other teams’ nicknames for their lack of locality (if indeed such a word is ever used as a adjective). I mean, after all, what do “Lakers” have to do with super arid LA? All I know for sure is that the Lakers were named in the state from whence they came, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”.

  21. Gig August 19, 2014 at 3:32 pm
    ” I’m curious what the Laker faithful thinks about the challenge the new Clipper’s ownership will bring?
    I think Balmer makes the Clippers a force to be reckoned with.”
    ——————————————————–
    They are already a force to be reckoned with. I do think he may make them a Seattle franchise to be reckoned with.

  22. For all the positive talk about Ballmer …. do you guys realize he actually really messed up at microsoft right?

    he completely whiffed on the new era of computing to the point where his resignation was really something that was going to happen anyway and was more about him needing to leave to let someone that understands mobile lead the company because the Nokia acquisition bombed … MS also had full scale re-orgs almost every other year under his leadership … since he has also stepped down at MS that means he will be in full mico-manager mode with the clippers which will probably see doc leaving the team in 2-3 years … which will be great for us.

    The clips are gonna be in early Paul Allen years with the Blazers … lots of hype at the beginning and the fizzle out and not to be heard of again for 20 years.

    The Lakers are still the brightest star out there with the most popular player on the planet in Kobe Bryant, and with Jeremy Lin on the team ratings overseas and online will only go even higher, and randle and clarkson will both be stars in the league.

    we were down what like 30% this year on TW ratings …. I expect us to make up the 30% and add another 20% this year …. it is going to be a great year.

  23. Good point Shawn. Actually 38% but all cable was down as people go to the net and other programming to offset constant price increases.

    With Kobe back, Lin, Scott and some real quality drafts I expect them to be up but TW numbers are never going to be back. That’s why they are selling. Paid too much for Lakers and Dodgers and revenue is way down. Internet for them is up.

  24. I think Kobe will be fine, thats my hope but we will know for sure in January-February when the league grind really starts to weight on players, they need to monitor his minutes and like i said before there is a benefit on Kobe’s injuries, he had basically a 18 month vacation from the grind of a season, i know thats one way to look at it but if he stays healthy it could be the reason he could play the next 2 seasons at a high level. Never doubt the Mamba. And about the “challenge” of the Clippers, please, this will aways be Lakertown, same as NY is always been a Yankee town, Texas is a Cowboys state and hell Chicago is a Cub’s town even if they have been horrible for most of the last century, the White Sox WS win years back didn’t change that. The Lakers will be fine and the Lakers will be back in the near future. The Lakers hold on LA and Southern California is unchallenged. And just like the Yankees, the Lakers will have millions and millions of fans all over the world no matter how the team do.

  25. @ Ko “FYI Jordan at 35 led the league in scoring 29.7 per game.”
    @ Baylor fan ” Kobe is still one of the greatest shot creators regardless of the offense.”

    Kobe has never shot 47% from the field for an entire season. He’s come very close a few times, but only when teamed w/ Shaq or Gasol.

    Jordan has only shot under 47% five times in his career, w/ three of those times being the last three years of his career, including the two in Washington.

    My hope for this season’s offense: Kobe shoots at least 47%, thus becoming the most efficient scorer in his entire career by allowing his point guards (Nash/Lin) to control the offense and keep Kobe’s minutes down to no more than 31per game.

  26. The Lakers had won championships before they moved to LA. The Clippers nada,and a record of failure in LA. Make a fresh start with money spent on promoting the new name. I`m more curious than confident about the roster and season. I want a team that plays hard and smart,and have my doubts that Byron can produce that type of team.

  27. @KO

    Jordan also didn’t enter the league at 17 years old. Look at kobe’s games played, minutes logged, he’s a tank. Jordan also took a year off for baseball. Jordan Also had a championship team he walked back onto that actually did really well without him and he wasn’t coming off two serious injuries, even Jordan came out the year kobe went down and stated the minutes he was playing was “ludicrous”. . Kobe also 3 peat before he was 22, anytime he’s had another all star on the team he’s played into June. He’s only missed the playoffs how many times? Their careers are different, I still have Jordan at 1A, but Kobe is right there and if he gets to 7 rings, which contrary to most people’s beliefs if he is healthy I think kobe would take a huuuuuuuuuge pay cut to enable the Lakers to re tool. KD and Marc Gasol? Pau coming back on a vets min with kobe

  28. Parrothead Phil August 20, 2014 at 8:00 am

    Re: Ballmer’s challenge

    I’ve said it on here before, so I’ll say it again, “With all the hype regarding the Clippers recently, how many more playoff series have they won than the Lakers the last 3 years?…..one” and that was this past season when the Lakers had the franchise’s worst season ever.

