I don’t know about you, but it just got a little dusty in here. Hold on, I have something in my eye. Okay, I’m better now.
A few days after Kobe was injured, Nike put out an ad listing many of the things he “showed us” throughout his career. At the end, Nike implores Kobe to show us again. Through the glory of youtube, the video above puts clips of Kobe’s career to Nike’s words and the result is fantastic.
No one knows when Kobe will return or what type of player he will be when he does. But, based off what we know of Kobe, he’ll want to prove to everyone he can be the player he was before and “show us again”.
With the Lakers hosting the Warriors in a pretty big game tonight, I thought I’d go old-school with this throwback classic.
The year is 1999. Kurt Rambis and P.J. Carlesimo are coaching. It features a Shaq ejection, a clutch shot by Kobe, and cameos by Mugsy Bogues, John Starks, and Donyell Marshall (and that’s just on the Warriors’ side). Lakers trail by as many as 27 in the 2nd quarter, but still win the game.
Hopefully tonight won’t require such heroics, but will produce the same result.
In the last few seasons, it’s become a running theme for Kobe Bryant. He’s darted up the all-time scoring list and passed players whose names ring out as the best of the best to ever play the game. In Saturday’s much needed victory over the Kings it happened again, Kobe leapfrogging a literal giant, the Big Dipper, Wilt Chamberlain.
The feat itself came on a free throw line jumper, an area of the court Kobe has mastered through countless hours of practice and repetition. The stories of his late night workout sessions are legendary and no doubt set the foundation for what we see today. A combination of talent, skill, will, and determination that create the types of shots that seem routine even as they astound. The shot against the Kings, then, was just another in a long line of muscle-memory jumpers that he has been taking and making for years.
That’s really the only way something like this happens. Through insane practice habits, production, and longevity. I’ve said it before, but if you’d have told me that the high school kid the Lakers traded Vlade Divac for would end up being as great a player as he’s become or even hint that he would pass Wilt Chamberlain in all-time career points, I would not have believed you (and probably called you crazy). The fact that he’s done what he’s done is astonishing. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to see his career unfold before me; to watch his career grow and come of age playing on the team that I cheer for.
There’s no telling how much longer he’ll gift us with the types of plays that he’s given us for so many years. Last night when reflecting on his accomplishment, he again hinted that his career is winding down and that chasing Kareem’s all time mark is unlikely. Even at 34 years of age, while providing nightly reminders of how great he’s been throughout his career by throwing down a monster dunk or hitting a dagger jumper (or both), he knows the end is near. So enjoy him while you can, folks.
Wow. The power of youtube brings us Magic Johnson (and his fantastic afro) in his high school championship game, dominating the action just as he did at Michigan State and later with the Lakers. His talent is on full display in the clip above — his ability to finish inside, hit his little jumper, and, of course, his fantastic floor vision.
The clip above also shows a great game unfold with some uncanny shotmaking, including a shot from the team Magic is facing that if I (or one of my teammates) would have made in a high school game would have been celebrated with the same jubilation. Looked like a pretty amazing game.
In any event, enjoy the video. As you can see, Magic was always a one of a kind player with a unique set of skills. He truly looked like a man amongst boys on some of those plays.
Was the play dirty? That’s the question of the day and that gets complicated rather quickly. On twitter I used that term, but would amend it to say, instead, that it was simply an unsafe play by Jones. There are plenty of ways to contest a fadeaway jump shot, but walking into and underneath an airborne player is one of the more dangerous ways to do so. Here’s a screen shot of Jones contesting Kobe’s shot:
The reason why I’d say “unsafe” rather than “dirty” is because the latter implies intent. I’ve no clue what Jones’ intent was and prefer not to get into that at all. This in’t the real world where we get to go into a court room, hear testimony, and make a determination. There’s no “you can’t handle the truth” moment coming here. So, I see no need to get into that. Instead, let’s focus on the act and that act was Jones walking underneath a player in the air. That’s an unsafe play no matter how you slice it. I’m not out to disparage Jones or judge his actions through the prism of what I thought he meant to do. What he meant to do isn’t as important as what he actually did. And, in this case, the pictures and video show what he did.
