January 2006 - Posts
Amazing. As I'm sure you've heard by now, Kobe Bryant scored 81 points in a game on Sunday against the woeful Toronto Raptors. That's the second highest point total for a single game by any NBA player, second only to Wilt Chamberlain's historic 100 point game back in 1962. Kobe has done what no other modern player has done. Michael never surpassed 69. Larry, Magic, Zeke, A.I., Shaq, Ray Allen... no one else. This season will be one to remember for offensive output by Kobe, he's been racking up amazing point totals. 62 against the Mavs in December in just three quarters of play. He became only the second player to net 45 points or more in four consecutive games earlier this month. Not surprisingly, he leads the NBA in scoring, averaging 35.9 ppg. In a word, he is Offense.
Granted, individual accomplishments, while nice, don't necessarily equate to team success. The Lakers are just three games above .500, battling the Clippers, Hornets, and Timberwolves for the lower eschelons of the Western Conference. And, come playoff time - assuming the Lakers make it - while Kobe's heroics may make for great television, I doubt they can win four games out of seven against the likes of the Spurs, Suns, or Mavs.
Regardless, Kobe's performances are enjoyable and make for some jaw-dropping viewing experiences. With Google Video now offerring NBA games, you can even buy these more memorable games to watch at your liesure, to show to your progeny. Ah, technology.
We've now officially had our first “player into the stands” episode since the infamous Ron Artest/Stephen Jackson brawl in Detroit last season. In last night's game against the Chicago Bulls, New York Knick Antonio Davis hopped the scorer's table and headed up to the tenth row where his wife was seated. Watching the event, Davis was calm and collected, no punches or shoves or yelling was exchanged. Davis was escorted back down to the court by security and a referee and was then ejected from the game for leaving the court.
Davis's postgame comments summed up his reasons for leaving the court:
I witnessed my wife being threatened by a man that I learned later to be intoxicated. I saw him touch her, and I know I should not have acted the way I did, but I would have felt terrible if I didn't react. There was no time to call security. It happened too quickly.
It's hard to argue with that, especially considering that his demeanor in the stands was civil. I understand how the NBA wants to keep the paying fans and paid atheletes separated, and I expect Stern & co. will hand out at least a one-game suspension, but at the same time I know virtually every husband would act in the same manner as Davis. While he is a professional athelete, he's a human being and a man, too.
There's a good discussion on ESPN.com from readers on what they think the fallout will be from Stern. My favorite comment: “It's his wife. Nothing the league could do to him would be worse than what his wife would do to him if he had seen it happening and hadn't acted.” Truer words have never been spoken! :-)
After notching up 62 points in three quarters in a lopsided win against the Mavs back in December, Kobe has continued his jaw-dropping offensive output and notched up another impressive stat: the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to score 45+ points in four consecutive games, netting 45 in last night's W against the Pacers. KOBE IS ON FIRE.
The problem, of course, is that he doesn't have any capable role players on his team. Lamar Odom is the best thing they've got outside of Kobe, and his numbers are respectible, but, a sports columnist once wrote (and I'm paraphrasing here), it's hard to tell if Odom is the better second-tier player out there, or one of the worst top-tier players. Although it's hard to evaluate his potential when Kobe is commanding nearly 32 shots per game. (His previous all-time high shots/game was in the 2002-2003 season, when the Lakers won their third title in their Three Peat... he averaged 27.4 shots per game then.)
So it's clear that the Lakers are not going to win with the current cast of characters they have on the court. With any luck they'll make the playoffs, but anything other than a first round exit will be grace from heaven. They still are missing the important pieces and aren't playing defense, which is odd for a Phil Jackson team. His past performance has shown that he's not the type of coach who basically says, “Give player X the ball and get out of the way.“ Even with MJ at his side, he was big on defense and the execution of the triangle offense, which is big on moving without the ball, passing, and finding open shooters.
So why does PJ let Kobe play this way? I think he feels that it's kind of pointless at this point. He doesn't have the role players to even possibly mount a championship-calliber team, so why bother pissing off the star player? What good is it to foster a sense of strong defense and good team ball when the other team mates are likely going to mess it up, or the enhanced defense will only lead to an extra few Ws when all is said and done? It's much easier a job to let the superstar have his way, and it's much more fun to watch the Kobe highlight reel and lose one for everyone they win than it is to see them gut out a few more Ws with tenacious D and a slowed down offense involving mostly scrubs.
Since the Lakers have no plausible chance of making any noise in the playoffs - assuming they get there in the first place - I say let Kobe have the ball. He's playing some amazing basketball, so let him dazzle. Players seem to really mature and hit their prime in their late 20s, maybe even a little earlier now that players are coming out of college earlier (or bypassing it altogether, as with Kobe). This year and the next two to three are likely going to be Kobe's best years in his career. Hopefully the Lakers front office can surround him with a supporting cast that can best utilize these talents. This year it's too late, I'm afraid, but this summer ought to offer some opportunities.
Over the past five or six months I've really been getting into podcasts. Whereas I used to listen to music when walking the dog or running errands, I know listen to podcasts, with my favorite ones (at the moment) being the Dave Ramsey podcast, the Slate Magazine podcast, and the KCRW's Film Reviews podcast. (You can see some of my podcast picks back from July 2005 in this blog entry.)
I recently decided to check out sports-related podcasts, and stumbled across this gem - The NBA Show podcast. The only downer is that the shows only seem to come once every two weeks or so, and there's not been an espisode since December 17th, but the one I listened to (Show #19) was pretty interesting and entertaining. The show is hosted by three guys that provide a nice breath of fresh air. Whereas most sports shows on TV are typically two to five grown men yelling over one another, The NBA Show podcast's three hosts are polite and let one another speak without interruption. It's a little odd, having every now and then, a two to three second pause - a lot like real conversations, but not what you're used to hearing on radio or television.
In Show 19, which lasts a tad over 40 minutes, the three hosts discuss an interesting hypothetical: if you were a GM building a team and you could pick any one franchise player (from the pool of current NBA players), any coach (currently employed or not), and any previous NBA player to serve as a mentor for the franchise player, who would you choose? From memory, the hosts made the following picks:
- Host #1: Kevin Garnet, Popovich, and Karl Malone
- Host #2: LeBron, Lenny Wilkens, and Magic Johnson
- Host #3: Chris Bosh, Popovich, and John Stockton
Some interesting picks with some good discussion/rationale behind each selection. (You can also check out listeners' picks in the comments for the Show #19 notes.)
I think my picks would go as follows:
- Franchise player: LeBron, and I chose him not just for his talents and potential (which are immense), but also for his youth (meaning more years to be productive) and his marketability. Yes, yes, I'm considering both wins and income in this hypothetical.
- Coach: Phil Jackson. Yes, he's had trouble with Kobe, but this is a guy who knows how to win, has won, and has the personality to help superstars see beyond themselves. I do like Pop as a coach pick as well. Perhaps it's my Chicago roots giving me a bit of a bias here.
- Mentor: Larry Bird. I do like pairing Magic with LeBron, as they both have a lot of similarities (as I've blogged about before), but I think Larry brings the same traits to the table, plus I don't want to seem like a copycat! :-)
Who would you take?