    Despite their potential, the Clippers are still the Clippers.

  29. Parrothead Phil August 20, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Back on the topic of this post

    I am anxious to see Kobe return to the court and perform at a high level. I am glad I have been able to see him play. His determination and drive, coupled with amazing talent, are a pleasure to watch. I will miss him when he is gone, which hopefully is still a couple of years from now.

  30. Why would you doubt Kobe? The last hundred thousand have been proven wrong.

  31. the other Stephen August 20, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Brian Kamenetzky carries on the Lakers-Clippers discussion here: https://medium.com/the-cauldron/steve-ballmer-changes-the-game-in-l-a-7f1f49edfb1f

  32. Dimitri,

    Its all about perception. Ballmer is the final piece in the puzzle that makes the Clippers look like a real NBA destination. The Clippers were always considered a sub par organization because of Sterling and his antics. Now the Clippers have two of the best players in the league. They have one of the best coaches in the league. They are in a premier location. And now they have an owner who wins over the public simply by not being Donald Sterling.

    As Todd noted the Lakers current downturn makes Ballmer look even better. The Lakers once had charismatic guys out front like Dr. Buss and Phil Jackson. Now they have two guys in Jim and Mitch who don’t like the camera. They go long stretches without communicating directly to the fanbase. Unfortunately, in L.A. charisma goes very far in setting public perception.

    Ballmer is winning because he’s not Sterling and already appears to be more visible than Buss. We’ll see how long that lasts.

  33. Ballmer is every bit the bad guy that Sterling was.
    if you examine his time at m$ you’d see his horrible reputation. just because he has a bunch of money doesn’t mean that he’s automatically a good owner. the way that he got the Clippers franchise, through a dirty trick by Sterling’s wife, there are already warning flags. of course, it’s a stereotype from decades back, that of the evil owner. i’m sure he’s just like 80-90% of the other NBA owners. what sets him apart is the way that he wrecked a cash cow like m$ before being forced out.

    Ballmer is also an internet meme for a clown. you tube or google search for “Steve Ballmer clown”. chances are that he will embarrass the Clippers at least as much as Sterling did.

  34. Clippers vs Lakers: bottom line, free agents who want to play in L. A. will now have a “better” choice then previously. And let’s remember another thing, young free agents, on the most part, are not known for their history of the game.

    Let’s not underestimate the Clippers as a serious competitor to our Lakers.

  35. Way off topic:

    Please, no more chances for Beasley. I’d rather give Earl Clark another chance over Beasley, or better yet….nobody!

    This is an excerpt from Brett Pollakoff and Probasketballtalk.com

    But while Beasley appeared in 55 regular season contests, he played just six total minutes during Miami’s run to the Finals, before a 17-minute outing in Game 5 once the championship had already been lost. It was his lack of focus, more than anything, that caused the organization to lose trust.

    His lack of focus…his lack of focus…his lack of focus.

    Forget the alleged blunt smoking, this kid has had enough chances, its time the NBA cuts ties with this guy and any other of his ilk.

  36. the Clippers ARE serious competitors.

    should we cower in fear? should we worry, worry, worry? how about ALL those other serious competitors through the years? should fans and the team given up long ago?

    i don’t care about the Clippers. if they win, they win. i’ll hate it, but my level of frustration will still be below a Cubs fan’s or a Sacremento fan’s, not that it matters…

  37. I think Mitch and the Lakers’ FO have maybe 50 million reasons to believe in Kobe’s complete recovery.

    It’s a while back, but the night that Kobe went down vs. Golden State with the Achilles, he was tearing up the league and was an MVP candidate. He basically carried the Lakers to the playoffs. I just think the Lakers need a decent , wide bodied, defensive minded center to shore up the starting lineup. If they can find a decent center and Kobe is close to his old self, this team will have to be reckoned with. The rest of the lineup is not that bad . A lot of ifs, but I’m an optimist who sees some playoff potential on this team.

  38. Beasley: The guy is a devastating combination of being both a vagabond and a problem child. These type of guys are bad news. Metta was the same type and it required the greatest coach of all time to make that work. The Dennis Rodman results with the Lakers are more typical.
    Ballmer: He will show some energy and add some personality to the team. Is he a little goofy? – yes – but compare him to what we have in that department. Further, I have not yet heard him name himself co-GM. Nor has he yet fired everyone in the front office and replace everyone with other Ballmer’s. In my scorebook the Clippers have hit a home run : )
    Kobe: I know one place Kobe will NOT finish on the scoring list and that is 2nd. If he hangs on that long – he will go for it.

  39. @ Robert August 20, 2014 at 3:22 pm
    Beasley: The guy is a devastating combination of being both a vagabond and a problem child. These type of guys are bad news. Metta was the same type and it required the greatest coach of all time to make that work. The Dennis Rodman results with the Lakers are more typical.

    ————-

    a shout out to Isiah Rider is in order …

  40. Predictions for Kobe
    22 points per game this year if he’s healthy
    And finishes 2nd all time in scoring

    Predictions for Clips
    Western Conf finals this year

    Predictions for Lakers this year
    8th seed.

    That’s optimism!

  41. Don’t get your hopes up too high. If he’s really back, there are going to be major problems with team dynamics, and transitions will be further delayed. The team is still likely to be truly terrible.

    If he’s not, it’s going to be an even bigger nightmare–but the beginning of a new era may at least be on a roadmap somewhere.

  42. Predictions for JC.

    He and Aaron become best buds for life!

  43. Too many people believe their own homilies about Kobe. If you listen too much to the ‘talking heads’ you become one.

  44. there is not one team in the league that wouldn’t benefit from a healthy Kobe. not one.

    i’m reminded of Rollerball…

  45. Robert,

    Reasonable points, but Metta was actually still a really good defender when they got him–he had tangible value. Beasley isn’t awful. but he isn’t particularly good at anything, either.

    As to Kobe, no one knows for sure how it will play out, but the odds are strongly against it going well, for a litany of obvious reasons.

  46. Ko
    How can Aaron be my best friend,
    when you already hold that distinction?

  47. Focusing on the roster and not on Kobe, I still search for the most-available rim protector in the league. I had searched the block rate of each player, and here are some interesting stats I’ve found in the past 2 seasons:

    1. Anthony Davis led the league in blocks with 2.82, a hair above Ibaka’s 2.70 and DeAndre Jordan’s 2.48. The other names that you would hear alot mentioned will be that of Roy Hibbert, Tim Duncan, Andrew Bogut, Dwight Howard and Robin Lopez. None of these names are really available in possible trades, and only DAJ is possibly available as a free agent next year. Hibbert and Lopez the year later.

    2. If we date back to a season ago, two names come up the ladder and they are that of Javale McGee and Larry Sanders. These 2 have lost quite the luster and are on big-ish contracts that may give their current team incentives to make available in deals. Since they are owned by Milwaukee and Denver, two teams struggling and still not playoff ready, they may be motivated to make some moves and acquire some 1st rounders.

    Unless Ed Davis or Jordan Hill suddenly develop the knack to be rim protectors, our post defense will continue to suffer with Dwight’s departure. If I am Mitch I would try to explore possibilities of acquiring one. But at the same time, our problems defensively span to more than just someone who swats shots.

  48. @ Craig W. “Too many people believe their own homilies about Kobe. If you listen too much to the ‘talking heads’ you become one.”

    So true, that’s why I love reading FB&G. Here you can read post both pro & con on Kobe from guys who are optimistic, pessimistic, & realistic.

    It’s a beautiful thing…thanks Darius.

  49. The conversation about Kobe tends to be the “how will he look” conversation. My question is can his body hold up? Can he play effectively without another season killing injury? He’s 36 years old with A LOT of miles on those legs. And its no coincidence these last two injuries were in his legs.

    I just want to see Kobe pass Jordan on the all time scoring list this season. Anything beyond that is gravy for me. He would have done it already had it not been for these last two injuries. He’s played this long and put in so much work. I don’t want him to be robbed of that opportunity.

  50. Warren Wee Lim: Focusing on the roster and not on Kobe, I still search for the most-available rim protector in the league.
    ___

    Talking about our center position: What further complicates the situation is that our current center Jordan Hill is our best trade chip. Should the Lakers’ season go south, and the team elects to sacrifice short term success for young talent or picks, Hill is the most attractive trade piece.

    While I like Hill (he had a PER of 19.39 last year) he is better suited to the PF position and as a situational center in a small ball lineup. However, I do think he can be successful, as a center, for the short term. My concern is that he has never played 30+ minutes a game consistently or played more than 70+ games in a season (until last year). The fear is that he will wear down by January and his production will suffer.

    Looking at the bigger picture, Hill is 27. If it takes the Lakers 3 years to be competitive Hill will then be on the proverbial down side of his career. Should the Lakers look at Hill as a long term building block or a potential trade chip for the deadline?

    His contract, with a team option for next year, seems tailor made to be used at the deadline. Is this what Mitch was thinking when he signed Hill?

  51. Gig: While its premature for many of us to think about trade deadline moves before the season starts, I get where you are coming from.

    If the Lakers play like ESPN projects us to: a 30-52 record, its fairly certain the team will know they are out of contention by the trade deadline. And I do agree with you that Hill would be a desirable trade piece. (Assuming, of course, that Randle is indeed a building block and isn’t going anywhere). So would they move a Hill?