What’s done is done, though. Arguing over it is less important than what happens next. The Lakers, simply based off their press release, imply Kobe will miss time. And, while there’s a train of thought that Kobe won’t miss any time (he is Kobe after all), I think he’ll miss at least a game and maybe more.
If that ends up being the case, the Lakers’ lack of depth on the wing will be a big challenge to overcome. Forget for a second that it’s Kobe missing time and simply focus on the fact that he’s currently the team’s starting shooting guard and its backup small forward. Coach Mike D’Antoni’s first substitutions are typically for Jamison to come in for Clark and for Meeks to replace Ron. That latter substitution slides Kobe up to SF where he’s a fixture of a small ball lineup. If Kobe can’t play any SF, who will?
Meeks and Blake are undersized for SG, much less SF. Ron has actually been playing PF more than SF if you look at who he defends on a nightly basis. Does this mean more minutes for Clark? He’s seen a decline in his minutes and production over the last month and isn’t exactly 100% healthy either (he’s had ankle, knee, and finger issues lately). Ebanks is glued to the bench and has played exactly 11 minutes since the turn of the calendar year. I don’t see this going well if Kobe is out for a prolonged period.
That said, knowing what we do of Kobe, he’ll get treatment on his ankle 24/7 until he can get back on the floor, though. He’s really not human in that regard.
In better injury news, Pau Gasol says he hopes to be back next week and it’s being reported he’ll return to the lineup as a starter. This is good news on both fronts. Yes, on both fronts. Before Pau got hurt, we were already starting to see a trend where Clark’s value as a starter was slipping from a team performance standpoint. The starting lineup that included Clark was essentially playing even basketball, their plus/minus numbers flat and their efficiency differentials hovering near zero. Meanwhile, when Clark was replaced by Pau, those numbers were beginning to trend up in a way that reinforced all the preseason belief that these players actually could perform well together as complementary pieces. Yes the sample was small and there were issues to work out defensively, but the numbers and the eye test support the “Big four plus Ron” lineup was starting to make headway as a cohesive unit.
Even though Pau will return as a starter, his biggest value should still come as an anchor for the 2nd unit. The bench has really struggled to create consistent offense outside of some good chemistry between Steve Blake and Jamison in the P&R. With Pau back, he can be the man in the middle whose passing and ability to score from all over the floor serve as a ballast for the bench.
Furthermore, his defense should also be quite useful. The Lakers’ defense is actually 3.4 points per 100 possessions better when Pau is on the floor versus when he sits, per the NBA’s stats database. It’s often easy to forget that even though Pau isn’t the best option to cover perimeter oriented bigs, he still can protect the rim with his length and do so without fouling. Don’t get me wrong, teams will still attack the paint when Dwight sits, but I’d much rather have Pau back at the basket than a combination of Jamison and Clark.
How the rotation shakes out when Pau is back will remain to be seen (and we’ll cover this in detail when he does return), but I would not be surprised to see Clark become more of a SF backing up Ron with Jamison taking the majority of the PF minutes when Pau is out of the game or playing C. Simply based off recent trends and how this coaching staff has deployed lineups in the past, I could see a bench lineup of Blake, Meeks, Clark, Jamison, and Pau starting the 2nd quarter, for example. But, I could also see Clark on the bench with a Dwight, Jamison, Ron trio next to Kobe (or Meeks) and Nash (or Blake) getting big minutes with Clark the odd man out due to Jamison’s greater ability to stretch the floor.
Getting away from Laker stuff for a second, show of hands (or, in the comments below) of who would want to do a FB&G March Madness bracket challenge. We didn’t do one last year but I’m considering doing one again this year, but only if the demand is high. We’d figure out a prize for the winner.
Also, I’m interested in reviving the FB&G mailbag, but only if there’s interest in it. If you have questions, you can email me by clicking that envelope on the right side of the banner at the top of the site. Just put “mailbag question” in the subject line and ask away.
Lastly, friend of FB&G and video maker extraordinaire LD2K has produced another gem that is worth your time. Here you go: