Is ESPN going to even show highlights from this game, or are they just going to show a picture of Phil Jackson and Jerry Buss sitting next to each other in a luxury box?
So we can get this out of the way, this is my guess at the entire conversation those two will have about basketball tonight:
Jerry Buss: Look at that play by Kobe. This team still has some potential.
Phil Jackson (stuffing his mouth with nachos): Hmmmth.
JB: Kobeâ€™s still young, with Odom and Butler and that Mihm guy turned out to be pretty good. Shouldnâ€™t we be better with that lineup?
PJ (stuffing his mouth with nachos): Hmmmth.
JB: With the right coach and a couple new players, we could be right back in the playoff mix. Donâ€™t you think so, we just need the right leadership from the bench?
PJ: Iâ€™m going to get more nachos. You want anything?
Tonight is a chance to watch one guy often mentioned as a potential Laker when cap space comes open in 2007 â€” Yao Ming. This is Mingâ€™s third year in the league and he has put up better statistics this year than any previously: His points per 40 minutes jumped from 20 in his first two years to 24.7 this year; his shooting percentage is 54.9% this year, up from 51.1%; his points per shot attempt jumped from 1.16 to 1.22; his PER this season is 23.04, up from 21.3.
That said, Ming has some weaknesses. He is not a good passer out of the post, averaging just 1 assist per 40 minutes despite the double teams he sees. His rebound rate is 15.7 (percent of available rebounds he grabs when on the floor), not bad but far less than what you want out of a guy 7â€™6â€ â€” his rate is lower than Lamar Odomâ€™s (15.9). Something else is that you can still be physical with Ming â€” when Chris Mihm played him tight this season Ming went to fade aways rather than getting close to the hoop on a guy still six inches shorter than him.
One other thing worries me about picking up Ming in a few years â€” I think his injury/aging curve is going to be shorter than the average players. What I mean is that because he doesnâ€™t get an off-season â€” he returns to China where he plays a lot of national team games â€” he does not really get a chance for his body to heal. I fear he is due for a physical breakdown earlier than most big men.
That said, he is still one of the most dominant post players in the NBA and his play has gotten better each of the last three years. He might fit well with Kobe (the way he now fits with McGrady). However, he has a higher potential than most to be a big money bust.
This is all just idle speculation â€” Ming may not want to leave Houston, the Lakers may not want him by then. But with what has happened to the Lakers this season, idle speculation is all weâ€™ve got left. Plus, weâ€™re all going to be thinking about Ming in a Laker jersey tonight when he puts up big numbers on Vlade/Grant.
By the way, Kobe is expected to play tonight.