    Last year, at the deadline, the FO did not make any future focused trades and at the time there were a number of pieces that could have (should have?) been moved. Pau, Hill, Young and Meeks all had some value and may have yielded a return that would have given Mitch a few more chips (young talent/picks) to play with this past off season.

    I think Mitch feels more comfortable making deals in the off season. His ‘in season’ deals have been for specific needs (to acquire Pau for example) or to dump salary (which he has done a few times). It’s also possible that he now feels that last season was a missed opportunity and would be more aggressive to make future looking deals, if given the chance again. We’ll have to wait and see.

  52. Go Bean go Lakers!

  53. http://www.nba.com/lakers/news/140820byronscott_qa

    Please read. Byron has a good plan/approach to evaluate personnel and how best to deploy them. Most interesting are his comments on Randle. Pretty much what I said: a bull strength wise, great feet, face-up and post skills. Focus right now is on getting him into the kind of shape he will need to be a two-way NBA player–he’s not there. I suspect Randle isn’t on the proper pro player diet to lose weight and maximize lean muscle. He will get that from the training staff. Good to hear he is already working at the team facility. Rookie of the year candidate.

  54. @ T. Rogers: “I just want to see Kobe pass Jordan on the all time scoring list this season. Anything beyond that is gravy for me.” Really, is that all it would take? Kobe is only 592 points behind Jordan. Kobe only has to average 16 ppg in 30 mpg for less than 1/2 a season to accomplish that. Passing Jordan is such a reachable goal for Kobe this season, I don’t see it as motivation for him.

    Yes, Kobe will make a run at Karl Malone (5,228 points behind) 2nd place spot, but I think part of his scoring motivation will be to put as many points between him and LeBron James. James is 8,530 points behind Kobe currently, but he’s eight years younger & has played seven less seasons.

  55. Thanks Bryan! That was a nice read.

  56. Wow per Big City Lebron is only 8k points behind KB?
    Uh-oh.

  57. wow, scary… LBJ could pass Kareem when LBJ is only 37 or 38! If he stays healthy, and such things matter to him, he might finish as the only player in hisory with 40K points. If he retires with 40k points and, say, 4 rings, he definitely will have earned a place in the GOAT discussion.

    BCS, I’m not sure how Kobe might hope to ‘hold him off’– LBJ is too far ahead of Kobe’s pace to be waylaid by anything other than injuries at this point… It’s almost a mortal lock that LBJ finishes with more points than Kobe, unless Kobe plays to age 40 or something….

    here’s the list:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/leaders/pts_career.html

    the surprising player to me is Dirk– might he finish top 5 or 6 in NBA history?

  58. Gig, I don’t think Jordan Hill is a trade piece. His 2-yr deal is to allow us to have flexibility to ‘drop’ him if/when a big time free agent commits.

    Our 2015 payroll looks like:
    Kobe Bryant – 25.0
    Nick Young – 5.22
    Julius Randle – 3.13
    Ryan Kelly – 1.72
    Ed Davis – 1.10
    Robert Sacre 0.98

    This gives us a grand total of 37 plus million in committed salaries prior to Jordan Hill. If we added Hill it goes up to 46M. Going by how much the cap increased from ’13 to ’14, safe to say we will have atleast 20M with Hill and close to 30M without him.

  59. BigCity and Lil Pau,

    I think Durant will eventually pass them all. Obviously health is the caveat here. But he’s moving up the ladder pretty quickly for a guy so young. And his style of play lends to a long career where 20 ppg is almost automatic. And if he ever gets to a team with a true point guard look out.

  60. I have a feeling Lebron won’t get there. The way he has played, with so much intensity this whole time and all the things he does, I think he will slow down considerably eventually. But you never know. And if he does pass Kareem, good for him. But he still won’t be the GOAT.

  61. What might Kobe’s total numbers look like had he played on a team for a franchise like Lebron during the first five seasons of his career? Just imagine.

  62. Two things-
    First- I think that LBJs average might slip a bit this year and beyond. KLove is a scorer and Kyrie needs the ball in his hands which will take away some opportunities for Lebron. I’m guessing that Lebron will average something like 25 ppg and possibly 5, or slightly less, apg.

    Second- It would be beyond hilarious to me if sports writers and pundits (ESPN) pushed Lebron as the GOAT lines if he pushes past Kareem for most points. Why? Because Kareem’s stat lines and list of accomplishments are greater than Jordan’s or anything that Lebron will get to. I would be seriously surprised if LBJ gets to 6 ‘chips. If LBJ gets to 6 chips, 6 MVPs, all-time scorer, and the NBA decides to change rules because he’s so dominant- THEN he can compete with Kareem for GOAT.

    By the way…if Kobe would have been drafted by the Cavs, or the Nets, or the Hornets, then he would be passing Kareem in points and he wouldn’t be too worried about LBJ. He might not have 5 ‘chips though…

  63. If LeBron and Love were smart they would sign with the TWolves next summer. Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Zack Levine, and Thadius Young? Jesus. That’s the young star core the Lakers need to attract the superstars they want.

  64. “Because Kareem’s stat lines and list of accomplishments are greater than Jordan’s or anything that Lebron will get to.”

    KenOak,

    I agree 100%. It’s annoying that people skip over Kareem so easily when it comes to “greatest ever” discussions. The man dominated at EVERY level (HS, College, NBA). Cap’s the real “greatest ever” as far as I’m concerned.

  65. Chearn: Not only did KB not play for a team like LBJ did (which would maximize his ppg), he had the dubious honor of playing for Del Harris. His coach was like an extra man guarding him making sure he did not accomplish much. I will never forgive Del Harris for the bulk of that that abysmal decade.
    T Rogers/Ken Oak: The awesome stat for KAJ is that he finished in the top 5 for MVP voting a record 15 times. Number two on that list is KB with 12. That a consistency stat that is a good one to use the next time this argument comes up in a bar : )

  66. The fact people on this site even bring up PPG shows me how far the forum blue and gold readers have to come. In twenty years nobody will even mention PPG when comparing players. Even readers of blogs like this.

  67. T. Rogers-

    We’re on the same wavelength when it comes to Kareem…He has never gotten the ‘love’ that he deserves as arguably the GOAT. I also agree with what you said about Durant- with one caveat. If he doesn’t develop some sort of post game, then I don’t think he’ll continue scoring at these rates when his athleticism declines post 30. If he develops something along the lines of Dirk’s game in the post though…watch out 40k points.

    The thing about the LBJ’s game is that his athletic ability is sure to decline too. I’m curious as to what he’ll do once that happens. He scores super well in the post, but how much of that is directly attributed to his physical dominance instead of footwork, positioning, and technique. I can’t wait to watch the next 5 years of the NBA. We’re going to see the games of Durant and Lebron evolve into the next phase.

  68. @ T. Rogers: “I agree 100%. It’s annoying that people skip over Kareem so easily when it comes to “greatest ever” discussions. The man dominated at EVERY level (HS, College, NBA). Cap’s the real “greatest ever” as far as I’m concerned.”

    Not only do I completely agree w/ you, KAJ just happens to be my favorite ball player all time.

  69. Regarding GOAT discussions, fans have a tendency to have short memories. Some fans, of course, are…how shall I put it…younger than others. But let’s not forget some amazing statistics:

    *Oscar Robertson once averaged a triple double for an entire YEAR;
    *Wilt Chamberlain averaged 48.1 minutes per game in one season;
    *Chamberlain not only averaged 50.4 ppg in a season but later in his career led the league in assists;
    *Kareem Abdul Jabbar averaged 28.8 ppg and 14.5 rpg…as a rookie;
    *Julius Erving, as a 29-year old, averaged 26.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 4.6 apg, 1.8 blocks per game, and 2.2 steals per game while playing with George McGinnis and Lloyd Free, two ball-dominant players;
    *Nate Archibald, in one of the greatest seasons ever for a point guard, averaged 34 ppg and 11.4 apg in 1972-3;
    *Moses Malone, a 6-10 center, in 1981-2 averaged 31.1 ppg, 14.7 rpg, and 42 minutes per game; and that may not have been his best year.

    Does anyone really think that these players–not to mention Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Walt Frazier, Maurice Stokes, Nate Thurmond (one of the great defensive centers of all time), Chris Mullin, and Bob Pettit–couldn’t hold their own against today’s NBAers?

    Maybe we should broaden our discussion when it comes to speculation on the Greatest Of All Time.

  70. The big guys commonly get passed over when discussing GOAT. Why I don’t know. One recent example is LBJ’s “Mt Rushmore” list with nary a center on it.

  71. Well said KO…ppg will always matter as long as they keep score. And those who put the biscuit in the basket the best will always be highly regarded.

    That talking from the mountaintop stuff gets real old real fast.

  72. Mid-Wilshire,

    Chris Mullin? No way.

  73. Mid,

    Actually I read that wrong. Yeah he can hold his own. I thought you were saying he was at the level of those other players.

  74. PPG is as much about the team you are on as it is your individual talent. It is no more or less valuable than a lot of other factors. The fact that there is a ‘what if’ scenario about Kobe being on a team without much other extraordinary talent only emphasizes this fact.

  75. KAJ was truly the definition of awesome in college and in the NBA.
    I read that Wilt once scratched his head and said for the first time ever, “I may need some help guarding this guy.”
    They outlawed the dunk in college because of his dominance.

