Usually, when an NBA team has a day off, there isn’t much to talk about, discuss or debate. However, this isn’t always the case with the Lakers simply because the team features one of the most talked about, discussed and debated athletes of the past 15 years. He’s the culmination of success and failure, he’s liked and disliked. This is why, on a down Wednesday, there were several stories about his most recent game winner, how to stop him, and how his fans are sensitive.
The Los Angeles Times has chronicled all of Bryant’s game winning shots, and TrueHoop’s Henry Abbot had a post yesterday arguing that Kobe Bryant, despite what some of the crunch time or clutch stats say, is the best clutch shooter in the NBA:
Through the years, there have been many different sets of data about clutch shooting. Any which way I have ever seen it sliced (last five minutes of close games to last ten seconds), as I have written on TrueHoop before, it has looked like Kobe Bryant has been a guy who shoots a ton in crunch time, and hits at a pretty good, but not elite, rate.
I’m open to the idea that he could still be the best clutch player in the NBA. At that time of the game, there’s value in being able to create scoring opportunities. Bryant may shoot those difficult fallaways that often miss, but he’d be a far worse player if he couldn’t get a shot off at all. And that’s the situation some lesser players would find themselves in.
Quite honestly, I think the real way to crown a crunch time king would be with video. Somebody should make a TV special where they string together every crunch time touch of the handful of elite end-game players (Bryant, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony etc.) If we want to tell the world that somebody is the most likely to succeed in a certain setting, let’s take an honest and complete look at how they do in that setting. Show me the turnovers, the misses and all that. Let everyone watch all of that video — not just the makes! — and at the end of that I think we’ll end up with a good sense of who’s the best.
Austin Burton of Dime Magazine had a recent post on how to stop Kobe in clutch situations, and made it sound incredibly easy. However, as Kobe has shown us six (or seven depending on who you ask) times, talking about stopping Kobe and actually doing it are two completely different things:
Watching Kobe Bryant plunge another spear into the heart of another seemingly helpless opponent the other night, what struck me most wasn’t the degree of difficulty on Kobe’s Jordan-esque corner fadeaway, nor the sunken shoulders of the Toronto Raptors the moment the ball touched the net — even though they technically still had a shot to win the game.
What struck me most was Kobe’s reaction. Or better yet, his non-reaction. While even the coolest young guns like Kevin Durant and Brandon Roy still punctuate their game-winners with Scarface sneers and enthusiastic jersey-popping, 31-year-old Kobe treats his game-winners like he just finished a round of pinochle. And more and more, it seems opposing coaches and defenders have resigned themselves to the idea that Kobe is going to get where he wants for the shot he wants; they can only pray he misses.
You’ve heard it from enough TV analysts and writers: “There’s nothing you can do” against Kobe and the NBA’s other elite clutch scorers when it comes to a last-shot situation. Too bad it isn’t true.
Also, Eddie Maisonet of Ed The Sports Fan had a post about the five most sensitive sports franchises. Teams like the Yankees and Cowboys made the list, but the Lakers were at the top of the list – as #1a to Kobe’s #1. At the end of his Lakers section, he decided to “make an amendment” and added Kobe fans as the most sensitive fans on the planet. Just know, that Ed doesn’t just hate the Lakers, he loathes them and every other storied franchise in any sport (just scroll down the list and read the names). Also, he once said he’d “like to jab Kobe in his sleep.”:
#1. Kobe Stans – There is no debate, its over. Kobe Stans are THE MOST SENSITIVE fans of all-time. From their desire to blasphemously say that Kobe’s better than Jordan, to making up any and every excuse in the world for all the dastardly deeds the man has done in the past can make Kobe’s fanbase as truculent as they come. Its hard to be a fan of Kobe’s, but if you are a fan you’ve got to go all in. Because its people like Kenny and myself who have a major dislike for Kobe that will pounce at every chance we can on Kobe. We shouldn’t, but we do. Would Kobe Stans be as sensitive if Kobe wasn’t THAT damned good? Of course not, but it comes with the territory. However, you don’t see that sensitivity when it comes to LeBron fans do you?
The point is this with all of these teams (and player) that I’ve listed, they are damned good. There’s a sense of envy, hate, jealously, and ignorance that is exchanged between folks when they speak ill will against your favorite team. Thus the defense mechanisms come up and the sensitivity eeks out.
Outside of Kobe, Lamar Odom has also been receiving a lot of attention after saying the Lakers “aura comes off like, soft,” is his post game interview after the Toronto game. It’s nice to see players outside of Kobe unhappy with their win over the Raptors and their overall play this season. From Land O’ Lakers:
“We’ve got dudes on the Raptors talking (trash),” he said, noting Toronto hasn’t exactly arrived as an NBA powerhouse. “But our disposition as a team gives some of these young cats, these dudes, the right. They feel like they got the right. A couple of dudes talking to me today, if I’d have talked to Charles Oakley like one of those dudes like that, I probably would have been smacked in my face.”
The smack talk happens because over the season’s first 65 games the Lakers played with too little focus, too cavalier an attitude. “It’s given these teams like a quiet confidence, where they think they can beat us,” Odom continued. “They start talking and carrying on. Extra animated, even when they come here. I don’t expect that. The respect level, it seems like we’ve got to take it from teams.”
“(They’re) way too confident against us.”
The season didn’t start this way, he noted. “I felt like we were [taking it to teams] at the beginning of the year,” he said. Odom then made a sound almost like a steam engine, driving and pushing relentlessly, demonstrating how they attacked teams. “(Opponents) are like, “Man, it’s too hard.”
Whatever it was the Lakers had, that extra edge of a champion causing the opposition to flinch at important times, Odom said it was gone. “Now, at this point of the season, teams watching are like “Yeah, we can beat (those guys.)”
SLAMOnline’s Todd Spehr has a review of Roland Lazenby’s book about Jerry West. I think it’s about time for me to go pick up my copy.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this post from Knickerblogger on Magic Johnson, who they named the greatest point guard of the modern era.
Prior to his arrival the Lakers had been an average team, their last championship had been Wilt’s 1972 team. During Magic’s tenure the team averaged 59 wins per season, and he was critical to the team’s success. In his rookie season, Johnson stepped in at center for an injured Kareem in the Finals. He scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and dished out 7 assists bringing home the Laker’s first title in 8 years. When Jordan retired the first time, the Bulls still won 55 games the year after. After Magic hung them up, the Lakers only managed 43 wins. While the Lakers of the 1980s were a deep team, without Magic Johnson they weren’t a title contender.
For those who are fortunate to witness Johnson play, it’s hard to believe he was so efficient given his flashy style. Magic featured no look passes, going behind his back, spin moves, and long bounce passes. Usually players of that sort suffer from falling in love with the spectacular move that they loose track of how inefficient these kinds of plays are. But not Johnson. He was seemingly omniscient in the half court and lethal in transition. Johnson always found a way to get the ball to the open man and was the engine that fueled the offense. Additionally Magic brought a million dollar smile and a joie de vivre to the game, which made him likable on a national level.