    What’s strange about Kareem – or not strange – is that he’s been on the fringes of the league ever since his playing career ended.
    And I believe I know why.

    I had often read about his aloof character and personality during his younger days.
    He came by a defensive nature honestly – he was terribly unique and probably ridiculed by many and grew up when racism was rampant.

    However, about ten years ago my son and I walked into a restaurant and saw him seated, facing us, and we made eye contact naturally. He was seated alone, possibly waiting for someone. When I instantly realized it was Kareem, I’m sure I smiled brightly and indicated to my son, also a huge fan, who it was. Kareem’s face turned so ugly – glaring at us with such a threatening and ominous glare – that we were instantly stifled. We didn’t even consider asking for his autograph, or to shake his hand – or even to say, Kareem, we’re huge fans.’ His presence was so defiant. It was years ago and I never forgot it.

    My other son met Magic Johnson years later, and he still has a photo of he and Magic on his bedroom wall, Magic smiling for the camera, his arm around my son.

    These two superstars on the court could not be more different off it.

    I suspect that Kareem’s reputation and cruel demeanor has followed him throughout his life, and the media that remembers his attitude then conveniently forgets him now when discussing the GOAT.

  76. And I do know the difference between guys who don’t want to give an autograph or be bothered, or if it’s an inopportune time – this was different. My son and I were both literally shocked by the almost evil expression on his face. It makes me shudder to think of it to this day.

  77. J C,
    As John Wooden used to say, they outlawed the dunk because of Phi-Slama-Jama (sp??) – the Houston college team with Elvin Hayes and company. They used the dunk to literally embarrass opponents and the NCAA authorities didn’t like it — hummmmm, sounds familiar. Remember this was 1968 and there were many who wanted the blacks to simply learn their place in society and not make so many waves. Just ask Bill Russell, or Wilt – well, maybe not Wilt at this time.

  78. JC: I’ve met both Magic and Kareem and your account resonates with my experience with both of them. First rate insight on why Kareem is aloof and unfriendly. I will say he perked up when he met my beautiful sister . . . .

  79. “The fact people on this site even bring up PPG shows me how far the forum blue and gold readers have to come. In twenty years nobody will even mention PPG when comparing players. Even readers of blogs like this.”

    What are you going to use instead? PPG is fine for what it is. Here, PPG arose in the discussion of all time scoring and rather hard to think of another more worthy stat in that respect.

    You use PER? If so, pick up the phone and tell Cuban that he paid way too much for 15.9 Chandler Parsons. And after that you can call Hollinger and tell him that not all scoring is the same, i.e., the assisted versus the unassisted FG. Yet Hollinger scores them the same. Yet Kobe and other iso scorers likely have significantly more unassisted than assisted FGs. So PER undervalues Kobe. PER undervalues, to one degree or another, each and every player who can create his own shot. And here I thought such ability tended to separate the men from the boys, on a sliding scale.

    Then add on, for the cherry on top, that a missed shot is not the same as a steal. Since there is no o-board opportunity on the steal, so better you miss a shot than turn it over. And so you get what I mean by o-board opportunity, well, make it rebound opportunity, so o-board, you get fouled going for the o-board, dunderhead on the other team fails to handle the ball cleanly and so goes out of bounds off him, etc.

    And so you get what I mean re the scoring part, guys whose only skill is to hit the 3 ball are entirely overrated by PER, since in addition to being overcompensated for a shot they didn’t create, in contrast to the shared 2 point shot, the shooter gets the entirety of the extra point on the 3. So Parsons is even worse than his PER. And so I’ve got to hand it to Morey and the Rockets, since while he and they lost the gamble on Bosh, he and they didn’t get reckless (panic) when it came to matching the Mavs offer for Parsons.

    For a bonus freebie, on that other thread I spoke to single tennis versus drafting a team. And in drafting a team, despite Stockton, whomever else you think, there is a chasm after Magic and the Big O. Not nearly so great a divide at C, but if this were singles tennis, then not Kareem but Wilt as the GOAT. To use Aaron’s favorite stat, 37.6 PPG as a rookie. MJ broke 37 PPG a single time (37.1). Then after upping that PPG a tad, Wilt averaged 38 PPG after 2 seasons. Then he went all bonkers on the world and went for 50 PPG in his 3rd season.. Then, somewhat later on, when the usual whiners were whining over Wilt being the consummate selfish scorer, Wilt said, WTF, and led the league in assists. 24.3, 8.6, 23.8. Oh, almost forgot, but in that 50 PPG season, Wilt averaged 48.5 MPG. And, yes, I get the MJ envy, but as a Bulls fan so aptly put the matter re Wilt:

    Oh, crap. I”ve hit my word limit, and all I’ve shown you is how any statistic that measures all-around offense that doesn’t have Wilt at #1 – #5, then MJ… it probably sucks.

    So you know, Hollinger has MJ at 1 and Wilt at 5, so is why our Bulls fan phrased it that way.. Hollinger would presumably draft the Admiral before Wilt, as Robinson is 4. Thank you Lord for PPG. Since I’m taking 50 PPG Wilt over no. 4 PER Robinson. And like Nick Young, Hollinger is the devil. Oh, and Nick, if you’re ready this, you make some right passes more often and you’ll be liberated up to heaven. So there’s hope for you, Nick, but apparently none for Hollinger. By the way, Kareem is 11 all time PER while Kobe is 20.

  80. Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Zack Levine, and Thadius Young? Jesus.

    Thaddeus Young is 26 and is entering his 8th year in the league. Bennett will play better (he really can’t play worse) but there is pretty much no chance that he will be a star. LaVine and Wiggins…we will see.

  81. PPG is an interesting stat. But it’s a difficult stat to use when comparing active players to retired players simply because active players ppg usually decreases at the tail end of their careers. Using Kobe as an example, while he will easily become at least the 3rd highest scoring player in history (at least temporarily) his ppg regular season career average of 25.46 is outside of the top ten (http://www.basketball-reference.com/leaders/pts_per_g_career.html) and more than likely will continue to drop the longer he plays.

    Another interesting stat: fg%. More specifically, fg% of the top 20 NBA scorers all time. On that list Kobe career fg% of .454 only ranks 17th, only Elvin Hayes, Paul Pierce, & John Havlichek have lower fg%s. And yes many of those ranked higher were/are low post players, those with higher fg% than Kobe also include Jordan @ .497%, West @ .474, Oscar @ .485, Alex English @ .507, Reggie Miller @ .471, and Dominque @ .461.

    Just keeping it real.

  82. Slappy,
    PPG only basically tells you how much someone shoots. True FG percentage, usage rate, and PER tells you how effective someone is on offense. Straight FG percentage isn’t accurate either as a player who doesnt shoot threes will have a higher percentage. Are we really having this discussion?

    rr,
    So you’re telling me there is another team with three players under twenty years old as talented as the trio is Minny?

  83. Sid (and to a certain extent others talking about this),
    PPG is problematic for comparing players across eras because points scored per game either by a team or by a player will be largely influenced by the pace at which the game is played. In the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s the pace at which games were played was much greater than it is for games now. It doesn’t mean accomplishments — Wilt’s 50 point average for a season, Robertson’s triple-double average, etc — aren’t historic accomplishments, but because they are measured with counting stats, they must be viewed through the context of how fast the game was played and how many “chances” existed. This is why many people now prefer rate stats or stats that are normalized for pace to compare across eras.

    Also, you continue to harp on Kobe’s field goal percentage and claim that you’re “keeping it real”. What you’re also doing is harping on a single stat that doesn’t even measure efficiency as well as other shooting stats nor provide much context. Illegal defense rules, the three point line, and other factors will influence scoring efficiency. Stats like True Shooting percentage — which takes into account free throws and 3 pointers — or Effective Field Goal percentage — which accounts for the extra value of a 3 pointer — are much better stats for measuring shooting efficiency than FG%. If you look at TS%, for example, Kobe has a better career mark than Tim Duncan. This is meaningful because Duncan is not only a big man and one of the best players ever, but is someone who played his entire career in the same era as Kobe — by the same rules against the same players. Funny, I don’t hear you bringing things like this up. But, hey, keep on keeping it real, my man.

  84. BCS- that is an example of when ‘keeping it real’ goes wrong. lol nice post Darius!

    I’ll let Aaron educate you about FG percentage…
    “Straight FG percentage isn’t accurate either as a player who doesnt shoot threes will have a higher percentage.”

  85. Darius, I’m always open to hearing & learning. Please continue to inform.

  86. Which brings me to another point… Nobody I know discusses career anything. We compare apples to apples. We compare players stats from year 1 to year 4. From age 21 to age 24. From age 34 to age 38. And so on. One doesn’t punish players for playing longer. In fact thats one of the ways to measure a player. One defines a player in two ways. How good/long was their peak/prime and how long/effective was their career? Drafting a player like Jordan will give the best peak (along with LeBron and Shaq) but won’t give you 20 years of productive play like a Malone or Kareem. An extreme example is TMac who put up one year as prolific as a Jordan and LBJ (something Kobe never did) but his peak was short lived.

  87. rr,
    So you’re telling me there is another team with three players under twenty years old as talented as the trio is Minny?

    Bennett’s 21, and it would be unusual for a guy to have a rookie year as bad as his was to wind up being a particularly good player. LaVine might be an All-Star, or he might be Rex Chapman. Wiggins might be Pippen, or he might be Luol Deng.

    Love/Wiggins is now one of those warring internet sub-culture issues, and you have come down strongly on one side. We’ll know in about three years who’s right.

  88. Like everything else in team sports, the Wiggins/Love debate will be impacted by the players surrounding the individuals compared. The stats will not be able to measure this, just as they can’t really adjust for different systems players play in. We keep trying via adjusting for pace and minutes, but the inability to account for the team factor is why I never look at a statistic to answer a question, only to give it added color and shape.

    Darius’ answer, just above this morning, really points to the nuance necessary to talk about things like GOAT. Nothing is going to stop us from these discussions, but we should really not take ourselves too seriously, either.

  89. Patrick Lanigan August 23, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Two things can be true re: Kobe:

    He is fully revovered and healthy, and he’s a worn down 35 year old coming of two serious season ending injuries that suggest he won’t likely make it through another season at a high level.

  90. Happy, happy birthday, Kobe Bean Bryant! The thing I admire the most about you is the way your game developed from the very first game you played in with the Lakers until the year you got injured. I can’t wait to see what type of player you will morph into post 35 years of age. You had a singular point of convergence as a rookie to become one of the preeminent players in the NBA in my mind you’ve attained that pinnacle. Cheers to observing you as you venture to score the most points by a player in the NBA. Hopefully, along the way you’ll win one or two more championships.

    Happy birthday, Mamba!

  91. We keep trying via adjusting for pace and minutes, but the inability to account for the team factor is why I never look at a statistic to answer a question, only to give it added color and shape.

    ==

    There are many team-driven stats out there now, like RAPM. They all have holes, but the idea that team stats are just Pace Factor/minutes is out of date. And the eye test and chemistry narratives have holes as well. Also, the granular data available now provides a lot of specific information about how players interact with other players.

    James will be 30 in December, and he obviously wants to win a couple of titles in Cleveland ASAP. He won in Miami with himself, an All-Star guard who could score a lot, an All-Star big man with a multifaceted game on O, and old, smart role players. So, pretty much everything Cleveland has done since James came back (adding Miller, Marion, and Love) has been based on replicating what James had in Miami, except that Irving is 11 years younger than Wade and Love is four years younger than Bosh. And, even if Wiggins does turn out to be as good as a guy like Pippen, it will probably take 2-3 years for him to get there.

    The problem with Cleveland’s personnel at the moment is a lack of defense, especially interior defense.

  92. Thanks for the info D, I see your point. Using EFG% raised Kobe to 15th out of the 20 all-time scoring leaders:
    http://bkref.com/tiny/N2mjA

    and using TS% even better, to 10th: http://bkref.com/tiny/VBOHK

  93. Sid,
    Kobe’s efficiency will also always suffer due to his penchant for shooting so many threes but doing so at barely (and that might be generous) a league level average. I’ve long advocated that Kobe cut his 3 point attempts from roughly 5 to between 2-3 a game. If he trades those threes for more looks in the post or for drives to the basket, odds are his scoring efficiency rises simply due to cutting out misses from deep and trading them for looks he’s more capable of making or free throws. It would be one thing if Kobe shot 36-38% on threes, but he doesn’t.

    The flip-side to this, of course, is that Kobe is a real threat from three and his willingness to take and ability to make shots from this distance stretches the defense and creates space for his teammates. One of the issues the Heat had in the past two seasons was that when smart defenses (like the Spurs) started to scheme them, they would hang off Wade and clog the paint to try and disrupt LeBron. Wade has cut the three point shot nearly entirely out of his arsenal and while his FG% remains excellent, the affects on the flow of the offense are real when you remove that threat of the three point shot. And while the Heat were still beasts on offense while Wade played, it’s not a coincidence that they were even better (historically good, actually) when Ray Allen replaced Wade. Allen’s ability to occupy defenders beyond the arc (and make them pay when they left him) meant more space for players in the post and for wing players to penetrate. In other words, players got more efficient looks due to spacing. Kobe isn’t the shooter that Allen is (obvious statement), but he does occupy defenders beyond the arc in a way that helps grease an offense.

  94. chris henderson August 25, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    darius, can we start a discussion about getting Lakers games for folks who have “cut the cord” ie; no more cable and are net/smart TV only?
    I am in that group now, (and enjoying the lack of that monthly bill, and get my “entertainment” fine, it’s just the Lakers I want to get now, without having to join cable).
    is it NBA TV, or NBA.com?
    can I watch a game after it starts? like having a DVR or TIVO?
    my problem is that NBA.com does not give me any answers to these questions, nor do they provide any “person” to speak with…

    love to get some thoughts from the FB&G group on this.
    thanks

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